Movie review

Movie review: 'Annabelle: Creation'

Creepy doll horror movie franchise finally kicks into gear

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No matter how strong and competent we are as adults, there are creepy crawlies from our childhoods carefully locked away in the attics of our minds. While not always successful, the folks behind “The Conjuring” franchise have hit the fright night jackpot with “Annabelle: Creation,” and they did it by tapping into those very fears.

Nicely constructed by director David F. Sandberg from a script by Gary Dauberman that builds upon the “true life” experiences of a legendary ghost-hunting duo, Lorraine and Ed Warren, “Creation” walks us through a minefield of terrors by dovetailing into “Annabelle,” the 2014 film that begins with a horrifying late-1950s demon cult murder in a quiet suburb.

The events in this film take place many years earlier and involve a couple who lost their beloved young daughter, Bee (Samara Lee), in a tragic accident. Before the accident, Samuel and Esther Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) lived in an isolated farmhouse where Samuel made handcrafted dolls. They later decide to bring freshness into their home by giving over a portion of it to be used as a Catholic girls orphanage. The girls who arrive with their teacher and caregiver, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), range from preteens to teens. One of them, Janice (Talitha Bateman), has suffered from polio and wears a brace on one leg.

Sandberg sets the stage by carefully dropping notes about each character’s painful backstory. Not all at once, but like pebbles dropped into a puddle of shared despair, we learn, for instance, that Janice and her best friend, Linda (Lulu Wilson), want nothing more than to be adopted into a loving family where they can grow up truly as sisters. Or, what happened in the years before the Mullins offer their home as an orphanage.

Now, about that doll.

In “The Conjuring” universe, the Annabelle doll was created to be just a child’s plaything. Then, at some point, a lonely spirit was invited to inhabit it in the belief it was a benign paranormal presence. However, after the Warrens investigate it, they determine a powerful demon tricked well-meaning humans into believing it was safe to be around. The real Annabelle is a Raggedy Ann-style doll, not the blatantly scary-looking thing in the movie. It supposedly resides in a special locked case in a room in the Warren household where a wide variety of dangerously demonic objects are kept. Interestingly, a very similar-looking doll makes an appearance in the new film, which indicates that maybe some stringent copyright issues have been worked out.

Since this film is subtitled, “Creation,” it serves as an origin story, detailing how the demon was inadvertently invited into the doll. And, no, the Warrens do not make an appearance here.

Being rather jaded when it comes to modern horror movies, I can’t help but methodically dissect the ways a director manipulates an audience’s emotions through the use of script, editing, photography and, of course, the talents of his or her cast. Although some this movie’s frightening set pieces are well constructed by the use of “boo” moments followed by a false calm before a really big boo gets launched, there are times when the action caught me by surprise and gave me a pretty good scare. A lot of that was due to the director and screenwriter’s ability to quickly give the characters some depth before putting them through the wringer.  

Some people might say a horror movie is not what we need right now, what with all the real-life fears at our doorstep, but, to me, a little catharsis shared with strangers in the dark might not be a bad thing.

“Annabelle: Creation” is rated R for horror violence and terror.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

The following were compiled from press materials.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements and some troubling images

Movies at the TCA

A decade after “An Inconvenient Truth” brought climate change into the heart of popular culture comes the follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Former Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight, traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy.

Cameras follow him behind the scenes – in moments private and public, funny and poignant – as he pursues the empowering notion that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.

Renowned filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk have taken the baton from 2006 Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim. What started then as a profound slide show lecture has become a gorgeously cinematic excursion. Our former vice president invites us along on an inspirational journey across the globe that delivers the tools to heal our planet. The question is: “Will we choose to take the baton?”

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 20) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Aug. 21-23).

Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature

MPAA rating: PG for action and some rude humor

Mitchell Storyteller 7

Surly (voiced by Will Arnett) and his friends, Buddy, Andie and Precious (Tom Kenny, Katherine Heigl and Maya Rudolph) discover that the mayor (Bobby Moynihan) of Oakton City is cracking one big hustle to build a giant (yet shabby) amusement park, which in turn will bulldoze their home, which is the city park. It’s up to them and the rest of the park animals to stop the mayor – along with his daughter and a mad animal control officer – from getting away with his scheme and take back the park.

This digitally animated film was directed by Cal Brunker and features the additional voice talents of Jackie Chan, Gabriel Iglesias, Peter Stormare and Jeff Dunham.

This film will be screened daily.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

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