Halloween is just around the corner so I decided to torture myself with doing a little listicling for all you wannabe scared-to-go-to-sleepers out there. And Sweet Satan was this process painstaking! Like poking flaming needles in my eyes while my ankles were hobbled by a split ax. Or something like that. I flipped, back-flipped, see-sawed, hemmed and hawed.. etc. As a horror movie aficionado, whittling an entire decade of my favorite genre down to a mere two-hands-worth of selections was Sophie’s Choice after Sophie’s Choice. With no Meryl Streep to help! Which is probably why the last time I did this, I ended up with 13 entries. And though some of these may seem like obvious entries or redundancies that you’ve seen before, I really haven’t seen anyone nail the best of the decade, so this is me putting my feet to the fire and throwing the cards out there. Read More
‘The Nun’ (a.k.a. ‘Bad Habit’) is a handsome twinkle of a horror movie that’s never developed into a full-bodied anything. It’s a movie that dangles on the precipice of actually being half-decent for quite some time without ever making the effort to, you know, actually be good. Its mid-century Romanian setting is certainly atmospheric, a nod to the far-flung haunts of golden-age horror; it contains some decent acting, both Taissa Farmiga and Demián Bichir are solid enough to headline, if only they were privy to some superior written material; and some of the visual flourishes and cinematography suggest a horror movie well above the average pay-grade. And yet, it’s all pretty much for nothing as The Nun never gels into something of any discernible substance. Read More
When all it took to turn a harmless doll into a demon possessed conduit was a drop of blood, I had already written off Annabelle. Poised as a spinoff of the critically acclaimed and totally terrifying The Conjuring, this fast-tracked prequel is, like most dolls, the product of industrialization. It’s horror by assembly line; an unholy congregation of uninspired pieces. With an economic cast willing to underwhelm at every turn, a rushed-feeling script laden with humdrum exposition and only one scene that conjures up any scares, Annabelle is DOA.
So who is Annabelle and where did she come from? Attempting to connect the dots for those who had forgotten the kickoff of The Conjuring, Annabelle opens with essentially the same tie-in: a handful of young adults bring the accursed object to professional demonologists claiming that shit been getting cray. But, once again, that’s not the story we’re told here, as the film then leaps back a year in time, in the hopes to save these supple young nurses and their Annabelle woes for a later installment down the line.
Instead we’re treated to the tale of Mia and John, two inconspicuous baby boomers who thumb wrestle in church and are expecting a baby. On the boob tube, news reports about Charlie Manson and his occult followers stir up a frenzy. John, played by Ward Horton (who you might remember in The Wolf of Wall Street as Rothschild Broker #3), turns off the tv. He soothes something to the effect of, “You don’t need this garbage rattling around your brain. Now go watch your soaps and sew another sweater.”
That’s kind of the character Mia (Annabelle Wallis who you’ll recall from Snow White and the Huntsman as Sara (uncredited) or from X-Men: First Class as Co-Ed) is. Easily controlled, even more easily manipulated. Bed rest, you say? YOU GOT IT! When a pair of scraggly cult members cloaked in mental patient white come a knocking in their neighborhood, Mia gets a knife to her prego belly as her beloved collector’s doll collects a curse. A drip of cult-member blood seeps into Annabelle’s eye and she animates. The amount of time the camera subsequently spends hanging on Annabelle could be counted by abacus.
Director John R. Leonetti (career DP and director of The Butterfly Effect 2) provided some astoundingly frightful cinematography for The Conjuring. He filled those haunted halls with atmosphere. His shadow play was alive. The darkness housed the unknown and the unknown was deathly unnerving. The setting here feels like a rehash of Mia Farrow‘s pad in Rosemary’s Baby, except nondescript. The camera work is shoddy at best, often seeming to only capture scary moments by accident. Add to that cheap-looking digital cinematography and sketchily rendered CGI and you have a movie that’s as visually flat as it is wholly non-frightening.
That’s not to say it’s entirely without scares. But they’re not the psycological horror that’ll hang with you after, just cheap bumps that sneak up and steal a shudder. Two sequences in particular will inspire a jump. 1) A young girl appears and runs towards the camera before turning into something else 2) A basement elevator that won’t move between floors in the pitch dark. If the eerie mood of the later had been maintained throughout, we might have had a really decent, fiscal thriller. As is, everything is baked in Leonetti’s excessive sunlight, too obvious and predictable to warrant even a pity watch.
The added disappointment of serializing a film whose horrors were without bound, Annabelle sullies the good name of the Warren’s demonology franchise. Peddling in doll stares and wanna-be ominous monotony, it’s a total waste. Leonetti’s makeshift product is a fundamentally defunct follow-up that squanders what could have been in order to churn out a low-budg crowd pleaser of the basest variety. Judging by the audience’s boisterous reaction last night, I’m left to assume this will work for some leagues but I can’t easily hide my contempt for this lazy, plodding prequel.