Annabelle Creation: They’ve Created a Monster

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Please note: Annabelle in italics refers to the film, while plain text Annabelle refers to the character.

Annabelle: Creation is the cinematic form of Frankenstein’s monster. By that I mean it’s a bunch of parts stitched together to make an abomination trying to pass itself off as the real deal. The film desperately tries to cram in all of the usual possession film tropes in order to create tension. Since the tension is never allowed to evolve naturally, the results feel heavy handed and laughable. At this point, Hollywood’s desperation to imitate the James Wan aesthetic is nothing more than a pathetic cash grab.

This catastrophe revolves around a group of young orphans sent to live in the country with a couple of doll makers. These doll makers are of course the creators of the original Annabelle who was modeled after their daughter. When their daughter dies tragically, they seal her room away with the doll in it. The arrival of the young girls triggers her awakening. Terror ensues.

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The first problem of Annabelle: Creation is that there is just too much happening. The film tries to introduce about 50 set pieces. There’s a tea set, a dollhouse, a scarecrow, a stairlift, and more. While each of these elements could be wicked cool on their own, none of them are ever given the proper amount of time to shine.

Then we have the forced supernatural atmosphere. I’m convinced someone over at Blumhouse has a checklist of all the cliches that need to be shoved into every modern horror film. Annabelle: Creation provides all the usual suspects including loud string music, fake jump scares, and little girls bending like contortionists. Unfortunately all of the tropes leave little room for actual plot. For example, a demon possesses the doll, and it needs a human host. Why? I couldn’t tell you. It already has a physical form. Plot holes like this can be found popping up throughout the entire movie.

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Another unavoidable issue with the film is that the doll is absurd looking. They tried way too hard to make her look creepy. No one would buy a doll that ugly. She looks like a Halloween decoration. Dolls are inherently creepy. It’s just unnecessary to take it so far. In a campy film like Dolly Dearest, this approach works. However in a gravely serious supernatural horror/drama it does not.

In all honesty, I’ve never cared for Annabelle. I didn’t like her in The Conjuring. The Annabelle portion of The Conjuring always seemed out of place, like that subplot was an afterthought. I absolutely despised the first Annabelle spinoff, and this latest addition isn’t much better.

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Annabelle: Creation does contain some spooky stuff, but the majority of the film is messy and unentertaining. While the setting and costumes are appealing, no amount of scenery can make up for the lack of a good story. I love The Conjuring 2 and Ouija: Origins, but I’m starting to think it might be time to put the “little girls getting possessed” narrative back into the coffin. Anyone with me?

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Split- M. Night is officially back!

Every horror fan knows that M. Night Shyamalan has had a rocky career. He’s hit some high highs, but unfortunately he’s also hit some extreme lows. In 2015 he gave us the Wayward Pines series, which I’ve yet to finish, but showed promise. He also released The Visit which falls into a weird gray area where it manages to be both awesome and awful. His latest film, Split places him firmly back into good filmmaker territory, well at least for now.

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Split follows a teen outcast (Anya Taylor-Joy) and two of her classmates (Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula) that are captured by a man with multiple personalities (James McAvoy). The girls must figure out how to stay alive, and how to protect themselves from their attacker’s 24 identities.

Split relies on heavy tension and well crafted characters to hold the viewer hostage until the very end. Each one of McAvoy’s personalities is unique and feels like an actual person, or perhaps even something supernatural. He sheds personas with ease, allowing him to shift back and forth between characters. Like his captives, the audience is left waiting for him to snap and change into someone or something else.

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The film tackles issues of mental illness and abuse with an unexpected level of compassion. Split makes you feel for McAvoy’s character, even as he commits horrific crimes. There is great deal of debate about whether Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder even exists. For the purposes of Split, DID is both a gift and a burden. McAvoy’s character, possesses a multitude of talents, due to the diverse nature of his personalities. However, it makes life difficult for him, as he essentially has 24 identities competing for control, and some of them have bad intentions. In addition to DID, Split also delves into abuse. Both the protagonist and the antagonist are victims of child abuse. This is intriguing, because in a sense it makes them kindred spirits, who have wound up on different paths.

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Split is a great theatrical horror film to kick off 2017. It’s smart, it has fully developed characters, and one hell of an ending. Hopefully M. Night can keep producing quality work like Split.