Posted by Joel Copling on October 3, 2014

Here is one of the more useless horror films in recent memory: "Annabelle" regards the origin of the doll which, you may remember, acted as a plot device in 2013's excellent "The Conjuring." In that film was the brilliantly creative decision to pit one demon's manifestation against another, as the doll (which was already possessed, mind you) was used as a distraction for the married couple who were the subjects of the film's narrative and interest. Here, it's the catalyst for the usual hocus-pocus nonsense involving demons. It relies heavily on static shots of the doll itself, which admittedly has a slightly unsettling look (though I've seen creepier ones in real life). Otherwise, it's "Jump-Scare: The Movie," with some long walks toward unseen (or barely seen) horrors at the end of hallways and behind self-closing doors.

The human chattel in the doll's path this time are Mia (Annabelle Wallis, whose casting is likely the film's best joke) and John (Ward Horton), a couple about to welcome a baby into their midst. Their neighbors are killed and they are assaulted in what looks to be the latest in a string of occultic attacks on the innocent, and from the wreckage of this comes Annabelle, a rather ungainly likeness doll that gains a reputation by following its quarry around and causing the requisite paranormal activity around their house. It evens follows them when they move out of the home and into a lavish apartment (John is a doctor). Fr. Perez (Tony Amendola) and concerned citizen Evelyn (Alfre Woodard, better than she has to be) assure them this not just a simple haunting.

"Annabelle" is not concerned with narrative, however, and its relative thinness is probably the most telling circumstantial evidence. It's about getting from one setpiece to the next. The repetition is tiresome; the performances from Wallis and Horton are not up to the challenge to raising any of it to a level that works; the cinematography is disappointingly flat, especially when one considers that director John R. Leonetti did the lensing for "The Conjuring" and 2011's "Insidious"; the score is annoying, and not a single scare works the way it should, each underlined by said annoying score. The entire enterprise, really, peaks at the ten-minute mark and proceeds to stew in its own useless, trivial existence.

Film Information

Annabelle Wallis (Mia), Ward Horton (John), Tony Amendola (Fr. Perez), Alfre Woodard (Evelyn), Kerry O'Malley (Sharon Higgins), Brian Howe (Pete Higgins), Eric Ladin (Det. Clarkin).

Directed by John R. Leonetti and written by Gary Dauberman.

Rated R (intense disturbing violence/terror).

99 minutes.

Released on October 3, 2014.