So a man buys his pregnant wife a doll to complete the set she’s been collecting. And wouldn’t you just know it, the doll has a demon in it (more or less). Very quickly, bad things start to happening to the couple. They try to explain it away logically, and of course that fails. Eventually one of them realizes that it’s all connected to the doll. Then they consult someone with knowledge of the occult in order to learn what the evil force wants and how to stop it. During all of this, things jump out and scare them and us. That is the gist of Annabelle, a subpar horror movie that lacks compelling characters or an original story, but manages to pull off a couple of good, tense scenes.
Near the start of the movie Mia (played by Annabelle Wallis) and her husband John (played by Ward Horton) undergo a traumatic experience. As a result Mia spends the rest of the movie in a constant state of unsease. The phenomena surrounding the doll only exacerbate the situation. John is a loving, attentive husband and a medical student, and when he’s not spending time at the hospital he’s trying to comfort his wife. That makes him a great partner but a rather dull character. He has no real interests other than work or his family. Neither, for that matter, does Mia. Her life is the baby. Her hobby is sewing, but she only makes baby clothes. It’s no wonder that both lead characters come off as flat and uninteresting. All they do in this movie is to react to the world happening around them. They exist because this movie needs someone for these things to happen to. It’s very hard to get invested in characters like that.
It’s also hard for me to get invested in a movie where a doll is a source of all the horror because I’m not afraid of dolls. The movie tries its hardest to give her a sinister feel, but as an audience member I only saw an ugly old toy that showed up in places it wasn’t supposed to. Now if I had a doll (or any object) in my house that was beginning to cause a lot of strange and dangerous events, and if I couldn’t get rid of no matter how hard I tried, I would legitimately be scared. So it’s not that I can’t imagine a doll being scary; it’s more that a horror movie has to try harder than the average fright flick to convince me that a doll is worth fearing. It has to show me something I haven’t seen before. Annabelle didn’t.
I did mention that there were two tense scenes I enjoyed. One involved a breaking & entering, and the other had Mia alone in a dark basement of an apartment building. To this day, the closest thing I have to nightmares almost always involves someone breaking into my home. And as a kid, I could scare myself silly by just imagining myself alone in the dark basement. It’s because these scenes triggered fears specific to me that I appreciated them so much. And it’s worth noting that the doll was not really present for either scene. This leads me to believe that maybe I’m just not the right audience for this movie. Scary movies are only effective if they scare you, and obviously different people are frightened of different things. Annabelle is probably great for anyone who feels a twinge of fear when they look into a doll’s lifeless eyes.
Despite all I’ve said, Annabelle isn’t a bad way to pass the time. Speaking of time, the movie is only 99 minutes, but it feels longer because a lot of it is just freaky stuff happening to Mia and then Mia freaking out about it. It takes a while before she goes from reactive to proactive. So while I wouldn’t really recommend this movie, I would be curious what you thought of it if you did see it.