I remember when I saw the first trailer for Annabelle: Creation in which it explicitly stated that we would be treated to the next terrifying chapter in the ‘Conjuring Universe.’ I remember being a bit gobsmacked by the terminology. A Conjuring Universe?!? HA! Until that point It hadn’t occurred to me that said Universe was even being built, but there it was, right in front of my eyes. Surely, there has been a distinct style that James Wan brought to mainstream horror with his haunted house masterpiece, but it never occurred to me that the first prequel, simply titled Annabelle, was anything but a spinoff.
But now it appears that we’ll be getting a riff on the Marvel model: instead of heroes, our middle chapters will cover the stories of specific ghosts, while our Avengers, Ed and Lorraine Warren, will step in every few years for the big hauntings. A pretty exciting prospect if you ask me, but nonetheless I do feel a bit of sadness about it. Mostly because The Conjuring‘s stamp is visible in all of mainstream horror, not just its own entries, which means that this universe could grow stagnant pretty quickly.
But I’m being a negative Nelly over here for no apparent reason because, all things considered, Annabelle: Creation is pretty good. It’s no The Conjuring, but it’s far superior to the original Annabelle film, even if it feels just as unnecessary.
The bulk of the film takes place twelve years prior to the previous entry, where a group of orphan girls and their caretaker, a young nun, are given the opportunity to live in the secluded country household of an older couple who had lost their own daughter years prior.
Guess what her name was?
It’s pretty obvious. Well, unless you were one of the many loudmouths at this screening who made it clear that upon hearing the name Annabelle, they would’ve “been up outta there right quick.”
Oh and guess what this older couple does for a living? They make dolls.
One night a particularly curious girl is drawn into a locked room despite the admonishments of the house’s owner. Inside she finds the preserved bedroom of dearly departed Annabelle, complete with a spooky dollhouse and the titular doll herself. In case we weren’t clear, our resident chatterbox noted that upon seeing the doll, he would’ve “been up outta there right quick.”
We meet Chekhov’s spooky scarecrow, Chekhov’s old-timey mechanical chaircase, and Chekhov’s musty dumbwaiter, all three of which indicated points in the movie where our in-theater narrator would have liked to “been up outta there right quick.”
Director David F. Sandberg kicked off his career with Lights Out, a full length adaptation of his short film of the same name. It was a showcase for a creative visual gimmick that effectively reinvented the jump-scare wheel, and his skills with such a thing are not lost in Annabelle: Creation. While not as elegant as Wan’s entries in the universe, the scares here are a chillingly effective mix of tone and gimmick, which is really all anyone could ask.
Up next: Another spinoff, focused on the spooky nun from The Conjuring 2, which is teased here in your typical universe-building fashion. And then presumably the Warrens will be back for The Conjuring 3. At this point, I’m hoping they go for broke and make it a wicked Amityville update.
Author: Dan Scully
Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.