When you hear that the new horror movie “Annabelle” centers on a scary doll, you may be thinking you’ve seen this story before.
“We made a conscious decision that this was not a ‘Chucky’ movie,” director John Leonetti told TheWrap. “You never see her move on her own. She ends up in different places and you don't know how she got there.”
Moviegoers who saw “The Conjuring,” the hit 2013 horror movie that centered on real-life paranormal experts Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren, already know the story of Annabelle. The beginning of the movie had the doll come into the possession (no pun intended) of the Warrens after it apparently caused strange occurrences. The couple puts the doll in a room filled with other objects that people say are haunted.
“Annabelle,” which is now in theaters, takes place before “The Conjuring” and focuses on John (Ward Horton) and Mia (Annabelle Wallis) Gordon, who are expecting a baby and who bring the doll into their home. It co-stars Alfre Woodard.
Is “Annabelle” a good choice if you’re looking for a Halloween scare? So far the film has not gotten a positive reception from critics – it currently holds a score of 40 out of 100 on the review aggregator website Metacritic. (By contrast, “The Conjuring” has a score of 68.)
Inkoo Kang of TheWrap praised the film more than most, writing that “a sheen of glamour and a stab at real drama distinguish this persistently spooky tale… none of these scare tactics are remotely original, and yet they're wholly effective… Wallis [has a] warm, inquisitive presence.”
And Los Angeles Times critic Robert Abele called the movie “modestly hair-raising” but wrote that “Leonetti… loves the spooky stuff but isn’t great with actors… it lacks the exhilarating pull of ‘The Conjuring,’ but as a side dish of demon-doll supernatural, it suffices.”
However, the Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan said the film is “disappointingly derivative… a silly script… when it comes to visuals, the director has a modest flair… Despite its deficiencies, ‘Annabelle’ is not without a modicum of verve. It has its unnerving moments, but they’re outweighed by the sheer stupidity and predictability of the story.”