Creepy Dolls, Australian Camping & Other Bad Ideas at the Movies
It’s Halloween in August – is that a thing? Well it is today, because Annabelle: Creation joins a couple of other horror flicks as the likeliest thing you’ll see this weekend. It’s mid-August, friends, which means that everything the studios did not expect to be a summer blockbuster and any awards-bait they deem an unlikely contender will start rolling out right now. So keep an eye out for indies. They’ll be your surest bet between now and November.
There are a lot of things James Wan’s 2013 hit The Conjuring got right. Leaning toward practical effects over CGI, casting high-quality talent, and digging into an allegedly true story – all good choices that, matched with his eye for framing and skill with mounting dread, led to a chilling and memorable flick.
There’s also a creepy doll, the element that seems to be driving this unexpected franchise and the only item from the original film that made the leap to Annabelle: Creation.
You remember her – she terrorized a young family, and later a pair of nursing students before being locked in a glass case in that creepy room at Ed and Lorraine Warren’s house.
But did you ever wonder what kind of demonic hijinks created her in the first place? Or do you just find yourself in the mood to watch orphans being persecuted? Either way, may I introduce you to Annabelle: Creation?
Director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) does what he does best, relying on good, old-fashioned jump scares. If that’s your bag – and you don’t get side tracked with nit-picky things like how utterly ignorant writer Gary Dauberman is of actual Catholicism (so maybe he shouldn’t have chosen a Catholic orphanage!) – then this film may be for you.
Years after a doll maker and his wife lose their precious daughter, they accidentally conjure up a demon to live in the single ugliest doll any toy maker has ever seen fit to make.
Worse choice? Inviting those orphans to move in.
Welp, empty-headed horror it is. And there is something to be said for that in a mid-August slump.
Writer/director Damien Power starts off predictably enough: Sam (Harriet Dyer) and her boyfriend Ian (Ian Meadows) are headed to an out-of-the-way campsite. They stop for directions, are warned off by a creepy Aussie with a barking pit bull. They go anyway.
They arrive and are disappointed to see that they’ll be sharing the site with another group – based on the parked SUV and the pitched tent. But where are these other campers?
Though Power doesn’t explore a lot of new ground with this campsite horror flick, his approach is so authentic and spare that it breaks free of cinematic hyperbole and leaves you seriously wondering why in the hell anybody camps – anywhere, but especially in Australia.
His narrative builds tension by cross-cutting between the tale of the camping couple and the story of the family whose vacant tent begins to really worry Sam and Ian come nightfall.
The tale is well told and beautifully performed. Aaron Pendersen and Aaron Glenane, in particular, craft believable, dimensional, terrifying characters.
A satisfying power struggle and the provocative use of ambiguities that refuse to offer a tidy ending help the film hang around after credits role.
Seriously, though, why do people camp?
Also opening in Columbus:
The Glass Castle (PG-13)
Marie Curie (NR)
Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature (PG)
Once Upon a Time (NR)
Person to Person (NR)
Wolf Warrior 2 (NR)