I thought the previous ANNABELLE (2014) movie was an entertaining enough diversion but I can't say I remember much of it. I may have passed up its new prequel ANNABELLE: CREATION altogether but then I heard they were showing a 4-minute sneak peek of IT introduced by STEPHEN KING himself and that sealed the deal (btw, I was mesmerized by every frame of the IT preview). Did I just say I almost passed up ANNABELLE: CREATION? That's a total lie. If someone makes a killer doll movie, I'm going to go see it. That is my duty and I will beg, borrow and steal to accomplish my goal. In any case, my expectations were not the highest but I ended up thoroughly pleased. I'm not saying you should grab your coat and keys right this second and run out the door to see it but if you are looking for solid late summer chills, it's super generous in handing them out. There's some seriously spooky business gong on in this movie and that freaky looking doll is only the tip of the iceberg. If you enjoy a good haunted house or possession film this baby delivers both. Not to spoil anything but they also throw in a damn animated scarecrow as if there weren't enough satanic shenanigans going on. Really, it's like watching five horror films at once and I'm completely down with that. It gets a little too chaotic for its own good at some points but I'm not one to look a demonic gift horse in the mouth.
What really elevates this film from the standard franchise extension is its setting and characters and the obvious talents of its director DAVID F. SANDBERG (LIGHTS OUT) and cinematographer MAXIME ALEXANDRE (HIGH TENSION). Director SANDBERG really knows how to torture you with silent, empty spaces and ALEXANDRE makes half of this movie resemble a gorgeous painting. The heart of the film is a friendship between two young orphan girls (TALITHA BATEMAN and LULU WISON) and the actresses are both super effective at convincing you of their tight bond. There's a scene in which the two trade dolls when they realize they will be separated and it's really rather moving because the acting is so real and unaffected. Plus, I'm sure I've mentioned this before here but I can really get into a horror house and this movie not only offers up a glorious, painstakingly detailed gothic wonder but also a miniaturized dollhouse version that likes to light up on its own from time to time. Before I make this all sound too precious, let me tell you there are some seriously alarming monsters roaming these halls. I'm talking clawed, glowing-eyed demons that shapeshift, melt into the darkness and burn into your noggin like the cover of an early eighties horror paperback. Even if you're not a fan of ANNABELLE's first outing this one is a pretty safe bet and if the lady who sat behind me screaming was here, I'm pretty sure she'd say the same.