Annabelle **1/2 (out of five)
Annabelle, a sequel to The Conjuring (which I have not seen), is a haunted doll movie that aspires to class, with means both legitimate and dodgy. As a period piece – it’s set in the 1970s – it’s tastefully done, never overplaying the costumes, sets, props or (most importantly) hairdos. It’s gore free. And it actually spends a lot of time on character development. It’s most definitely not a schlocky, cheesy, cheapie slasher pic.
On the dodgy side of its attempt to earn a place alongside Rosemary’s Baby or The Exorcist rather than Bride of Chucky (it falls in-between, and a lot closer to Chucky), it casts a gentleman (Tony Amendola) who looks so like F. Murray Abraham that you spend too much time whenever he’s on screen wondering whether he’s F. Murray Abraham. This is exacerbated – to a true and noticeable degree – by the fact that the two leads, Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis, resemble – he quite strongly – Patrick Wilson and Naomi Watts. But the time someone who looked like a young Alfre Woodard turned up I really thought the filmmakers were taking the piss; it turned out that it was Alfre WoodRd, who must have a portrait in an attic somewhere. But it was never F. Murray, Patrick or Naomi.
The whole thing gets lost in an unfathomable plot that just may have made more sense if I’d seen The Conjuring. It certainly doesn’t stand on its own merits, story-wise, and, for a haunted doll movie, there’s not much haunted doll. The main baddies are demons who look for all the world like dudes with colourful face paint. They are not scary.
The first twenty minutes are involving (and contain one unintentionally hilarious moment) and then the thing gets more and more derailed, as though they were making it up as they went along (perhaps they were). But your young teens can go see it on their own; there’s nothing in it to warp their sensibilities, give them nightmares or make them ask awkward questions, and they’ll learn that once upon a time we didn’t have mobile phones.