Director: David F. Sandberg (2017)
Starring: Anthony LaPaglia, Samara Lee, Miranda Otto
Find it: IMDb
The prequel-to-the-prequel-to-The Conjuring, telling the story of how the doll that came to be in the possession of the Warren family came to be haunted in the first place. Confused yet? Don't worry, ultimately it's just another scary doll movie. When their daughter is killed in a tragic accident, the grieving Mullins family make a bargain with a/the devil, placing the 'Annabelle' doll at the heart of it.
Years later, a displaced orphanage is relocated to the Mullins farm. Mrs. Mullins (Otto) is disfigured and bedbound, Mr. Mullins (LaPaglia) a scary old grump who stomps around his own home looking like the last person who'd invite a houseful of orphans to come live with him. And yet, he does, and with it comes the warning that the girls should stay out of his dearly departed daughter's room. Naturally, it's only hours (minutes, in watching-the-movie time) before one of the girls goes snooping somewhere she shouldn't. Annabelle ensues.
As the title promises, Annabelle: Creation goes right back to the beginning, opening with the very carving of Annabelle herself. One of the major questions plaguing this mini-franchise has always been Annabelle's creepiness - why the hell would you purposefully make something so terrifying as Annabelle, and then market it for children? - and Creation does nothing to answer that. As we open, dollmaker Samuel finishes up crafting Annabelle, looks at it, and thinks 'yep, that's a job well done, sure that won't terrify anyone at all!'
Like the Annabelle movie before it, Creation lacks the heart and soul of The Conjuring proper. Sure, there are the requisite jump scares and brilliantly banal monsters (most notably its scarecrow, and a cameo from The Conjuring 2's scary nun), but too often it feels as though it's just going through the motions, routinely lining up the shocks rather than plotting them organically. If you like watching screaming young girls and women being dragged off into the darkness or thrown against walls, then Creation is the movie for you.
While it works well in the moment (and cinema), it's instantly forgettable, and will be rather useless on the smaller screen, where its loud noises and jump scares will be helplessly dulled. The kids and their nun (the nice one, played by Stephanie Sigman) do well - and Otto and LaPaglia class the joint up too - but it desperately misses the warmth of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.
Annabelle: Creation is a fine cinema experience but a much less interesting story. The first three-quarters consist of by-the-numbers plotting and dull story. The rest of it is little more than a series of impressive but loud jump scares and cheap shocks. In the end, this dry, empty Annabelle prequel simply lacks the creativity to bring itself to life.