Sunday, October 5, 2014

Annabelle [2014]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (1 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Annabelle [2014] (directed by John R. Lionetti, screenplay by Gary Dauberman) was probably inevitable, viewers / fans of The Conjuring [2013] would agree.  The opening sequence of that previous film, inspired by the real life exploits of lay-Catholic demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, featured a really creepy apparently demonically animated doll that just SCREAMED (pun kinda intended) for a movie of her own ;-).

Further, a note to parents: The current film, like the arguably scarier one that preceded it, while giving little kids an appropriate level of fright that they probably won't be pestering you to be allowed to watch properly R-rated horror films any time soon, at least won't render your kids "brain damaged" at a result.  The current film just scare them into being more "careful in what they wish for" next time ;-).

So this is really a rather straight-forward horror movie about a doll that nobody in his/her right mind would ever want to buy.  As the Chicago Tribune's movie critic Mike Phillips notes (review above) one look at the creepy looking doll would be sufficient to convince most people that it wreaks of Evil.

But alas, where would modern horror movies be if they didn't feature people making REALLY, REALLY BAD DECISIONS?  So evidently really, really smart but also quite clueless when it comes to gift-buying soon-to-be-M.D. John (played by Ward Horton) buys his expecting wife Mia (played by Annabelle Willis) the really, really creepy-looking "vintage doll" because ... he thinks that she'd like it.  And because Mia's nice and/or clueless herself (the doll looks like something that could have been used as "Exhibit A" at the Salem Witch Trials to hang somebody), she tells him that she does ("like it") and puts it in a place of honor among her collection of other often creepy-looking "vintage dolls."  (As an aside, I shake my head, thinking about this, even as I'm typing it.  Once as a grad-student, looking for a place to live near campus, I walked into a house where the owner, renting a room "upstairs," had an ENORMOUS COLLECTION of really weird-looking dolls, all "dressed-up" and starring in the direction the doorway.  I took one look at strange collection of dolls and told the landlady that I honestly needed "to look elsewhere" ;-).  I left, happy that (I think, I hope :-) that she didn't get a lock of hair of mine or something ... ;-) 

But back to the story ... :-)  All would have continued to be "fine" (sort of) in the lives of John / Mia and their soon to arrive daughter, if not for their neighbors' crazy 20-something daughter Annabelle (played by Keira Daniels) who after joining a Charles Manson-like "cult of the Ram" ("PC" for Satan ...) who came home one evening to murder her parents and then headed over to John and Mia's to kill a pregnant woman to boot ... The police came just in time shoot Annabelle before she could finish-off stabbing Mia in the stomach (both mother and child survive to be okay ...).  BUT a drop of blood from the Satan-worshipping Annabelle fell into and behind the eye of the already really creepy-looking doll and ... the rest of the movie follows ;-).

Again, it's a pretty straight-forward story ... with a fair number of rather conventional (if surprisingly effective) misdirections and frights: Another "hobby" that Mia enjoyed was sewing ... and one just waits _through the whole movie_ for her to become "suddenly distracted" with her fingers be run through the sewing machine ... Good, suspenseful, if rather conventionally "scary" stuff ;-)

The story's set in the early 1970s, about  Rosemary's Baby [1968] / The Exorcist [1973]  time.  So there is a Catholic priest, Fr. Perez (played by Tony Amendola) in the story.  He's not particularly effective -- speaks mostly in cliches and aphorisms -- but at least he's not portrayed as Evil as well.  There's also a mysterious darker-skinned (African American) woman named Evelyn (played by Alfre Woodard) who thankfully ALSO doesn't come out as Evil.  Who are portrayed as Evil are the crazed cultists who apparently kill people _that they should love_ "for Satan," and then the doll, which comes to be tinged with the blood of one of these deranged cultists.  (Let us remember that in these months, we've all, of course, witnessed the emergence of the ghastly (AND APPARENTLY PROUD OF IT) Islamic cult "ISIS" out there in Iraq and Syria who seem to "find value" in beheading innocents and putting videos of their actions on YouTube.  Yes, Virginia, there is Evil in the world ...).

So while I would NOT recommend this film to children (I do believe the R-rating is definitely appropriate) ... I do think that the film is straight-forward enough that aside from scaring kids who "didn't want to listen to their parents" _this time_ from wanting see another movie like this for a while ... the film could also serve as an opportunity for parents to discuss with their kids the reality of evil in our world.  Today those crazy cultists out there in Iraq / Syria are doing terrible things to innocent people ... in the late 1960s there were crazy cultists doing similarly ghastly deeds in the States.

Evil does, in fact, seem exist in this world my friends ...

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