By Natalie Hardy
The horror movie “Annabelle” hit theaters on On Oct. 3, just in time for the spookiest season of the year. This film is rated R for its suggestive scenes but is enjoyable for anyone who likes a good scare. This film is also the prequel to the movie “The Conjuring.”
The movie takes place in Santa Monica during the 1960s and begins as new couple, Mia and John Gordon (Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton), are expecting their first child. John gives Mia a doll as a present to celebrate their baby. Later that night, their neighbor’s daughter returns home after joining a cult that worships the devil which leads her to unleash a freak attack on her parents and Mia.
Eventually help arrives and the deranged girl is killed while holding Annabelle the doll. It is at this time that the spirit of the girl is transferred into Annabelle, giving her a demonized soul.
This is one of the first intense moments in the movie and really gives the audience a good scare, which I commend. Alot of chaos is happening all at once which really adds to the intensity. After that night a series of strange events start to occur such as the TV flickering on and off and the sewing machine starting up in the middle of the night. While these acts are meant to be suspenseful and move the story along, the scenes themselves are not all that convincing in portraying fear into the audience. Mia believes this string of events occurs because of the doll and throws it away and the family moves to Pasadena to start over.
Upon arriving in a new town strange events still continue to happen starting with the Annabelle doll reappearing, and this time Mia decides to keep it seeing as she and John are in a new home now. This is an odd choice seeing as how she believed the doll to be possessed, yet still decides to keep it. By now Mia has had her daughter, named Leah, and wishes to keep her safe so she sees a priest (Tony Amendola) about how to stop the terrorizing acts.
The priest assesses the home and realizes it is just not evil spirits that are terrorizing her but instead demons who want to possess a pure soul and that there is nothing really to do to stop the incidents. This is an important distinction as it deciphers that Mia is not dealing with random souls that want to terrorize her but instead demons whose sole intent is to take her soul.
One day Mia decides to go to the nearby bookstore where she befriends the store owner Evelyn (Alfre Woodard) and the two quickly become good friends. Having Woodard in the film adds a pleasant surprise as she is a familiar face in a cast full of relative newcomers. One night strange actions occur so Evelyn and Mia try to escape until the devil himself appears to capture Leah’s soul.
Mia refuses and instead offers her soul by attempting to jump from the balcony in hopes of stopping it. In the end it is Evelyn who ends up jumping to her death with the Annabelle doll, killing the devil’s spirit with her. After that night everything returns to normal as the devil is gone and Annabelle is placed in a box for display that is never to be opened.
Overall the movie “Annabelle” is fair but isn’t particularly horrifying, however it does offer some elements of shock and fright. The movie’s director John R. Leonetti (“The Mask,” “Insidious”) plays it safe as far as horror movies go leaving little for the element of surprise. The movie could have used more intensified plot, although I do commend the ending and think it is plausible giving the family a happy ending.
The cast themselves give good performances. Annabelle Wallis (“X-men: First Class,” “Body of Lies”) is believable as a paranoid housewife who wants to rid the devil from her life.
In his silver screen debut, it would have been enjoyable to see Ward Horton in more of the paranormal scenes instead of being the supportive spouse in every scene.
Alfre Woodard (“Steel Magnolias,” “12 Years a Slave”) gives a believable performance especially since she basically saves the day for the Gordon family.
In general this is a good film; however, I don’t see this as being the next cult classic. If you’re ever in the mood for a horror movie with a moderate scare, then this is the movie for you.