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Fri, July 19

Annabelle is not another Chuckie

Annabelle: Creation (Warner Bros.)

Annabelle: Creation (Warner Bros.)

If you enjoyed the first “Annabelle,” this prequel is all that you’ve been waiting for! If you were one of those people who gave “Annabelle” a shrug and a smug thumbs-down, “Annabelle: Creation” will outpace your expectations.

We are immediately introduced to a lowly dollmaker, Mullins, who is putting the finishing touches on one of his masterpieces – a stern-faced, red-headed doll, with a cantankerous smile. The year is 1945 and – apparently – life-sized, evil-eyed dolls are en vogue.

Mullins’ lovely wife calls him to dinner from the grand wrap-around porch of their Victorian home. After closing the front door – the sun glimmering through frosted glass and covertly placed crosses – he finds a Crayon-scribbled note: Find Me. A joyous game begins as he cheerfully finds each note which ultimately leads to a tickle-fest on the living room floor with his wife and their sweet little girl. As a horror fan, you eagerly brace for the next scene. You expect a blood-drenched scream, whispers concealed in shadows beneath stairs or the camera’s pan to some ominous doorway. Yet, you are suddenly disarmed by the charming family leaving church and enjoying jolly conversation with friends.

This Hallmark moment creates a welcome diversion from the next, tragic scene.

Twelve years later, a band of six unsuspecting orphaned girls are traveling with a curiously attractive nun to their new “orphanage”– the home of the lowly dollmaker and his wife. Yet, any true horror fan’s first thought will be, “If you know your home may be a magnet for evil, soul-slurping forces, maybe you shouldn’t invite a band of innocent girls to live there.” But some folks are just selfish. Sadly, what unfolds is at the expense of these innocent teens. The audience should feel a little guilty but the eerie story leaves viewers feeling equally victimized.

Horror Fans, subtlety and patience are the trademarks of “Annabelle: Creation.” The twists and plot aversions nimbly spiral through the new “Conjuring Universe” providing links to the nun in “Conjuring 2”and looping back into 2014’s “Annabelle.” Each scene unfolds as if it is going to follow the typical horror tropes and then there is a subtle shift that craftily deviates your expectations. It’s spooky and alarming.

While a dumbwaiter, stair lift chair, scarecrow, bedridden woman and child in leg braces from polio are excellent fodder for any horror flick, the frightening sequences ruthlessly rush beyond your expectations. A girl playing with a toy gun that shoots a ball on a string into a dark hallway. Of course, you know something in the darkness will grab the ball, leading the girl to struggle with the line as if she’s caught a great white shark. What happens next involves footprints being left on a carpet by an invisible body, some bunk bed quivering and that damn doll. Such scenes will make you gasp or curse … or both.

Gratefully, the writers knew they had to meet high expectations with the story of Annabelle, the real-life demon doll that is locked away in the Occult Museum in Connecticut, founded by famed paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Cautious about recreating another Chuckie (“Child’s Play”), the writers shy from the simple possessed doll trope and elaborate on the demon that used the doll as a conduit to find a new soul. This gives “Annabelle: Creation” a mature backstory that pulls the intricacies of the “Conjuring Universe” together and will – no doubt – support the next film in the series, “The Nun,” scheduled for a July 2018 release.

For fans who are terrified of horror films and hide behind drinks, hair, your hands or your arms during the scary parts, “Annabelle: Creation” is guaranteed to have you thinking twice before going into a room with the lights off, opening a dark closet or going into any basement or attic. Even in broad daylight the frights are relentless. Secure your popcorn.

For folks who just enjoy a well-made film – regardless the genre – you will find a solid plot, an organic fear factor and fierce acting. Each actor and actress in the film is an excellent caricature of their role. The brooding, depressed father; the eccentric mother; the doting, devoted nun; the spunky child with the physical challenge; the bestie who sacrifices all for her friend; the bratty older teens, and the nondescript middle-aged girls who don’t have enough screen time to be significant but round out the girl-power-Sandlot.

Let’s be honest, a film such as this does not deliver outstanding character development. However, the characters display one emotion with exceptional reality: terror.

Horror aficionados, there is a new addition to your canon and it is impressive: 4 out of 5 Miners

Folks who love to scream and flinch their way through horror films: 5 out of 5 Miners

Folks who just want to see a good film: 3 out of 5 Miners

Read more about the Real Annabelle doll:


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