Annabelle Movie PosterWarner Bros. Pictures

“I like your dolls.”

John Form has found the perfect gift for his expectant wife, Mia–a beautiful, rare vintage doll in a pure white wedding dress. But Mia’s delight with Annabelle doesn’t last long. On one horrific night, their home is invaded by members of a satanic cult, who violently attack the couple. Spilled blood and terror are not all they leave behind. The cultists have conjured an entity so malevolent that nothing they did will compare to the sinister conduit to the damned that is now…Annabelle.

If you’ve watched the 2013 movie The Conjuring, then you remember the beginning part where a creepy-as-all-getout doll named Annabelle is discussed. For a few moments. Then it’s dropped for the main plot of a haunted farm house. And a music box. But enough people were obsessed with what was up with that blasted doll that a spin-off/prequel movie based on the bloody thing was inevitable. And thus, a year later, Annabelle was released.

I want to put forth once again that I have a rather strong aversion to dolls. Movies like Dead Silence did the near-impossible by freaking me out. And while I’m in on the joke with the Chucky movies, there’s still the underlying creep factor there. It’s the dead, glassy eyes that stare into your soul. Like they’re waiting for you to go to sleep…

Excuse me again while I go hyperventilate.

So, anyway, Annabelle was going to be another in a long list of movies that I was at least going to wait for a second-run showing before watching. But then, I was offered to go watch it the weekend after the movie opened, and so despite my irrational phobia of those soulless abominations, I agreed to the cinematic outing. The result of which was…underwhelming. That’s the nice way of putting it.

Full disclosure: Yes, the doll creeped me out. That’s a given. The moment they brought that thing out of the box, it was all I could do to keep from yelling “KILL IT WITH FIRE!” in the theater. And if it was just that one doll, it would be bad enough. But the wife here has a freaking platoon of those kind of dolls in the room where they’re planning on putting their unborn child. Clowns would have been a more humane choice, but I digress.

So, medical student John and his lovely doll-collecting wife Mia are expecting their first bundle of smell joy, and so John shows his appreciation by buying her the final doll she was looking for to complete her unholy doll army. But then that night, they’re invaded by a couple of crazy Satan-worshiping hippies, one of which is named Annabell, who manages to transfer her soul into one of the dolls before getting gunned down by the police. Try to guess which doll.

Also, is this starting to sound rather familiar? Anybody? Anybody at all…? Moving along, then…

Anyway, the young family moves to a high-rise apartment after the ordeal, and somehow that creepy doll finds its way there. Of course. Some supernatural weird stuff happens, mostly due to the spirit of the crazy hippie lady’s affiliation with Satan, a jump scar here, an hallucination there, a couple of creepy kids that show up for a moment and then are never seen again for some odd reason, a priest that tries to help but gets his cassock handed to him by the demon doll…

See, Annabelle is the kind of horror movie that I’ve seen far too many times. And that isn’t the issue, because there are plenty of horror movies that are emulations of other horror movies that I enjoyed watching. The problem I had with Annabelle is that hardly anything happens. Sure, there are some genuinely creepy parts to this, mostly atmospheric; but let’s face it, I went into this thinking it was a possessed doll movie, and it turned out to be more of a vengeful spirit of an unwashed crazy hippie movie. The doll is not the focus of the scares, really more of a maguffin. There were more than a few times where I was fighting hard to not yell out loud, “Co’mon, movie, do something!” It does have a build-up, but by the time the predicted-an-hour-before climax happened, I was ready to bolt when the credits began rolling.

Which is a pity, because I absolutely enjoyed the predecessor to Annabelle—The Conjuring–which was a good example of a derivative horror movie that worked well. Overall, the atmosphere works in places, but not enough to really get myself lost in the movie. Worth a rental, if you’re curious. Watch it before watching The Conjuring, definitely.