Annabelle: Creation  is the newest edition to Warner Bros.’ The Conjuring universe (yes, everything is a universe now and we just have to accept it), and is a prequel to 2014’s Annabelle, which itself was a spin-off from the first The Conjuring. Annabelle: Creation chronicles the origin of the titular Annabelle doll in its early scenes, but in truth is centered on the doll’s reign of terror 12 years after it was created. The film is directed by David F. Sandberg (last year’s sleeper hit Lights Out) and stars Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace), Mirando Otto (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Lulu Wilson (break out child actress from last year’s Ouija: Origin of Evil), Talitha Bateman (The 5th Wave), and Stephanie Sigman (Spectre).
Strong Performances populate Annabelle: Creation, despite the lack of creativity in its material. Both Lulu Wilson and Talitha Bateman shine in their youthful roles, while the weight of adulthood is effectively anchored by Stephanie Sigman. Miranda Otto serves as the exposition delivery device, unfortunately being given very little to work with due to her status as a walking talking (well, bed-ridden, technically) cliché. All that being said, the acting is strong on nearly all fronts, with the notable exceptions being the laughable teenage characters, who simply annoy and bully their way through both their younger counterparts and the narrative.
Fun is sometimes Cheap. Many are raving about the massive improvement Annabelle: Creation offers over its abysmal predecessor, even giving it favorable comparisons to Ouija: Origin of Evil, last year’s surprising hit sequel. While Annabelle: Creation is undeniably more technically sound than what came before, the screenplay still leaves much to be desired. There are more than a few genuine moments of fright to satisfy casual horror fans, but those gems are often overshadowed by hilariously bad dialogue (“It’s like a castle!”), extremely stupid decision-making, and the lack of self-awareness that accompanies both the former and the latter; and frustrating though it is to see such a well-filmed exercise stumble so hard on its storytelling, I ultimately cannot sympathize with the film’s reliance on fake-out scares.
Nonetheless, I’d be lying if I said it’s one of the worst horror movies. On the contrary, Annabelle: Creation offers an entertaining viewing experience, with decent scares, excellent cinematography/sound, and strong performances. For a viewer who expects strong script-writing, however, there is much to hold accountable. Even the small details bothered me, such as period-accurate vehicles already looking weathered and rusty. Is it better than 2014’s Annabelle? Absolutely. But if you’re looking for a qualitative match for James Wan’s The Conjuring films, you’re just going to have to wait for the next addition to this shared universe.