It’s easy to forgive horror films their sins if they’re actually scary. If Annabelle had been a genuinely frightening film, I could’ve happily forgiven its hollow Polanski references – ranging from a host of Rosemary’s Baby quotations to a Charles Manson’s appearance on television. I wouldn’t have had a problem with how it mishandles/abandons its subtext about white suburban anxiety, or its bland white suburban characters. I could even forgive its egregious misuse of Alfre Woodard as a thankless Magical Negro/Kindly Medium role, or how it follows up its predecessor’s attempts to mimic the analogue grain of ‘70s horror films with too-smooth digital photography.
But Annabelle. Isn’t. Scary.
There’s one decent scene involving a storage basement and an unhelpful elevator, but it’s an outlier in a film that clumsily sways from jump scare to jump scare, all scored with the kind of score that draws attention to itself rather than developing tension. It’s made by filmmakers who – like James Wan – have an obvious fondness for great horror but – unlike Wan – lack the technique to create it.
I will commend Annabelle on one thing, though. It actually makes its titular doll unscary, an achievement I wouldn’t have thought possible after The Conjuring.