Movie Review - Annabelle
Functioning as a sort of prequel to my favorite film from last year, The Conjuring, I had a bit of trepidation going into the movie Annabelle. But as I have several personal connections to the film, I approached it with an open mind, and I am extremely glad I did. Let's delve into my connections with the film. First, the extremely talented writer of the script is an old friend and fellow Temple University alumnus, Gary Dauberman, who spent his first week in Los Angeles sleeping on my futon. Secondly, my wife had a small role in the film (although it was cut from the theatrical version). And lastly, not only was the film released on my wedding day but the song used in the promotional materials ("I Only Have Eyes For You" by the Flamingos) was the song I danced with my wife to at the wedding. So to say that I indeed wanted to like this film is one hundred percent accurate. But that is not to say that I am not being objective when reviewing the film. And I can honestly say, Annabelle was exactly what I wanted it to be, and it completely blew me away.
Mia and John are a young couple expecting their first child. One night, Mia awakes to hear a scream from the neighbors house and sends John to investigate. When John exits the neighbors home covered in blood and asks Mia to call for help, she immediately goes back into their home to use the phone. After reaching the police, Mia is confronted by a crazed man and woman who attack her and her child. But John returns just in time to fend the two off until the police arrive. When the police find the body of the woman, she is in the nursery clutching a doll that John gave to Mia as a gift. After a short time in the hospital the couple return to their home, but they begin to experience a dark energy in the house that seems to be stemming from the doll. Yet somehow, they can't seem to get rid of it.
I don't want to spoil the whole thing, because that would ruin all of the fun. And believe me, this movie is a blast. I also think it serves as the perfect companion piece for The Conjuring. The decision to let John R. Leonetti, who was the Cinematographer on Insidious and The Conjuring, direct the film was crucial to keeping with the same style and tone of James Wan's work without feeling unoriginal. Leonetti is a pro at building the tension. He lets us have plenty of really good scares, but it's the more subtle moments that really get under your skin. He misdirects you. You're never really sure if something is about to happen of not, so the suspense never really lets up. It's such a fun feeling to be scared, like, the kind of scared you got as a little kid. And for me, Annabelle managed to do just that.
The direction was only one of the many elements that made this film work so well, there was also an amazing script penned by Gary Dauberman. I'm not just saying that because I used to know the writer either, I'm say that because I am proud to see a talented guy at the top of his game. The plot is taut. There aren't many wasted words here, and the dialogue feels completely naturalistic. The story is interesting, but not overly complicated and serves to move things along at a brisk pace. He focuses not only on the moments where the characters are speaking, but also on the moments where the silence does all of the talking. This is a masterfully crafted piece of screenwriting.
And finally, the cast was absolutely phenomenal. The chemistry between Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton is palpable, which only adds to the uneasiness because it makes the characters three dimensional and very believable. Alfre Woodard is as amazing as ever, and Tony Amendola is superb. Well acted, well directed and well written, Annabelle is an absolute winner in my book. Go see it now while it's in theaters, it's well worth the price of admission.
- Leo Francis