The Annabelle Trilogy
Annabelle (2014), Annabelle: Creation (2017), & Annabelle Comes Home (2019) 3-in-1 review
Today we are going to keep with our Conjuring series, you know, instead of all the new movies that opened this weekend… Look we had a wedding to shoot and it was a very busy time! Plus I sat through all of these movies, so might as well talk about them! That’s right, we’ll have a Nun (2018)/La Llorona (2019) review this week too! But for now, let’s talk about just the creepiest doll that I totally want in a display case…
So Annabelle is the first spinoff about the creepy doll from the opening of the first Conjuring which is based on a real Raggedy Ann doll that I believe is currently housed in Warrens’ occult museum. While the first Annabelle was not received well by critics or audiences, it did considerably well financially, grossing around $257.5 million on a budget of only $6.5 million. Oh yeah story! Couple gets a creepy doll and creepy things happen. Okay there’s more to it than that, but if you haven’t seen it and insist on watching it seven years late like me, better go into it blind.
How to I put this delicately? Annabelle isn’t very good. But it’s also not one of those films you can casually watch and say, “Wow what garbage! How could this get made?” Well it can get made for not a lot of money and bring some lazy thrills to a lot of people for a lot of money and get a lot of sequels. I mean just think about the gross there. This movie made like 40 times its budget, which if you account for marketing and cost that it needs to triple its budget, still means it make 38 times its budget. That’s insane. Honestly, I’ve got some respect in that.
That said, there’s a craft in how many cheap burgers McDonald’s can sell in a day. It doesn’t mean I’ve eaten there in the last 5 years at most. I compare the two because they are both really cheap. Annabelle does have a few good things going for it. Some okay performances, the cult aspect is interesting, and there are some occasionally intense scenes. But for the most part, Annabelle is a brisk watch full of lazy scares and an atmosphere that tries and fails hard to replicate the tension in Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
So if you haven’t seen the first Annabelle, prepare to not be scared. There’s nothing in this that I didn’t see coming as far as story goes, and the scares are- just really bad actually. Also of all the films where spirits do something creepy to no lasting effect for supposedly hilarious reasons, this is up there… The only reason I can thing to watch this film is if you are running the Conjuring gauntlet as to not get behind like I did. 4/10.
Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Released in 2016, Annabelle: Creation is a prequel to the first Annabelle film. (You keeping track? Cause we have prequels to spinoff that are also prequels now!) Anyway the film follows a doll-maker and his wife who lose their daughter and, years later, allow a nun to being several orphans into their house. And of course, Annabelle is one of the dolls he’s made… The film out-grossed the first Annabelle by almost $50 million at the worldwide box office, thanks to a considerably warmer reception from critics and audiences.
And yeah, while it’s no Conjuring 2 (2016), Annabelle: Creation wasn’t bad! Gone are the lazy scares of the first film! In their place are wonderfully prolonged sequences of tension building with stakes and lasting repercussions. I still miss those long takes from the first two Conjuring films, but the way this film plays with repetition and callbacks is quite good. Also the older and more isolated setting makes dumb choices made by characters feel a bit more justifiable. Also goodness this movie doesn’t shy away from violence! I mean every film in this series is R, but none of them before felt like they were very strong. Until Creation… Bravo.
I don’t want to get into it too much because I’ve still got another review here, but I liked the characterizations in this film. The doll-maker isn’t a very friendly person, and I like that he doesn’t suddenly become a nice father figure again because movie. He tries, thus showing some character growth, but everyone in this film feels very consistent. The Sister with the Orphans is a very ‘seeing is believing’ character, and stays that way throughout. Again, good work! My biggest problem with the film does come in the way they treat the focus of the protagonist, one of the orphans. I don’t want to just spoil it or anything, but I don’t think it works too well.
But yeah, saw the first Annabelle and assumed this was bad? I did too. But it’s a huge step up that I am totally sure the third film will deliver on! Right? But even if it doesn’t, we still have Creation. It’s a very decent film that delivers on chills and scares for a very predictable but very fun ride. It also does a thing at the end that I thought worked wonderfully! So yeah, I’d say give this one a shot if you are just getting into this series or you skipped it! Or whatever be your reason, it’s a decent movie! 6/10.
Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
Special thanks to Matt Ivey for recommending this review!
Released in 2019, Annabelle Comes Home actually underperformed compared to the other two films in this direct series, only grossing $231 million on a budget of $30 million. Which is a crazy increase from the first film by the way. Of course that is still a huge financial success, thanks to the word of mouth that, while not necessarily positive, did highlight the entertainment value on display here. Anyway the film takes place right after the Warrens bring Annabelle to their house in the first Conjuring (2013). Why they didn’t call this The Conjuring 1½ is beyond me! I’m kidding.
Look, I’m sorry Matt, but I just don’t get it. Annabelle Comes Home should have been an absolute blast! Look it’s an amazing setup: Some girls who are friends of the Warrens daughter stay over and not so inadvertently touch as many things as possible in the Warrens collection. So Annabelle gets out and, because she’s a conduit for spirits, wakes up a ton of things in the museum. A real who’s-who of the Warrens demons if you will. And because we’ve all seen the first film, we know the lasting stakes are very minimal. Why wasn’t this the best one in the series?!?
First thing that I didn’t love, this film takes more than half an hour to get going. Sure there’s a creepy opening to give Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga more screentime, but it doesn’t matter! We could have given that to more callbacks. Heck, why doesn’t this film take place after the second one so we could get even more fun callbacks! It seems like the film just wants to have a good time, and there’s already glaring continuity errors in the series. So just roll with it and toss in as many demons as you can. Just all the demons.
Instead there’s like five demons. Maybe. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the mix-and-match collection of random demons, plus it does come with a couple fun things from other films in the series. That scene with the spinning light reel? Fantastic. But the idea that it also doesn’t matter takes away from it. I feel like it this were set after the second film, it could A. Establish stakes, B. Toss in more demons, and C. Not be limited to wrapping up everything before the first film’s second act kicks in. I don’t think there’s anything in the film that cements it to the time which it is set.
That said, as much of a missed opportunity it is, I’ll admit it’s a blast. The characters are pretty great all-around, and the connection one of them has with the story was more compelling than it had any right to be! I do wish that Judy Warren had more to do in this movie though! Like, give her some character growth too! Let her follow in the path of her parents a little more! Give her some spin-offs! Heck the resolution of this film, which cheats in a fairly unique but lazy way, could have been passed off to Judy!
You know what, these films have too much self control. Samurai Ghost? No? Just some audio? That’s cool. TV Ghost that shows you a few seconds in the future? Cool concept! Goes nowhere. Ugh I just wanted this film to be so much better than it was. Werewolf Ghost! WOW! Doesn’t matter. Nice? Interesting concept… Doesn’t matter. Just toss Annabelle back in a case and roll credits after a nice wrap-up I guess. Ugh just- you can watch it and have a passable time with some okay ideas that don’t go as far as they could, or you can spend this time watching anything else. Your call. 5/10.
So the Annabelle films? Have you seen them? Which one do you think is best and why? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review for the Annabellogy and want to read more, we’ve got three Conjuring reviews up and another 2-in-1 on the way! Or let us know in the comments what we should write about next!
-review by Ryan Prince