By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.
Annabelle: Creation (2017) is a skillfully executed bag of time-tested horror tricks. It is also carefully structured and paced. Likewise, the New Line Cinema and Atomic Monster release is character-driven and fun. This latter stated attribute is especially true of the climactic last half hour. This is when all hell breaks loose.
Director David F. Sandberg and screenwriter Gary Dauberman tell the origin story of the demonically manipulated title plaything. The aforesaid object spends most of the 1950’s set film terrorizing a group of children who have recently relocated from an orphanage. These young girls are now residing in a home owned by a dollmaker, Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia), and his bed-ridden wife, Esther (Miranda Otto). With this noticeably thin plot, Sandberg and Dauberman fashion an ambitious spinoff of the Conjuring series. Though their respective contributions are certainly a case of style over substance, it works well for the material.
Correspondingly, Lulu Wilson’s turn as Linda, Talitha Bateman’s depiction of Janice and Stephanie Sigman’s embodiment of Sister Charlotte are extraordinary. They help make their lead personas unique, memorable and layered. The effects, animation and sound are just as impressive. Furthermore, Maxime Alexandre’s cinematography is moody and beautiful. When combined with Benjamin Wallfisch’s same said music, Sandberg’s atmosphere becomes increasingly unnerving, palpable and hypnotic.
What is just as admirable is the restraint that hurtles the 109-minute project forward. Such a factor also lends a wonderfully old-fashioned feel to the proceedings. Continually, the middle and post-credits bits implement supplementary smirks from the audience. In the end, what Sandberg’s picture lacks in imagination, it makes up for in sheer craft.
(R). Contains adult content and violence.
Annabelle: Creation is now showing exclusively in theaters.