“Annabelle Creation,” the third offering in the “The Conjuring” series, is creepy, moody and certainly worth seeing. It’s much better than the sequel “Annabelle” that preceded it, and it has enough nods to the first film to make the series feel complete (although I’ll be there will be yet another piece to this money-making franchise).
This goes back to the beginning, back when the Annabelle doll was created — it’s a well-wrought origins story.
Annabelle was created by Samuel Mullins (the woefully under-used Anthony LaPaglia (“A Good Marriage:”) in a terrific role.) He lives with his wife Esther (Miranda Otto, “The Homesman”) and daughter Bee (Samara Lee, “Foxcatcher”) in a home out in the country.
After tragedy strikes, Esther lives as a recluse and uses a bell to call her husband to her side. Years later, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman, “Spectre”) and a group of orphan girls also come to live in the huge house. Among the girls is Janice (Talitha Bateman, television’s “Hart of Dixie”) who has polio.
Janice is smart and curious, and opens a door to snoop in a forbidden room. And you have guessed correctly that a lot of weird stuff begins to happen the moment Janice opens that door, behind which lurks a certain doll.
The visual details in the environments are part of what give the film its sinister atmosphere. There’s Janice’s ride in a macabre chairlift, cross outlines in windows and a scarecrow that’s a long way from its jolly counterpart in “The Wizard of Oz.” Right from the get-go, the creepiness quotient is high, what with presence of all those doll parts in a workshop (think Beatles “butcher” cover.)
What’s fun about the scares in this movie, which does have a few “Boo!” moments but never over-uses them, is that the audience — like its group of girl characters, whose interactions among themselves sometimes carry a feel of dread — often scares itself. More than one viewer let out a shriek of terror during the scary scenes. I only wish that David F. Sandberg, who also helmed the enjoyable “Lights Out,” could have been in the audience to hear his work affirmed.
The performances all are commendable, particularly young Talitha, who has the acting chops of an actor far beyond her years. I hope she is cast in more films because she has a marvelous talent.
Only a couple of scenes earn this show its “R” rating — it isn’t grisly all the way through, and that’s part of what makes it so effective.
Be prepared for it to create some shivers down your spine.