Annabelle Wallis plays Mia, an expectant mother, living with her supportive husband John (Ward Horton) as they anticipate the birth of their first child. As a surprise gift for his wife, John buys the very last doll to complete a rare, antique collection. However their serenity is soon disrupted when two satanic cultists invade their home. Putting Mia’s pregnancy at risk following the vicious attack, she feels somewhat safer when learning that the invaders died in the incident. Though they decided to leave something malevolent behind as a parting gift, installing these dark forces in the new doll, Annabelle.
The concept and premise to this is such a tired one in the horror genre. You want to get immersed in this world to feel that sense of fear and trepidation, and yet the set up is so banal and obvious that Leonetti loses you within moments. A cursed doll falling into the hands of a wholesome and righteous family, only to then be harassed by demons and spend the next few days doing all they can to get rid of the damn thing is one we’ve seen all too often before. The horror in this piece is minimal too, and while there are a handful of jumps, they require so little skill to pull off that they’re barely worth applauding. A flashing image and high pitched sound is enough to make anyone jump (or wake up), but to be psychologically terrifying, that takes talent. That’s what makes the best horror movies of all time so impactful, as they filter into your mind and harass you in the same way this doll is supposed to be tormenting Mia and John.
There is a sense of empathy however, and it’s a wise move to have a heavily pregnant woman as the film’s protagonist. Naturally you feel a warmth towards her and wish for her to be safe. Plus, it allows the filmmakers the chance to play her vulnerability, not only when pregnant, but when she has given birth too – bringing a baby into proceedings; the most helpless of victims. We can also play on Mia’s inherent, maternal protectiveness, which means she’ll do absolutely whatever it takes – and that nothing to lose persona serves the character well.
Yet it isn’t quite enough to save this production, as a film that is just too hackneyed, bringing nothing new to the genre or enhancing it in any way. Plus there are only so many slow, zoom-in close ups we can have of a dolls face before you question if the director is suffering from a mild form of memory loss. It has a creepy face, we get it.