Most people would say they go to horror movies and haunted houses for the same fundamental reason: to be scared. That said, I have to hope most people expect a bit more substance from a movie, and while Annabelle: Creation is an effective jump-scare delivery system, it doesn’t have much else to offer.
Set as an origin story for the Annabelle doll from both The Conjuring films and the previous Annabelle, Creation tells a story no one really needed to know, in a setting that couldn’t be more dull.
Set in small town America in-or-around the 1950’s, the film opens with the Mullins family — a father, mother, and daughter — living happily in their large, isolated house outside of town. The father, Samuel, is launching a new line of porcelain dolls, the first of which is completed just before a tragic car accident takes the life of their daughter.
Twelve years after the accident, Samuel and his now bedridden wife Esther take in a nun and several orphaned girls in attempt to bring some life back into their home. Of course, it’s not quite so simple, as the girls start seeing phantoms and the danger quickly escalates.
What follows is a by-the-book haunted house scenario devoid of fresh ideas. The creaky, isolated, 1950s house doesn’t leave much room for the kind of cool scares or creative kills that set one horror movie apart from another. Meanwhile, the plot treads well-worn horror territory while doing very little to surprise us with Annabelle’s origin story. The explanation for Annabelle feels like something writer Gary Dauberman was forced to come up with out of obligation — like some last minute homework thrown together on the school bus before class.
And yet, the jump scares are quite effective. I’ve often said a comedy can be about anything as long as the jokes land, and so I have to at least give some credit to Annabelle for being a horror movie with real scares. As dull as the actual plot was, as little as I cared about the moment-to-moment, as much as I felt like I’d seen it all before, I still left my seat a few times. I think that has to count for something.
That said, I don’t think jump scares count in horror the same way laughs count for comedy. Jump scares are a fleeting thrill, and without dread, psychological horrors, interesting plot, or compelling characters backing them up, I don’t think Annabelle: Creation is worth your time.