I must be a masochist, because I seem to be drawn to the “evil doll” subgenre of horror, even though there are precious few quality examples of it. There tends to be two approaches to these movies: Either the doll is possessed, or the doll isn’t actually alive at all. It usually falls flat in the second instance, as in The Boy from a few years back. The Annabelle movies are kind of odd because it seems as if both things are true in its case.
In this sequel, David Sandberg of Lights Out fame takes over the director’s chair and does manage to improve on the low standards set by the first Annabelle film. As part of the ever-expanding Conjuring universe, it follows that tone and template pretty faithfully, meaning this is something of a scare salad movie. Expect the greatest hits: people investigating dark, creepy rooms without the lights on, sheets draped over a human-shaped figure getting slooowwwly pulled away, fake-out scares followed by legitimate scares, vaguely demonic overtones… you get the idea.
I’ve seen two Annabelle movies so far and I’m still not entirely sure what her deal is. In this movie they allude to her being a “conduit” for evil spirits. She likes to appear in places she ought not to be, staring malevolently, and sometimes her head turns off-camera, but that’s about as dirty as her hands get. Typically, it’s more like other ghosts and ghoulies torment people whenever Annabelle is in the room.
Personally, I find the “real” Annabelle doll far creepier than the “trying too hard” version of the Conjuring movies. The true one is a normal Raggedy Ann doll, which gets a clever visual reference in this film. Annabelle Comes Home, the third film in this unlikely trilogy, came out earlier this Summer, and I suppose I’m now pot-committed to seeing that one. But I don’t know… these movies certainly aren’t BAD, but they’re just kind of safe and somewhat predictable for me. I will continue to await my masterpiece killer doll movie.