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Annabelle: Creation (2017)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/24/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/24/2017

I've written before about how I wasn't a very discerning moviegoer when I was an adolescent. Most any movie, especially a horror movie, would be considered no worse than mediocre, I was just excited to be watching movies. Today, I'm much more critical of movies, especially horror movies, and the worst sin that a movie can commit is to be boring. Maybe it's because I hate to waste time, but I don't want to watch a movie where nothing happens. Having said that, the things happening have to make sense. You can't just constantly throw things at the screen like a Transformers movie and hope for the best. But, as simple as this idea sounds, so few movies are able to do it. That's why, despite some flaws, Annabelle: Creation stands out.

A dozen years after the death of their young daughter, Bee (Samara Lee), Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and Esther Mullins (Miranda Otto) open their home to a group of orphans. The girls, lead by Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), love the house and are thrilled to have a new home. The two youngest girls, Linda (Lulu Wilson) and Janice (Talitha Bateman), stick together and Linda is always ready to help Janice, who has a brace on her leg due to polio. As everyone is getting settled in, Janice finds herself exploring a room which was meant to be off limits. There, she finds a secret door which reveals a strange doll in a white dress. Following this, Janice, Linda, and some of the other girls begin to see strange things around the house. It appears that Janice's discovery has released an evil that wants to consume everything in the home.

Annabelle: Creation is the latest entry in "The Conjuring Universe", which started with James Wan's 2013 film The Conjuring. This is an odd series, as it shows that the second time can be the charm. The Conjuring 2 was better than its predecessor, and now we have a film which outshines Annabelle. What's the secret? With The Conjuring 2, Wan gave us a movie which was much more focused and didn't have the burden of introducing the characters. The problem with Annabelle was that it was a promise unfulfilled. The "Annabelle" doll was introduced in The Conjuring and when she (it?) got her own film, audiences were ready for some full-on doll action. But, then we learned that the doll doesn't actually do anything, but serve as a conduit for a demon. Perhaps it's this knowledge, and the lowered expectations which come with it, which allow the audience to give the benefit of doubt for the sequel.

But, it's more than that. Screenwriter Gary Dauberman returns for Annabelle: Creation, but this time he's working with Director David F. Sandberg, who showed with 2016's Lights Out, that he could make a nifty little horror film. And their mantra appears to have been "keep the scares coming". Not unlike Producer James Wan's Insidious (which is vastly superior to anything in "The Conjuring Universe"), Annabelle: Creation exists as a "shock machine" consistently one creepy scene or jump scare after another. It doesn't take long for the film to introduce the supernatural hijinks going on in the house, and we quickly learn that evil came take many forms here. There are some very overt scary scenes, such as the thing in the sheet, but Sandberg also shows a great deal of restraint here, only giving us a glimpse of something hellish, but it's still effective. (There's a great shot where the demon is barely seen hanging upside down in the barn.)

Despite the impressive pace, Annabelle: Creation is not without its flaws. As noted above, we get a lot of scary objects and beings here, and it borders on ridiculous overkill, as it appears that the demon can be or do just about anything. There's sort of a nod to Poltergeist in the sense that the demon knows what scare each person, but it almost becomes too vague. There is also some odd editing here. Similar to a style used by John Carpenter, Annabelle: Creation will have two events happening simultaneously. But, instead of cutting back and forth, it will let one play out and then allow the other to happen. This creates some odd time issues, and there's a moment in the third act where Annabelle is in two places at once. Those issues, aside, Annabelle: Creation certainly avoids being boring and is able to holds its story together long enough to get us through the action. Sandberg is definitely skilled at delivering creepy visuals and the movie has some memorable moments. But, if I'm to be honest, I would still like to see the doll do something.

Annabelle: Creation doesn't tell us if anyone vetted The Mullins on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, but the picture does get a bit too dark at times. The level of detail is very good and the depth works well. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. From the outset, the track delivers strong surround and stereo effects. The house offers a bevy of sounds and we get individual effects from the rear speakers. The subwoofer effects are palpable and punctuate every scary moment.

The Annabelle: Creation Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director David F. Sandberg. "Deleted Scenes Featurette" (12 minutes) has Sandberg providing commentary over a reel of cut scenes, as he explains what is happening and why they were cut. We learn here that the original cut was much longer and that some subplots (and some additional creepy moments) were removed. "Directing Annabelle: Creation" (42 minutes) has Sandberg explaining what directing is and showing what life is like on the set through behind-the-scene footage. We also get two of Sandberg's short films, "Attic Panic" (3 minutes) and "Coffer" (3 minutes). "The Conjuring Universe" (5 minutes) has Producer James Wan explaining how a series of movies spun-off from the story of The Warrens.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long