The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Annabelle | Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard, Tony Amendola | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
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Annabelle | Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard, Tony Amendola | Review

The origin of a demonic doll, introduced in last year’s The Conjuring, is explored in director John R. Leonetti’s (The Butterfly Effect 2) some-what prequel, Annabelle.  Unfortunately, this standalone has no legs.

Full of eerie, sometimes ferocious moments of malevolent violence, the film falls prey to an unimaginative series of derivative events and astoundingly bad character judgment.  

The 98-minutes of puzzling decisions and clichéd creepiness (doors closing by themselves, items hurled by unseen hands, lights turning off suddenly, static on the television right before something bad happens, etc.) only serves to hammer the disappointment home.  Annabelle has none of the effectively icy chills of its predecessor.  
Especially perplexing is why Annabelle is a sought-after doll in the first place.  With her grotesque face and unsettling grimace of a smile, it’s a real wonder why young father to be and aspiring doctor John Gordon (Ward Horton) would buy her for his wife Mia (Annabelle Wallis) for their nursery, or why Mia would want it in the first place.  Strike one.

A terrifying home invasion injures a very pregnant Mia and sheds satanic blood on Annabelle.  Now dolly dearest is not just ugly, she’s murderous as well.  Strike two.  
After a strange occurrence nearly takes Mia's life (hint: NEVER leave Jiffy-Pop on a stove with a demon doll in the house) the couple toss Annabelle in the trash and move into a high rise because of the home invasion memory,  NOT because they've put anything together about the strange occurrences coinciding with the doll's appearance in their lives.  Finally!

After the birth of Mia's baby, Leah, the infant must share a room with the grinning monstrosity after it is discovered in one of the moving boxes.  Strike...oh, let's just stop counting at this point.

Sympathizing with the family's plight is difficult because of the endless instances of bad judgment throughout their ordeal.  Mia is an unintentionally bad mother, alternately oblivious or negligent with baby Leah, so that you wonder if the kid might not be better off with Annabelle after all.

Then there's the familiar cinematic landscape of a husband not believing his wife's ordeal and suggesting she get "help." There's Father Perez (Tony Amendola) a friendly, knowledgeable priest who can explain the history of the ordeal, and Evelyn (Alfre Woodard) a friendly, knowledgeable bookstore owner who just happens to have a book on the satanic cult that started the ordeal.

Ed and Lorraine Warren, real-life paranormal investigators (Ed died in 2006) whose actual cases include those upon which the films The Amityville Horror, A Haunting In Connecticut, The Conjuring, and Annabelle have been based, are purported to have the actual doll in a locked wooden case in their Occult Museum in Monroe Connecticut; it's blessed by a priest twice a month and looks nothing like the leering, toddler-sized creature that causes all the trouble for the Gordon family.
The story recounted by a young nurse at the beginning of the film is allegedly true, but Annabelle’s origin story is penned by first-time screenwriter Gary Dauberman, clearing NOT a mother, who makes perplexing choices for his characters.  Acclaimed horror director James Wan is a producer.

Despite the supernatural element, some chilling scenes of pursuit in a dark basement, and an absolutely adorable baby-at-risk premise, director John R. Leonetti’s doll from hell is a disappointing play date.


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