Sunday, 14 December 2014

Annabelle (2014)


[Pretty sure this was meant to be a Halloween hit, but Good Lord! I have no idea how I managed to only laugh once during the screening of this movie!]

Annabelle (2014) is an American supernatural horror film starring Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola and Alfre Woodard, directed by John R. Leonetti.

In the end, the life and soul of new mother Annabelle Wallis, is saved by the sacrifice of guilt laden, recent acquaintance Alfre Woodard's.

Woken in the night by a blood-curdling scream from their neighbour friends' home, mother-to-be, Wallis rouses her almost qualified doctor husband, Ward Horton, who decides they should investigate themselves, before troubling the police.

Letting himself in through their front door, Horton emerges moments later, soaked in blood, insisting his wife call an ambulance from the safety of their own home, which she does, only to be confronted by a pair of knife wielding, white-robed occultists, one of whom stabs Wallis in the side, before he is shot dead by police who arrive on the scene. The other locking herself in the couples' nursery, where she commits suicide, while holding Wallis's prized doll, a recent present from Horton.

Lucky not to lose her unborn baby, Wallis returns home, demanding that Horton dispose of her prized doll, the last reminder of their recent ordeal, which he does. Strangely, though, since the incident, appliances in the couples' home start operating of their own accord, eventually leading to a house fire, while Horton is briefly absent, from which Wallis is fortunate to be rescued.

The trauma causes Wallis to give birth to a baby daughter and convinces the couple that they must relocate.

Moving into an apartment with unusually noisy upstairs neighbours, the pair are surprised when the doll Horton had thrown in the trash turns up in the last of their moving cartons, and which Wallis now decides she should keep following their pastor, Tony Amendola's advice that embracing their recent trials will only make their marriage stronger.

Unfortunately, the couples' home appliances continue to malfunction, with Wallis experiencing several unexplainable and nerve shredding incidents, including the ghostly apparition of the woman who killed herself in their home, the daughter of their murdered neighbours, who, according to police, had returned to her home to perform some sort of sacrificial summoning ritual with her satanic cult boyfriend, and a terrifying encounter with a black horned demon in the darkened basement of their apartment building, that makes a grab for Wallis's arm, leaving a short-lived scar that resembles a symbol daubed in blood on the wall beside the suicide woman's body.

Convinced that the doll is the cause, they seek more advice from Amendola, who suggests it is being used to steal souls, and agrees to take it to church, where its influence might be attenuated. But, after also seeing the ghostly apparition of the suicide woman on the steps of his church, Amendola, doll in hand, is brutally flung to the ground by some unseen force.

Relieved to have been relieved of the doll, Wallis welcomes Woodard, who has taken a special interest in her and her daughter since Wallis showed up at her book-store looking for information on the occult, into their apartment, just as Amendola recovers conciousness in hospital, in time to warn Horton, who is at his bedside, that the doll is missing and that Wallis, and not their baby's soul, is in danger.

Unable to warn his wife over the malfunctioning phone, Horton rushes home.

But before he arrives, Willis becomes hysterical when she answers the door to a weirdly demonic Amendola and then finds her daughter missing.

Woodard desperately tries to convince Wallis to leave without her daughter, just as the noises from upstairs reach a crescendo, and the black horned demon Wallis encountered in the basement materialises in her hallway, flinging Woodard out of the apartment.

Trapped alone and frantic, Wallis demands to know what the demon wants in exchange for her daughter?

Realising that it is her soul it wants, she picks up the doll and prepares to throw herself out of the window, just as Horton bursts in with Woodard.

Hauling Wallis back into the room, Horton pleads with her not to kill herself for the sake of their baby, until Woodard decides that she can assuage the guilt she feels for her own daughter's death due to her falling asleep at the wheel, by offering her own soul in exchange for the couple's child.

Grabbing the doll, Woodard launches herself out of the window, falling to her death. And the couple's child duly re-materialises in its cot.

The doll is next seen being bought from a shop by a mother for her nurse daughter whose unnerving experiences with it provide the creepy prologue to Wallis and Horton's story.

Finally the doll is seen displayed in a locked glass cabinet, with a warning never to open it.

[Annabelle is the name of the murdered neighbours' suicide daughter.]

It goes without saying that audiences are expected to slip their critical faculties into neutral, in order to accept that characters in these situations are never going to act in a remotely reasonable, realistic or even consistent manner. But even so, the ridiculousness of this story is hard to ignore. Which is not to say that the players don't do their best with the material they are given. And the makers do provide just about enough dread, menace and jolts to keep the average fright-knight and panic-princess happy. So if you're the type who enjoys the thrill of the haunted house roller-coaster, without requiring it to make much sense, then hop aboard. This spin-off prequel is bound to be the start of another franchise.