The next chapter of “The Conjuring” universe plays out in theaters this weekend, as “Annabelle: Creation” is unleashed on audiences wanting a good scare. Directed by David Sandberg, “Creation” tells the story of the doll who first appeared at the beginning of “The Conjuring,” and had its own spinoff with “Annabelle” in 2014. Though the original movie was panned by critics and audiences alike — I thoroughly enjoyed the film, as we learned more about the doll, and how it ended up in the clutches of famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. “Creation” takes us even further back into the doll’s history, serving as an origin story, revealing where it all began.
We are introduced to a couple, Samuel and Esther Mullins, and their daughter Bee, in what appears to be the 40’s or 50’s — a happy little family — where a doting mother and father love their adorable daughter, who likes to play hide and seek. Samuel is a doll maker, and hand crafts dolls for local business men to sell in their shops, and it is clear that he and Esther are well respected in their community. One afternoon on their way home from church while working on a flat tire — tragedy strikes the family as Bee is taken from Samuel and Esther in a terrible roadside accident. The screen fades to black and we fast forward 12 years. A beat up school bus is driving down the same road, with a six orphans, a priest and a nun all on board. They are heading to the Mullins’ home, who are opening up their house to the orphans and nun, as their orphanage has been closed down. The girls hop off of the bus, and excitedly tour their new home, with a very somber Sam Mullins — Esther, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found, and Mr. Mullins explains, she was in a terrible accident and rarely leaves her room. As they explore the home, a young girl named Janice, healing after being stricken with polio, tries to enter a room only to have Mr. Mullins tell her the door is locked, and that the room is off limits. Obviously, this is Bee’s old room. Of course, that doesn’t last, as not only is Janice curious about the room — but something in the room is anxious to meet Janice as well. From here the story launches as we are introduced to the evil force behind what caused Mrs. Mullins’ accident — and why the room was to be off limits.
Again, the first “Annabelle” film was not really well received — but I remember getting a bunch more goose bumps watching that one than I did with this one. The story is solid, the acting is good (though I really feel like Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto’s talents are wasted with their portrayals as Samuel and Esther Mullins), and the scares are fun. The issue I have with the movie, and what I fear may be the route all of the following Conjuring Universe movies are going down — is that the film doesn’t really surprise you in any way. It follows the same formula as the preceding films, and the scares don’t really scare anymore — because you feel as though you’ve seen them already. The look of the movie, as in “The Conjuring” movies is fantastic — but this one just has places where they explain entire gaps of time with short five minute scenes — when I would have liked to have explored those stories, perhaps more than the one being portrayed on film (such as when Mrs. Mullins explains how the doll has become possessed). This film ties into the original “Annabelle” film quite nicely, as it essentially ends as the next film starts, and as a standalone movie — meaning if you’ve not watched the other Conjuring films — this movie is quite good. It just didn’t live up to my expectations, and just didn’t have the power and buildup of tension I was hoping for. The early reviews for this film are exceptional — so maybe I’m an outlier here — but I started to see signs that “The Conjuring” universe is running out of ideas. There are a couple of nice Easter eggs in the film — letting you know what’s coming up next and a cool scene where Janice receives a Raggedy Ann gift from her adoptive parents — which is what the real Annabelle doll looks like.
Bottom line — this is a fun movie. It’s great escape as movies are supposed to be, well made and filled with good scares. I’m just hoping the next film — starring the now infamous nun from “The Conjuring 2” has a few new ideas.