ANNABELLE CREATION.jpgSeveral years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.

Director: David F. Sandberg
Writer: Gary Dauberman
Stars: Stephanie Sigman, Miranda Otto, Lulu Wilson

Review by Gilbert Seah 

 The ANNABELLE, CONJURING prequels, sequels are already so many that it is difficult to keep track what is going on. The truth is, it does not real matter. ANNABELLE CREATION is advertised as the prequel to ANNABELLE which is connected to the four CONJURING films. ANNABELLE CREATION can stand on its own, that is all that matters. The connecting object in all the film is the possessed white Annabelle doll.

The film suffers from a weak narrative. The simple story involves a couple losing their daughter in an accident. They allow orphans to make use of their big home but the spirit of their dead daughter who possesses a doll is not happy with the orphans. On the plus side, the scary set-ups are meticulously crafted, which should provide horror fans lots of jump out of the seat scares. But it does matter that the film is less the sum of its whole, as it does not hold well together at all. It also suffers from a proper ending with the doll appearing halfway through the closing credits for no real reason. One member of the audiences remarked that she expected the doll to at least blink. Still, all these bad continuity segments do not add up cohesively. One moment one member of the orphans is chased by the killer doll, the next has the film intercutting to another in trouble. Why the demon does not kill off the parents earlier on before the arrival of the orphans is also a point to question. And when the demon finally gets the soul of the crippled Janice, why doesn’t the demon stay satisfied. Of course, logic is never a strong point in horror films as in this one.

The film assembles a series of shock effects, false alarms and real ones. False alarms include for example, the father, Samuel Mullins suddenly scaring his daughter or the sudden appearance of a character and a real scare being the running over of a child by a car. The other scary effects like the moving doll, the repeated playing of the song: “You are my Sunshine” et al. are all old stuff already done in other horror films. But director Sandberg seems to have picked the best of these from past movies and included them here. But one horror set-up after another still gets monotonous after a while.

The orphans are played by a cast of relative unknowns cutting production costs for the film. However, Samuel Mullins and wife Esther are played by well-known Australian actors Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto.

The first ANNABELLE film cost $6.5 million to make and grossed Warner Brothers close to $256 million. This sequel cost double to make at around $15 million, but should make the studio a handsome bundle, aided by the fact that the only main big opening this weekend is the animated NUT JOB sequel.

People love to be scared. People love to pay big bucks to be scared. Films like ANNABELLE CREATION will always do well at the box-office despite reviews good or bad, so go figure!


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Film Review: LIGHTS OUT (USA 2016)

lights_outLIGHTS OUT (USA 2016) **
Directed by David F. Sandberg

Starring: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello

Review by Gilbert Seah

LIGHTS OUT is a new low budget horror produced by HOSTEL’s James Wan and directed by David F. Sandberg based on his short story.

LIGHTS OUT is based on several potentially scary premises. There is the mother with mental health problems, the imaginary friend who could be a figment of mother’s imagination (or not), a boy scared of the dark and a monster that disappears and burns in light, surviving only in the dark. But one second thoughts, none of those are original concepts. The last one, though seemingly new is the same premise used in all vampire films.

But the movie plays confidently as a film that scares from things that go bump in the night. A large part of the film obviously takes place at night. The majority of the scares come from the ghoul called Diana who can appear out of nowhere, but only in the dark. As the lights go out in the house, a large mansion of course, the survivors have to arm themselves with torches or flashlights, batteries that soon run out of juice. This ‘novelty’ runs out very fast. After half an hour, the film really gets monotonous, with Diana appearing and disappearing. A bit of distraction is also provided in the script in which Diana might be imaginary and in the head of the mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), who was previously a mental patient.

Sandberg knows how to incite fear from small and dark enclosed spaces. But it takes much more to make a complete horror film.

The story goes like this. When the film opens, a creature kills a man who had promised to return home to his son who had complained of his mother being mental. The boy, Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is still afraid years later with the mother still having problems now manifested in Diana, who she has befriended in the mental hospital. Now Diana is able to appear as a creature but only in the darkness. Diana is breaking her promise that she will not hurt the mother’s children. Enter (out of nowhere), Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), Martin’s older sister and her sexy boyfriend, Bret (Alexander DiPersia) to rescue Martin from crazy mom and monster Diana.

The film makes the rules of the monster as it goes along – how it exists and so forth. The actors all do their screaming convincingly with Bret being the beau in distress. This is more of a female film where the women are heroes with the male and female roles reversed. No complaint here, as it is good to see things going the other way for a change.

But LIGHTS OUT would have succeeded as a 30-minute short film. It is stretched out too long, even at only 80 minutes. Boring, over manipulative and predictable, the film is a good idea that unfortunately does not play out as a full length feature. But it should make its money owing to its low budget. It would be interesting to see what writer/director Sandberg comes out with next.