Showing posts with label james wan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label james wan. Show all posts

16 October 2014

Film Review - Annabelle (2014)

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Warner Bros
Rating: 15
Release Date: 10th October 2014
John R. Leonetti
Annabelle Wallis, Alfre Woodard, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola, Eric Ladin, Brian Howe

I love horror movies, and have over the years probably watched more than is healthy for me. With this in mind I feel I know as well as any what elements to look for in a good one - elements which are often missing from modern excursions into the macabre. Current filmmakers appear to believe for a film to be scary you simply have to throw in plenty of gore and CGI frights. What they forget is that human imagination is as effective as anything Hollywood's technical wizards can create. Before modern SFX, directors of the 1930s like James Whale and those from the 1950s and 60s such as Hammer stalwart Terrence Fisher, created cinematic chills through the art of suggestion which are still disturbing viewers today as much as eighty years later.

Amongst the torture porn and found footage trash that saturates the modern market, the occasional film which captures the atmosphere of those glory days still appears. Films which play on the emotions and natural fears, that are common to everyone and which we can all relate to - such as being alone or of the devil. Director John R. Leonetti's Annabelle (2014) is one such film.

Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and her husband John (Ward Horton) live the idyllic Californian life with their baby daughter on the outskirts of Los Angeles. However after their neighbours are gruesomely murdered by the members of a satanic cult, and they themselves are beset by a series of strange events culminating in a fire which devastates their house, they relocate to an apartment block on the other side of town. But the bizarre occurrences only intensify in their new home, seemingly related in some way to a vintage doll which John recently bought for Mia - a connection which the young couple are about to discover to their cost.

Annabelle may not win plaudits for excellence. However it is undeniably fun, with many aspects spot on in their ability to focus on the classic horror elements: 'possessed' dolls, the devil, concerned priests and the symbolic power of the Catholic church, women and children in peril and the old staple of ineffectual husband who's never there when he's needed. All these come into play in writer Gary Dauberman's clever script, which racks up the tension with some suitably creepy set pieces, until the marvellously taut finale which literally takes the central characters to the edge, and then .......

Only a talented writer or director can reference past landmarks, without their homage being ridiculed as little more than a weak reflection of past glories. Annabelle is the perfect example of Dauberman and Leonetti's skill in this, capturing the essence of classics like Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976) - as well as the devil dolls from Ealing's Dead of Night (1945) and Child's Play (1988) - yet giving the elements an imaginative twist. Though the age old battle between good and evil has been seen many times before, this duo reimagine it with such style that it all seems terrifyingly fresh and realistic.

In the end of course, those behind the camera are only as good as those in front. With this in mind the cast do not disappoint. Though all who appear turn in believable - and in the case of Tony Amendola as a sympathetic priest Father Perez, unnerving - performances, it is Wallis as Mia, the distraught mother at the story's centre, who steals the show. Her mounting desperation, culminating in sheer terror as she finds herself battling for the soul of her daughter against powers from beyond, is one of the best displays of sustained fear seen recently on the big screen.

The most memorable experiences in life are those which mine our deepest, most primal emotions. Annabelle does just that, to disturbing effect.

Cleaver Patterson