Pretty Mia and her handsome hubby John are what you might call a perfect 1970s couple. They're both loving, outgoing and the best of neighborly neighbors. He's very busy, preparing for his first year of residency as a doctor. She's very pregnant, preparing for their first child. And everyone around them thinks they're just so spot-on.
Though you could question this couple's wisdom at times.
For instance: As a surprise, John decides to give a doll to his lovely wife. He finds an antique, child-sized, handcrafted … off-putting, odd and ugly curio that, frankly, most people would quickly try to hide in a rarely opened closet. But it, uh, fleshes out Mia's aging doll collection, so she chooses to keep it … on a prominent shelf … in the soon-arriving baby's nursery.
Then one night, John and Mia's next-door neighbors' estranged daughter comes home to visit. And (of course) the young woman is now a member of a satanic cult. To make a painful and long story no less painful but at least a bit shorter, I'll just tell you that by the time the night is over, the woman's parents are butchered, Mia and John are attacked, and the crazed culprit slashes her own throat.
She bleeds out all over … the doll.
Now, at this point most (sane) people would trade that aforementioned dark closet for the dumpster. But John and Mia think differently. They carefully clean the occultist's blood off the doll and choose to keep it … on a prominent shelf … in the soon-arriving baby's nursery.
Time for the appliances to begin turning on and off by themselves, doors to thump open and closed, fires to spontaneously start … and that atrocious doll to show up in places it shouldn't be. John finally takes the hint. It's dumpster time at long last!
But it's too late, of course. By now that jumbo creepy Kewpie has gained a demonic mind of its own. And no matter what John or Mia choose to do, it has chosen to stay … on a prominent shelf … in the soon-arriving baby's nursery.
The best this foul flick can do in this category is show us that in a cinematic world full of satanic rituals, physical demons and spiritually possessed objects … you can still find a few nice people. John and Mia are a loving and supportive couple, if just a bit dense. And they meet two others—Father Perez and a bookshop owner named Evelyn—who are willing to give of themselves to help. Evelyn is willing, in fact, to sacrifice herself for another if need be.
Father Perez declares, "Evil is constant. You cannot destroy what was never created!" And though it's unclear what that means exactly, it seemed to be the philosophy at this scare pic's core: Evil's power is ever-present and indestructible.
For instance, two occultists (members of a group called Disciples of the Ram) declare their obedience and devotion to Satan, and they move to raise a demon by killing innocents. Once that demonic entity strides forth—in both ghostly and corporeal form—it cannot be harmed in any way or turned from its objective to eventually claim a human soul.
God, on the other hand, is spoken of, but we're never given any evidence that He actually exists. Father Perez vaguely talks of Jesus' sacrifice and of shining a "bright light" on our fears. He tells Mia that "mothers are closer to God than any other living creature, for they share in God's creative miracle." But when he's asked for suggestions of what to do about Mia and John's demonic problems, the good padre has no idea.
Bookshop owner Evelyn also expresses her belief that a good does somehow balance evil. And she points out that demonic tales are no crazier to believe than, say, the story of God parting the Red Sea. She shares a story of her dead daughter's "voice" stopping her from committing suicide.
A demon and a radio preacher both scream, "May God have mercy on your soul!" In a TV documentary about Charles Manson, the murderer is said to be called both God and Satan. We're told that dolls play a large role in ritualistic summonings and that demons can only take a soul if it's offered to them. Objects moving by themselves, ghosts, future-predicting children's drawings, and spiritualist books with mentions of the devil and pictures of pentagrams and goat-headed demons all show up.
Mia joshes John about getting her pregnant. We see a bare-breasted statue.
John and Mia are pummeled. A very pregnant Mia is stabbed in the abdomen with a large knife. (We see a stain of blood spreading on her clothes.) When the neighborhood Satanist slashes her own throat, the camera watches closely as the blood seeps from her deeply cut skin and into the cracks and crevices of the awful doll on her lap. Another woman's blood splashes across a window, and a man with a knife charges onto a bed in pursuit of the lady's husband. Another female falls several stories to her death. (We see her body on the street below in a pool of blood.) A man is shot repeatedly, point-blank.
Father Perez is thrown some 10 or 15 feet by a demonic force. We watch a flow of blood seep out from around his head, and we see him later, badly bruised and scraped. A stove turns on by itself, causing a raging fire. Mia cuts her finger on a sewing machine and has her arm torn by a demon's talons. Evelyn displays a scar on her wrist where she once attempted to commit suicide. A large truck hits a baby carriage (which we don't realize at the time is empty). A small child is threatened by books spiritually propelled out of a nearby bookshelf.
Crude or Profane Language
One use of "h---" and several misuses of God's name.
Drug and Alcohol Content
We hear about drug abuse that's linked to murderous crimes and satanic rituals. Mia drinks wine with dinner.
Other Negative Elements
The demon-possessed and, I'm compelled to repeat, horrendously ugly doll named Annabelle was first seen, briefly, in original Saw director James Wan's spiritual scarefest The Conjuring. But other than the fact that Wan produced this picture and insured that every scrap of advertising tries to link the two—Annabelle and its horror pic predecessor have very little in common.
This flick is a blandly crafted and dourly derivative exercise in wasted time. Why, the very fact that anyone would even glance at such a repulsive doll and not want to instantly blowtorch it to cinders stretches dramatic credulity beyond any reasonable limits.
And we haven't even gotten to the weirdly twisted spirituality that comes next. All things good and God Himself are utterly neutralized here. In this world, demons are all-powerful creatures that will get exactly what they seek. And God is little more than an impotent, wispy nicety that sermonizing preachers talk about in philosophical terms.
Threatened babies, ceiling-crawling demons, screeching occultists and bloody suicides do not a watchable movie make. In this case they simply play out as a bunch of dark and distasteful moviemaking banalities that should be enumerated in the Big Book of Horrible Horror Movie Clichés … which I may be forced to start writing after completing this review.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Annabelle Wallis as Mia; Ward Horton as John; Tony Amendola as Father Perez; Alfre Woodard as Evelyn; Eric Ladin as Detective Clarkin
John R. Leonetti ( )
October 3, 2014
January 20, 2015