‘Forgive me, Father, for I am about to sin…’
I grew up on trashy horror franchises. I find the formulaic mayhem of the Friday the 13th movies comforting. When I should have been out drinking beers and talking to girls, I instead set aside some time to chill with Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers. I was an odd adolescent. You would think then that I would be much more accommodating of the Conjuring Universe but I have actually been pretty scathing about James Wan’s monstrously successful haunted house franchise.
I made a concerted effort with Annabelle: Creation to view it for what it is, the 4th film of a trashy horror franchise. I think I have been harsh towards these movies in the past because horror has moved beyond the derivative into an area of true transcendence. Films like Hereditary and Mandy have conquered the leftfield, while innovative blockbusters are also covered in the shape of A Quiet Place and Bird Box. And that is without even mentioning what Jordan Peele is doing with films like Get Out and Us.
This all adds up to the feeling that Annabelle: Creation feels a bit like somebody still using Windows Media Player. Old Fashioned. Irrelevant almost. But… that doesn’t have to be true. The other side of the coin is the idea that the Conjuring Universe actually harks back to those horror movies that I grew up with. A world of endless sequels, returning antagonists and gratuitous violence, and for that, Annabelle: Creation should be lauded, because as horror sequels go, this one is pretty damn OK.
Some horror movie villains have their power robbed from them when they are forced to step out of the shadows. The more the audience learned about Michael Myers or Leatherface, the less frightening they appeared. For Annabelle, the opposite is true. Because the original concept was so paper thin – a scary doll is possessed by a demon and so wreaks havoc – the fleshing out inherent within David F. Sandberg’s effective sequel is both necessary and justified.
Sandberg brought us the short film and internet sensation Lights Out but he also brought us the disappointing feature length version of that same film. Here, his frantic direction and memorable imagery serve to enhance the story and his cast do a good job also, particularly Anthony LaPaglia as the silently suffering patriarch Samuel Mullins.
With Annabelle: Creation, Sandberg has moved the Conjuring Universe away from its schlocky, melodramatic beginnings and into a world that is altogether more nasty and malevolent and it is all the better for it. With three more films in this universe already released and more yet to come, we are stuck with these movies now whether we like it or not. Might as well embrace it.