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Review – Annabelle: Creation – “An absolutely petrifying film”

Annabelle: Creation is directed by David F. Sandberg – who also directed last year’s jump factory Lights Out, and is tipped to call the shots on DC’s Shazam! movie. The film is written by Gary Dauberman, who also wrote the new It, and the script for The Nun – which is another “chapter in The Conjuring universe”.

Annabelle: Creation is the current “next chapter in The Conjuring universe”, and like the aforementioned The Nun, the previous Annabelle, and the forthcoming The Crooked Man, these “chapters” are all spun off from James Wan’s The Conjuring 1 and 2. The whole “everything has to be a cinematic universe now” thing would be very annoying here – as elsewhere – if it weren’t for the fact that Annabelle: Creation is actually very good and very scary.

When a toymaker, Anthony Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife, Esther (Miranda Otto), lose their daughter in a tragic accident they are absolutely heartbroken, but when a spirit claiming to be their daughter asks if it may inhabit one of their dolls it seems their prayers have been answered. Of course, the spirit is a demon – not a daughter – and after some spooky shenanigans, the doll is safely locked away in a closet wallpapered in pages from the bible.

Years later, the Mullins’ allow their home to be used by some nuns as an orphanage and the creepy house with a terrifying demonic force embedded within it is soon filled with little curious girls. Chief among the inquisitive victims is Janice (Talitha Bateman) – who after a bout of polio has a leg encased in a metal brace – and her best friend Linda (Lulu Wilson). The girls investigate strange noises and whispers and soon unleash Annabelle’s ungodly wrath on the household.

Sandberg is definitely a horror director to watch. Like Wan, he has a firm grip on how to scare, manipulate and freeze the blood of an audience, and – again like Wan – can do this with ease and panache. The writing also bodes well for It, with Dauberman having no problem getting into the heads and vocabularies of his young characters, and putting them in a ridiculous amount of terrifying situations.

Jennifer Spence’s production design hints at the coming hellish horrors, with splashes of Insidious red used in the upstairs décor, and a front door surrounded by a pattern of inverted crosses. When things do go bump in the night, Sandberg ratchets tension, fakes out, and throws in heart-stopping jump scares. Annabelle’s back story – and her journey from here to the first Annabelle film – are filled in subtly, as are near subliminal nods to The Nun.

Annabelle: Creation is an absolutely petrifying film that should come with a health warning, and will provide you with a lifetime’s worth of nightmare fuel. Stay in your seat for a mid-credits sting.

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