“Annabelle” is frightening but forgettable

“Annabelle” is a classic example of the phrase: “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”  Essentially, what I mean is that the film follows the same basic outline we see so often in the horror genre. That being said, the worn out story arc does work for the film.  Just because something is clichéd doesn’t mean that it can’t still be well-done.

Anabelle, a possessed doll, haunts new parents Mia and John (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton, respectively).  The movie’s conflict truly begins when two members of a Satanic cult break into Mia and John’s home.  After a bit of a tussle, the police shoot both members of the cult, but one of them dies holding Annabelle.  Thus the doll inherits an evil spirit and terrorizes the young couple. The story progresses as a series of eerie and supernatural events occur and Mia tries to learn more about the members of the cult while protecting her newborn daughter.

The movie is scary. It succeeds in that.  I frantically grabbed the hand of the person sitting next to me more than once.  But I can’t help but feel dissatisfied that the writers of “Annabelle” didn’t take more risk.  The plot progresses in such a way that I could easily guess what would happen next. “Annabelle” was just another horror film in which something inexplicable happens followed by the protagonist calling in priests and hopelessly attempting to move houses.  We’ve seen this so much, such as in the “Paranormal Activity” series, “The Possession,” and “Insidious,” just to name a few.  This neat and tidy story arc needs to be shaken up.

The highlights of “Annabelle” were definitely what made its sister movie, “The Conjuring,” so frightening.  Several times in the movie, the demon or monster would be on screen, waiting just long enough for us to see it before it jumped toward the protagonist. That element of suspense-building combined with things like creepy children’s drawings and a baby crying from an empty carriage will always be effective in a horror movie.

If the end goal is to provide audiences with a scary film, then “Annabelle” succeeds. But if the goal is to provide a unique horror experience, then ultimately, I think it fails.  It’s not an innovation, but it is worth taking some friends to the movie theater to watch them freak out.

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