Annabelle: Creation

Years after dollmaker Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) tragically lost their own little girl Bee (Samara Lee, "Concussion"), they invite a nun and her six charges from a recently closed orphanage into their home to assuage their loneliness. But their lovely old house has been tainted by the Mullins's efforts to bring Bee back and its new inhabitants suffer the consequences in "Annabelle: Creation."

Laura's Review: C+

If 2014's "Annabelle" was a prequel to the events of "The Conjuring" predating the work of paranormal investigators the Warrens. Now along comes the sequel that is actually a pre-prequel. Got that? This one begins in the 1940's with Samuel such a well known crafter of dolls, toy stores are begging him for inventory. Working in his outbuilding, a note is slipped beneath his door. 'Find me' is a challenge from Bee we just know will be repeated well after her death. In fact there is little to surprise us in "Annabelle: Creation," despite director David F. Sandberg's ("Lights Out") ability to create creepy sequences (and even these are undercut with unnecessary special fx). "Annabelle" screenwriter Gary Dauberman's biggest surprise is the way he circles back to the first film in the film's final moments, but in so doing, he sacrifices "Creation's" most sympathetic character and an analysis of his mythology never quite adds up. At least he finds a way to insert a Raggedy Ann, the actual manifestation of Annabelle. The best that can be said about "Annabelle: Creation" is that it's better than its predecessor. Twelve years after Bee's death, a beat up old bus rumbles down a dirt road to the Mullins' expansive home high upon a hill. Its youngest passenger, Janice (Talitha Bateman, "The Fifth Wave") is recovering from polio, her leg encased in a brace. She and her best friend Linda (Lulu Wilson, "Ouija: Origin of Evil") hope to be adopted together. Upon arrival, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Stigman, "Miss Bala") greets Mr. Mullins, who gives the girls a tour of the house. Teenaged Carol (Grace Fulton) and Nancy (Philippa Coulthard, TV's 'The Catch') marvel at its size. He welcomes them to use any space they'd like, but cautions them about his first floor private space, the bedroom that Mrs. Mullins hasn't left since 'her accident.' When Janice frets over their upstairs bedroom assignments, Sam demonstrates the chair lift. She's delighted until she reaches the top where she catches a glimpse of a little girl dashing across the hall. But in "Annabelle: Creation," no one ever seems willing to relate the weird and disturbing things that happen to them, at least until events have reached fever pitch. Mullins warns the girls, including Tierney (Lou Lou Safran, "The Choice") and Kate (Tayler Buck), never to enter a locked room upstairs, one which Janice notes has Bee's height etched along its doorframe, ending at age 7. That very night, the locked door unlatches as Janice stands before it and her curiosity gets the better of her. She finds the bedroom of an obviously well loved little girl, a huge dollhouse in the center of the room an exact replica of the Mullins home. Janice opens the closet in the miniature version of the room in which she stands, finding a life size key. She opens the closet. There sits Annabelle, peering out from the dark. From this point on, all kinds of mayhem is unleashed (leading us to wonder just how Janice was able to see Bee beforehand). Annabelle and Bee torment the younger girls. The older girls concoct their own scary stories regarding the mysterious Mrs. Mullins only to receive a startling visit. And in true 'throw everything in but the kitchen sink' merriment, there's a creepy scarecrow hanging out in Mullins's old workshop. Sister Charlotte responds to Mrs. Mullins's ringing bell and hears her sad version of the Mullins's own Monkey's Paw (if Otto here resembles "Carrie's" Piper Laurie, so will her demise). Jennifer Spence’s vintage production design is noteworthy, as is the casting of Lee who eerily resembles a doll from the outset, but otherwise "Annabelle: Creation" recycles horror tropes, its jump scares dialed up with blaring score notes. Grade:

Robin's Review: DNS