Twelve years after a tragedy befalls a family who conveniently lives in the middle of nowhere, the father decides to open his home and heart to a nun and the orphans under her care. In another film universe this premise might have produced a charming family movie full of life lessons and cheer. In Annabelle: Creation (2017), the family, the nun, the orphans, and, by extension, the audience are subjected to relentless terror.
Part of what made this movie so entertaining was that I didn’t go in with high expectations. While I had enjoyed the first two Conjuring films, I never bothered to see Annabelle (2014) which only got a 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. Going in to this movie, I didn’t remember much about Annabelle the doll. I remembered her eerie appearance, of course, but other than that, I mostly remembered her getting safely locked away in a cabinet during the first Conjuring film. But here, Annabelle is uncontained and ready to wreak havoc.
The first two Conjuring films were (supposedly) based on a true story. While watching these films, there’s an extra layer of creepiness as you wonder whether these events really could have happened, but the fact it’s based on reality can zap some of the suspense. Deep down, you know that Ed and Lorraine Warren will survive since the people they’re based on survived, and that evil will be vanquished—at least until the sequel. Annabelle: Creation offers no such comfort: none of these characters are guaranteed to survive unscathed or even survive at all. The body count is higher than either Conjuring film and with it comes the terror of knowing that anything can happen. The horror is nicely varied, with lots of gnarly body horror and gore as well as possessed children, scarecrows, and dead bodies. The only downside to these terrors is that there are way too many times when characters walk into dark, creepy basements or go into forbidden rooms when they know they shouldn’t. I appreciate that this movie made me shriek in the middle of a crowded theater, but it also made me want to yell out advice to the characters, and that’s never good.
Though the characters aren’t incredibly developed, I did find myself caring about them. Stephanie Sigman is wonderful as a sweet and compassionate nun named Sister Charlotte, and I definitely rooted for the orphan girls. While I do love horror films where the main characters use their ingenuity and strength to fight back against their foes (You’re Next, Get Out, and 10 Cloverfield Lane are all excellent examples), I also love horror films like this where the main characters have no chance because the villain is so powerful, so unstoppable, and so evil. The women here are so vulnerable and ill-matched to confront an ancient, shapeshifting evil, which definitely adds to the horror.
Another thing I particularly liked about this movie was its focus on female characters. With the six orphan girls, the nun, and the mysterious wife, the screen was filled with women. I really enjoyed the scene where the little girls Janice and Linda use a paper fortune teller and promise each other that they won’t let anyone adopt them unless they’re adopted together. I also really liked the scene where the mysterious wife reveals herself; she stops being the intriguing figure who haunts the imaginations of the girls and confides in Sister Charlotte, telling her story in her own words.
Overall Annabelle: Creation is a great new addition to the Conjuring universe and definitely worth checking out if you want a good summertime scare!