Annabelle: Creation is a prequel to 2014’s Annabelle, which is itself a spin-off movie and kinda-prequel to James Wan’s superb 2013 horror blockbuster, The Conjuring. If that sentence makes you want to claw at the walls of reality and unleash a yorp of existential confusion, fear not – Annabelle: Creation tells a mostly standalone story. More surprising – especially after the tedious, scare-free stink-fest that was Annabelle – is works really rather well.
The story opens with Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia), a dollmaker who specialises in bespoke dolls that are clearly evil-looking for some reason. Together with his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) and daughter, Annabelle (Samara Lee) they are one big happy family. This being a horror movie that quickly ends with a hideous accident, leaving the parents childless.
Cut to 12 years later and the Mullins have opened their sprawling, creepy house as an orphanage. Our story really begins when Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and a bunch of orphan girls, including polio-afflicted, Janice (Talitha Bateman) and her bestie, Linda (Lulu Wilson) move in. Things start getting weird in short order, and Janice begins to suspect something evil resides within the walls of their new home.
After a slightly stiff beginning, Annabelle: Creation finds it feet, becoming a tense and effective supernatural thriller. The scares are unlikely to startle anyone with their originality, but director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) knows how to skillfully stage a spooky sequence, and Janice’s nocturnal visits to Annabelle’s old bedroom are particularly well-executed.
By the time the third act comes around the paranormal manifestations have become gloriously over-the-top and the film slips into full on spookshow rollercoaster mode. It has fun and it’s quite likely you will too. The cast are solid, with Miranda Otto doing a lot with a little and the child actors being quite endearing, plus the sound design is loud yet layered enough to give your nerves a serious workout.
Annabelle: Creation is the first Conjuring spin-off that actually feels worthy of its source material. There are a number of other spin-off titles in the pipe, including The Nun, The Crooked Man and – oh I don’t know – The Guitar on Which Patrick Wilson Murdered Elvis in The Conjuring 2 (probably) but if they’re all up to the standard of Annabelle: Creation that might not be as silly an idea as it sounds. Regardless, taken as a single entity, Annabelle: Creation is an occasionally crude but effective success.