HORROR; 1hr 39min
STARRING: Ward Horton, Annabelle Wallis, Alfre Woodard
Our money’s on the doll… Annabelle (left) and Wallis
It takes a barrage of shocks to creep cinema audiences out. Director John R. Leonetti has a stab and bash in his prequel to 2013’s The Conjuring — and do bear in mind that there is a real Annabelle doll, safely under the lock and key of paranormal probers Ed and Lorraine Warren.
In 1970s Santa Monica, the TV news is abuzz with all things Manson (as in Charles). John Gordon (Horton) and his pregnant wife, Mia (Wallis), are a killer hippie’s clean-cut, church-going opposite, which doesn’t save them from a home invasion by knife-brandishing satanic cultists who infect their antique doll, Annabelle, with a demonic curse. The damned family moves to a Pasadena apartment and, reliably, doll and curse move with them, leaving Mia plagued by macabre phenomena.
Whatever your take on the devil’s work, a thickening pall and prickles of fright make for an infernal fun house. Leonetti, who was director James Wan’s cinematographer on The Conjuring and Insidious (Wan produces this one), is obviously pally with the dark art of intimidation — Annabelle isn’t the treasure trove of scares its trailer suggests, but it’s still a skin-crawling descent.