While Warner Bros tweaks its superhero stories and Universal tries to launch its Dark Universe of monsters, one horror franchise has mushroomed successfully under the radar. This prequel to 2014’s ‘Annabelle’ – itself a spin-off from ‘The Conjuring’ – somewhat explains the genesis of the series’ supremely creepy wooden doll.
Anthony LaPaglia plays an improbably prosperous dollmaker in the 1940s, and Miranda Otto his wife: the soon-to-be bereaved parents of seven-year-old Bee (Samara Lee). Twelve years later, still devastated, the pair open their home to a kindly nun, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman, the polar opposite of the scary sister in ‘The Conjuring 2’) and six orphaned girls in her care. Quicker than you can say, ‘Don’t go near that doll’, things are going bump in the night and doors are opening and closing on their own.
‘Annabelle: Creation’ is well performed, but the rhythm of the scares feels slightly off. Characters scream when they should be quiet and whimper when they should scream, and it blatantly steals the rocking-chair gimmick from ‘The Woman in Black’. That said, it is still terrifying – a monster this grotesque will always be unsettling – but director David F Sandberg sometimes fumbles the slow build. While it’s better than ‘Annabelle’ it’s nowhere near the main ‘Conjuring’ films. Maybe they’ll have better luck in the next spin-off, ‘The Nun’, coming to cinemas in summer 2018.