Magazine article Screen International


Magazine article Screen International


Article excerpt

Dir: John R. Leonetti. US. 2014. 98mins

While there is something reassuringly familiar about the 'possessed-and-creepy doll' genre, this spin-off from James Wan's hit haunted house film The Conjuring delivers only a few genuine scary moments as it attempts to press some expected spooky buttons. But it arrives on screens when there isn't a whole lot out there for fright fans and could well attract an audience interested to see what nastiness this creep doll can dish out.

In truth the jumps and jolts are all pretty predictable.

It is a mystery only horror films can answer why seemingly sensible folk like to collect seriously dodgy looking dolls - and the rosy cheeked and blood-toned lipped Annabelle is at the top of the evil-looking doll spectrum - but they are a much-used film stand-by and at least always act of a great scene-setter for spookiness to come. Director John R Leonetti (cinematographer for James Wan) does a good job in setting up the film as the rather large pig-tailed doll arrives into the collection of expectant Santa Monica housewife Mia (Annabelle Wallis), a gift from her medical student husband John (Ward Horton).

The 1970s backdrop adds much to an unusual sense of atmosphere, while the fact that the lead character is called 'Mia' also lays on pretty thick the links to Roman Polanski. Not only is it a link to Mia Farrow (and the Rosemary's Baby riffs that come later), but the nasty and nicely staged opening gambit of the film is a house invasion by occult worshippers (linking to the Manson Family's killing of Polanski's wife Sharon Tate) that sees a crazed hippie couple attack Mia and John.

The crazed attack sees Mia stabbed in the stomach and the hippy girl - the disturbed daughter of their next-door neighbours - dying in the self same room where Mia keeps her doll collection, cozying up to Annabelle. After a spell in hospital, Mia - and baby-to-be - are fine, but back at home there is an uncomfortable atmosphere, and things start happening around the house (home appliances having a mind of their own, doors slamming etc) with not-so-cute Annabelle shifting places and - of course - spending time on a creaky rocking chair. …

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