Devil’s Dollmaker

Sam Mullins used to make dolls. One day his wife Esther gave birth, and Sam had welcomed into the world a beautiful baby girl, the most precious doll he could ask for. They had named her Annabelle. She was their world. But that was then. Now they’re paying the price for not being able to let her go.




No Spoiler Synopsis

Sam and Esther Mullins lost their daughter in a tragic accident. Years later, the world-weary couple has generously turned their house into a home for girls, welcoming a nun and her six orphan wards, one of whom is a cripple. When they arrive, a gruff vacant-eyed Mr Mullins wearing a bare minimum of cordiality welcomes them. The girls immediately fall in love with the pretty old farmhouse, but soon they learn that this seemingly innocent California home is hiding a dark secret. An evil presence is awakened when one of the girls wanders into a forbidden room, against the explicit command of Mr Mullins, and opens a door that was meant to remain shut.


What To Expect

Let me start with what most people will want to know: This movie is scary. At least, it’s scary compared to what I’ve watched and what’s come out recently. I can’t vouch for the effect it might have on folks watching it at home, but in the theater it gets you. There’s a good balance (or a terribly awful one, depending on how you look at it 😉 ) between suspense, intrigue, and scares.

I consider myself something of a horror movie connoisseur. I can’t say I’ve seen all the classics, or even that I’ve seen more than a fair handful of movies from the world of demons and chainsaw killers, but even so I have a soft spot in my heart for a good horror or dark-thriller flick. There’s something I relate to in the extreme separation of said genre from our vanilla reality: the gruesome authenticity, undisguised and raw. A part of me is waiting for a scary movie to surface one day that will ferociously blur the line between what we know and what we tell ourselves could never be. I also enjoy the creative freedom of the horror genre, the lack of restrictions put on filmmakers, the pliability of reality in the telling of their story.

Mainstream horror movies regularly fail to deliver, and indie films in the genre still only occasionally stand out. I’m one of the least scare-able people I know, and as such I find the horror genre’s reliance on spiritual clichés and silly age-old superstitions to be at best a tired horse, an expectation in dire need of being shattered. In other words, I want to be scared, and if you’re going to use some old wives’ tale as your plot, there better be a damn good twist. With that being said, Annabelle: Creation is definitely not the most egregious of offenders in this area. It has a nice feel for a horror flick.

With just under two hours of run time, it doesn’t feel rushed, and being rushed is one of my top complaints with horror flops. Most scary movies come in at about the 90-minute mark, and that extra 15-20 minutes in Creation makes a difference, and you can feel its direct impact in the story arc. The story digs deep early, with a only few buildup teases before the scares start full-tilt, and from there it’s a roller coaster ride with brief highs in between plunges into strained scare sequences. The plot is a gratifying deviance from the typical suspense-suspense-scares-credits format often found in second-rate horror. With Annabelle: Creation, gone is the lengthy setup full of hollow and dissatisfying trepidation followed by a few mediocre scares just before a climax so brief that in the blink of an eye the moment we’ve been waiting for the whole movie has come, gone, and the credits are rolling. Instead, this Annabelle prequel opens with a bit of backstory, showing Mullins as a toy maker—doll maker, to be more precise—and then recounts the accident that tragically stripped the couple of their daughter. Fast-forward to the current-day story, and almost immediately the thrills and suspense start, leaving you holding your breath from the edge of your seat. From there it gets darker and darker, actually surprisingly dark (compared to what I saw in a previous film, The Conjuring), and at points Creation is pretty stressful. Many of the scares are set up with characters being ambushed or waiting for something unknown to come out of the black. Suffice it to say that the power at the farmhouse is excessively unreliable ;).

Numerous times throughout the film my roommate and I found ourselves taking deep breaths in between scare sequences, trying to relax. Creation does an excellent job creating and sustaining thrills and tension, making the experience seem longer than its hour-fifty. Annabelle: Creation is definitely not for the faint of heart. For me, it created a helpless feeling of not knowing what might happen to the characters or how far it would go, unlike much B-grade horror where scares and violence predictably only go so far. With this movie, it’s not a matter of expecting something and just waiting for the exact moment; it’s you being left forever wondering what the hell it is that’s going to happen, let alone when.

In Conclusion

You might be thinking that I haven’t said many specific things about the movie. I mean, in the end how much do you really know about Annabelle: Creation having read this? That’s the idea. Sure, I’m giving my thoughts on the movie, but I don’t like to give away too much about a movie whose main draw (or one of them, anyway) is to be startlingly unexpected. But I’ll say this. While my roommate thought the “monster reveal” toward the end of the movie was freaky “AF”, I was a little disappointed. But then, I’m usually disappointed at how the monster looks when they finally bring it out of the dark in all its glory. There were parts about the appearance and use of the monster that I loved, but there’s a specific moment when it is most naked and revealed, and that moment fell a little flat for me. Wouldn’t keep me from recommending the movie to people who like horror, but that one aspect didn’t knock my socks off. But for people who aren’t into hardcore horror, it might be one of the scariest movies you’ve ever seen.

I would also say that while this film hits a mark well above many recent underdeveloped horror flicks, I still wouldn’t advise going in expecting a story of stellar quality. For me there were some holes that I couldn’t necessarily work out or explain away. If you’re looking for a scary movie, Annabelle: Creation is a gold mine. And if you’re looking for a horror film that’s got a pretty decent story with a good level of intrigue, this one fires on that cylinder as well. But if you’re looking for an award-winning story, look elsewhere. It’s good, but not that good.

Finally, for what it’s worth, it took my roommate a few weeks to stop thinking about Annabelle at night, so don’t say you weren’t warned.

Careful when your lights go out.