Skeptical. That was the attitude that I had going in to see the newest installment in the ever-so-scary-as-shit world that James Wan created when he made The Conjuring.
The first Annabelle film left me frustrated, since it was virtually impossible to make a film that features one of the creepiest dolls of all time, and have it be a dud – but, turns out, it was possible, because that was what Annabelle was. Save for a few frightening scenes with a demon, the stupidity of the protagonists and the lameness of the story resulted in a disappointing start for the doll with the soul-eating grin.
Despite this, my loyalty to creepy dolls and my eternal yearning to be terrified endured; I mustered up the cash and will power to see Annabelle’s inception. To my great astonishment, Creation turned out to be light-years better than its predecessor – an occurrence that happens only once in about 100 years.
The cinematography makes scenes excruciating, as the filmmakers know how to thread the needle of suspense to the nth degree. Not unlike the other films in the Wan-o-sphere, the characters (and, by extension, the audience) find themselves peering into dark rooms and hallways and spaces – they see nothing, but know that something is there; the camera is then left pointing into the abyss, pointing directly at the unseen sinister beings. The creators use this fear-inducing tool so effectively that it’s cringe-worthy, with the viewer begging, “Just jump out of the *bleeping* dark and scare me already!” This simple trick started in Insidious, was most powerful in The Conjuring, and continues to be a staple of the Wan films, as experienced here.
Another positive to the film: a mostly female cast containing strong female characters, with the most impressive performances coming from the younger ones of the bunch. (Annabelle herself never has to do much to impress audiences with her presence, to be sure.)
The film does not hesitate to reference its sister-films, with tie-ins to the nun from The Conjuring 2 and the first Annabelle; I was ecstatic when it even showed a Raggedy-Ann, which was actually the REAL Annabelle doll that the Warrens confiscated and housed in their room of possessed items. (Seriously, everybody who saw The Conjuring at some point Googled the doll that was inspired by Annabelle’s story).
With strong writing, disturbing imagery, and a minimal yet effective soundtrack, the film establishes itself as a firm addition to what I believe to be the scariest saga of the decade, and further reminds me of why I never played with dolls as a child.