Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
The Conjuring, which introduced us to a malevolent doll named Annabelle. The first prequel, 2014’s Annabelle, took us back to the couple (Mia and John Form, played by Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) who owned and were terrorized by the doll before it was held in safe keeping by Ed and Lorraine Warren, the protagonists of the Conjuring series. Annabelle: Creation takes us way back to the doll’s creator, Samuel Mullins (played by Anthony LaPaglia), as well as his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) and their daughter. After a tragic accident where their child is killed, LaPaglia and Otto become recluses until they decide to open their home to a nun and a group of displaced orphans. All is well until one of the orphans, a polio stricken girl named Janice (Talitha Bateman), hears a bump in the night and goes investigating. She unwittingly unleashes paranormal activity so we can have a movie.
In this clip, Janice and her friend Linda (Lulu Wilson of Ouija: Origin of Evil) get a scare from Annabelle.
This scene is an example of my big takeaway from Annabelle: Creation, which is that I’m getting tired of the Conjuring universe with its classy approach and old school scares. Between this series, its predecessors like The Conjuring and Insidious and imitators like Ouija: Origin of Evil (which is very good) and Lights Out (which was also directed by David F. Sandberg), there is getting to be a sameness to the James Waniverse with diminishing returns. I’m not saying all of these movies are bad (I like about half of them), but I just wasn’t having it during Annabelle: Creation. I kept waiting for it to bust out and do something different in the Waniverse, but instead it just skillfully adheres to formula. I like the original Annabelle more, partly because it felt less safe (the first act of that movie has some very creepy stuff about cults) and it also came out three years ago, when this approach to horror hadn’t been so beat into the ground yet. Rob, I know you had not seen the first Annabelle before seeing Creation. What did you think of Annabelle: Creation and do you dig on Waniverse?
Rob: I haven’t seen Annabelle, but I’ve seen the other Waniverse movies and agree that the formula is getting tired. Classy as the presentation may be, there are only so many ways to present the same jump scare over and over. Annabelle: Creation absolutely falls victim to that dry sameness. There are a few scares that do work, though, thanks to Sandberg’s conscientious direction and the overall lighting and production design. The issue is that most of this creativity is in the opening act, which is by far the film’s strongest. There’s a fun one-shot long take introducing the girls to the household and a few moving camera gags involving the doll that work well. Things really fall apart once the plot starts weaving itself into weird corners, though, which is when I started looking at my watch.
Rob: The most frustrating thing for me was the sloppy character work. They introduce six girls and spend half an hour building the relationship between Girls A and B, as we follow Girl A’s specific POV in her investigation. Then, Girl A is...compromised, leaving us with Girl B, whom we barely know. All the while, four other girls are left in the background until the exciting climax in which we’re supposed to give a shit about them. It was just odd. Some sequences even felt like they were out of order. Like you said, we had this strong central conflict with the husband and wife (even the nun played by Stephanie Sigman presented an interesting wrinkle at times) that is completely shoved aside for the same “stare into the darkness until something jumps out” scare.
I WILL say that as someone who just marathoned every Friday the 13th film, I appreciated the appearance by Baghead Jason!
Black Christmas style? And then cut to daylight AND IT’S STILL DOING THAT! Because eventually if it won’t leave, the girl will snap and get out of the bed and we can have a good payoff to that sequence! Ugh! This movie needed a sense of humor about itself. I thought Talitha Bateman as Janice was interesting, but after she takes a turn there are less interesting beats for her to play. This movie isn’t terrible, but it’s super frustrating to me. It should have just been called “Now That’s What I Call Conjuring.”
Rob: I agree about Talitha Bateman, who is about as underserved by this material as everyone else. To borrow a shtick from Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Annabelle: Creation comes from the “and then…” school of screenwriting. This happens, and then this happens, and then this happens, all with very little causality. The sequence with Baghead Jason in the barn, for example, might have been fun if it was written halfway as well as it was shot. Like you said, this movie feels like a copy of a copy of the same boring “classy haunted house” movie. Not bad, but not good. Mark Ehh.
Adam: I’m voting Mark Off on this one. All this shit just bothers me. 1) It steps on a creepy opening of Annabelle by connecting the (INSINUATION OF A SPOILER) end of Annabelle: Creation to Annabelle by explaining too much (END OF INSINUATION OF A SPOILER); 2) It has a Marvel end credits thing going with a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene; 3) Warner Bros. made a HUGE mistake by showing an amazing four-minute scene for the upcoming It right before Annabelle: Creation starts. Just from what I saw, I can’t wait to see more of Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise in that film and then to yank you out of that and make you watch a by-the-numbers prequel to a prequel to a prologue? FUCK! That ain’t right.
All that being said, you seem to like Annabelle enough to merit a rental, so I might double that with The Bye Bye Man later on tonight. Maybe it’ll help me appreciate Creation a bit more.
Adam: That makes me nervous because I am one of the very, very few who enjoy both of those movies. Caveat emptor. Btw...I like that “In da Club” now has a horror mix (see Happy Death Day trailer if you don’t get that reference) and part of my Friday was dedicated to unpacking the trailer for Elba’s The Mountain Between Us with Alejandra, which is now known by us as The Mountain Between Fucks. Lastly, how do they have a dog on the mountain? Did it also survive the plane crash? What is going on there?
Join us next week as we will have a special Reserved Seating where Rob and I talk about our day at Monster-Mania con. Celebs will be met, DVDs will be bought, Yorkies will be celebrity auctioned. Until next time…
Rob: These seats are reserved.