Annabelle:Creation is the prequel to Annabelle (2014), which was the prequel to The Conjuring (2013). So Annabelle 2 is really the prequel to the prequel. Even though that makes it sound like it’s going to be an awful cash grab of a movie, you may find yourself surprised at how good it actually is.
Annabelle 2 takes place 12 years after the tragic death of a little girl, named of course Annabelle. Her father (Anthony LaPaglia) is a popular and highly skilled dollmaker. He and his wife (Miranda Otto) still live in what seems to be a mostly empty house without Annabelle. The seemingly kind and generous couple decide to open their large home to a nun (Stephanie Sigman) and her group of six girls to use as their new orphanage. Of course once you mix a group of young girls curious about their new surroundings and an evil doll locked away never to be found, the doll doesn’t stay hidden for long and these girls learn that true evil actually exists (and that it’s always best to mind your business and leave locked doors alone).
The young girls are really the main victims…er characters of the story. Even so we don’t really get much characterization about them or anyone else really. The most detail we get about Annabelle is the brief glimpse of the Mullins’ life when she was alive. This actually works well however. It allows us to see how much Mr. and Mrs. Mullins have changed and sets up Mr. Mullins to generate a lot of suspicion in the first half of the story. LaPaglia does a good job of seeming withdrawn enough so that you’re never quite sure if he’s part of the evil or just an innocent. We don’t know anything about any of the six girls except for two. The story mostly follows Janice (Talitha Bateman), a girl who suffered from polio and so walks with a brace. She shares a very close bond with Linda (Lulu Wilson) who comes across as a bit empty headed but completely devoted to Janice.
It’s through these two that we get our view of the dark secrets held in the house. Janice and Linda will do the majority of the stupid things that will undoubtedly have you and everyone else in the theater yelling at the screen. Janice’s limited walking ability actually serves as a good tool in a lot of scenes. This movie actually has a lot of genuinely scary moments that are built around Janice in the beginning. Linda’s scenes are mostly a mix of terror and humor, which the actress pulls off well. The scariest parts are pretty much everything before Annabelle’s full power gets unleashed. By playing around with lighting and the use of a lot of shots that go in and out of focus quickly, your mind will be more afraid of what you are expecting to see until you get that intense jolt when the danger is finally revealed. Once Annabelle starts going after the rest of the group in the second half, you’ll still jump and shout at the screen but some of the intensity gets lost.
The biggest scares rely heavily on the non special effects stuff like music and lighting but the visual effects are pretty good too. The actual demons are shown in fleeting glimpses; just enough for your brain to register that you saw something horrible but not long enough for you to adjust. There’s not a lot of gore either. It shows up sparingly and is really used to generate shock moreso than fear. It’s super effective. At some point your skin will be crawling and you’ll feel like you’re the one staring down an unnaturally dark hallway and you won’t know exactly when or how you fell in.
As someone who doesn’t watch a lot of horror movies this was actually entertaining and genuinely scary. The build up is a bit slow but once things finally start happening your heart will start racing and you’ll find yourself holding your breath as the camera lingers a little too long on a dark doorway. Annabelle 2 does well as a stand alone movie, but if you’ve seen the other movies in The Conjuring universe there will be some tie ins for you as well. All in all, a good movie that will be fun to watch in a crowded theater where you can hear other people be scared too.