Horror movies have officially reached peak bonkers.
Long gone are the days of subtlety; the curious days where demonic possession and mass murder occurred off-screen, and the audience was left to figure out for themselves exactly what happened.
See a horror film now, and you’ll notice one thing: any sense of nuance is blown to smithereens.
Annabelle: Creation tells the story of former doll-maker Sam Mullins, and his bed-ridden wife Esther. The couple lost their 7-year-old daughter in a tragic car accident, years earlier. In the film, the couple open their home to a nun and six orphans.
Terror soon unfolds, however, as the young orphans discover an old, locked up doll made by Sam that seems to have a life of its own.
Horror, a previously cunning and devious genre, is now a lot more straightforward. It's a recipe. A series of predictable steps each and every production company follows in order to create a film with slightly more shock-value than the last.
The goal of the modern day horror film, simply put, is to spook all over your face. In your ears. In your mouth. Everywhere. It beats you over the head with abhorrence and stuffs your throat with dismay.
Nothing is left to the imagination.
I would love to say Annabelle: Creation breaks this mould. I would love to say it delights and surprises and entertains with a degree of modulation; of subtlety.
But it doesn't, really. It's a 2017 horror film. It's stupidly loud and flops absurdity in your face; leaves nothing to the imagination. And as a result? It's... fine.
Leaving the film, this was the general vibe among cinema-goers.
First? Some positives.
It was spine-tinglingly eerie, in parts.
Samara Lee intrigues as the devilish ghost of Annabelle 'Bee' Mullins, Sam and Esther's dead daughter. Her temperament flickers between inviting, scheming and demonic. And regardless of how clichéd it may be, there's something terrifying about a possessed little girl.
The set is beautiful. The Mullins' ranch-like home, miles from anywhere, is bordered by desert hills on every side. Inside, the house is antique. Dark, dingy, and decrepit, as any haunted house should be.
I wish there were more that engrossed. I wish it were sleeker and subtler and that I had an infinite list of reasons as to why this film is the finest of its genre so far in 2017.
However, I do not.
Other than Anthony Lapaglia's depiction of the complex, bereaving father Sam Mullins - who, to Lapaglia's credit, showcases the finest hint of darkness - the rest of the film feels heavy; didactic; and so downright unbelievable that conjuring adrenaline at any point throughout requires an immense suspension of disbelief.
Speaking of suspending disbelief. I wish to address the four specific parts of the film which were so absurd they made my face hurt.
1. When we genuinely saw the devil's face and he looked like Yoda.
In one scene, one of the orphan girls finds the ghost of the dead girl Annabelle in the house and she's facing away and seems really sweet but BANG SHE TURNS AROUND AND ANNABELLE IS REALLY THE DEVIL.
Why... why do we have to see the devil...
The devil is far scarier as an intangible, blurry concept in our minds. The concept evolves as we stew upon it, and we can never really conjure an image. Therein lies its fright factor.
When he becomes tangible, however - a living thing with eyes and a face - he becomes far less frightening.
Especially when he looks Yoda dressed in blackface.
2. When, at the end, the priest joyfully asks if 'anyone would like to keep the doll in which the demon lived'.
The priest thrusts the exorcised doll at the young orphan girls - you know, the remaining ones, who weren't killed.
Slapstick humour in a horror film. No. Doesn't work. They are different genres.
I ask you. Would you like a splash of milk with your champagne, perhaps? No? Of course you bloody well don't. They don't belong together.
Just like cheesy humour doesn't belong in a film about gore, dead girls and demons.
3. When the demon breaks Old Man Mullins' fingers.
This would be fine if it were subtle.
Sam Mullins, Head of the Mullins house and protector of the orphan girls, tries to FIGHT the demon with a Holy Cross. I don't know how religion works but that seems to be a thing.
What follows is an extreme close-up shot of Mullins' fingers wrapped around the cross, arm outstretched. The demon, with its magical demon powers, individually breaks each of his fingers by bending them BACKWARDS until they the joints BUCKLE and SNAP.
Except - because fingers don't actually bend that way by themselves - CGI (computer-generated-imagery) is required.
And it's terrible. His fingers look like cartoon sausages, and any illusion of shock/horror is eroded.
If you're looking for the greatest horror film of all time, you won't find it here. While the camerawork is approachable, and some acting performances keep you invested in the outcome, nothing really sets it apart. It's nothing special.
However. If you're not as cynical as myself, and would like a semi-spooky film you can snuggle up next to your partner and watch, I can't recommend it highly enough.
Annabelle: Creation is in cinemas now.
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