When Annabelle stopped being scary

AUGUST 21 — Prequels have a mixed success record. Star Wars I-III, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, The Hobbit, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans — these are just a few examples of high-profile prequels which probably didn’t do justice to their original films.

This is why when I heard people raving about Annabelle: Creation I was like, hey, since I haven’t watched a horror movie since I walked out of The Grudge (2004) why not give this a shot?

Okay, so the movie got off to a good start. 

(Spoilers ahead so stop reading if you plan on seeing the movie.)

Devoted and loving parents lose their precious daughter in a freak accident. Twelve years later their home is turned into an orphanage and about half a dozen orphan girls move in. In no time, weird and bad s*** happens. Doors open by themselves, doll-houses come to life spontaneously, scary visions are seen and little girls get thrown off top floors.

In line with great horror-movie making, Annabelle: Creation is packed tight with lingering shots of ominous places; everyday items invested/juxtaposed with fear (think about all those horror movies involving water-leaks, photos, phone-calls, etc. in this movie it’s a doll and toys — it’s not so much the terror surrounding these objects but the fact that these things pervade our 24/7 lives); and of course dark/jumpy/throbbing bass and violin sounds which caused many a cinema-goer to spend 80 per cent of the movie with hands clasped to ears.

Married to a feasible storyline and I won’t be surprised if more than a few fellas shat their pants halfway.

And it’s really quite a good story. Two-thirds through the movie we find out that after their daughter died, the parents couldn’t deal with their grief and ended up asking “any power out there” for the chance to see their daughter again. Lo and laksa behold, their daughter came back.

It was absolutely joyous to see their beloved child again until they realised the “thing” in the form of their child wasn’t their daughter. It was really a demon who took the form of their daughter and who would rip your face in half if you asked it to leave.

And this is where my fear buttons stopped being pushed.

Look, personal tragedy itself is horrifying. So a kind couple losing their kid? That itself was horror because we see it all the time.

Grief-stricken people seeking help from powers they shouldn’t be dabbling with? Very real again and it happens every time (why else is Mahathir being asked to lead the country? Ok, just kidding. Wait — not really. Ah, go figure)

Evil establishing its presence in a household? Absolutely. The demons of alcohol, cruelty, greed, envy and domestic violence are more ferocious than anything that can be summoned out from the depths of hell. And, besides, haunted houses are hardly anything new (I’m not the only one who’s seen Ghost Adventures, right?) and, chances are, if your dolls and books started to move by themselves you’d freak out, too.

But — and this is where the movie messes up its “true horror” credentials and joined the Freddy Krueger league, IMO — a demon tearing a woman’s eye out? Haha. I swear I’ve seen that in that comedy-drama Hellraiser.

A possessed body “transferring” an evil spirit into another body via demonic spit-fluid? What the heck am I watching? Jennifer’s Body?

A demon bursting out of a little girl’s body and snapping the fingers off a dude clutching (yet another) crucifix — oh please! Somebody kindly take these characters into the far future and show them Priest (2011) where Paul Bettany shows you that a crucifix is useless against evil creatures unless they’re made of razor-sharp-ass steel.  

They say that average comedians open funny doors, but great comedians open doors funny. It’s a similar thing here. These demon-attack scenes from Annabelle: Creation certainly evoked a few shocks, but shocks are to true horror what gratuitous sex is to true obsession and desire — there’s no comparison.

Shocks is what you get when someone jumps out from behind a wall; real horror is finding out someone is buried inside the wall. Shocks is seeing a tarantula in your closet; true terror is looking for your loved ones and finding nothing but spiders. The irony is that the demon(s) in Annabelle: Creation started to be less fearful the moment they stopped behaving like demons and started acting like monsters.

By far the funniest scene: A scarecrow suddenly coming to life. Dude, please. (Seriously, there was actual laughing in the hall).

Which is why, from a horror perspective, I felt the ending managed to redeem the movie somewhat and restore some of its “authentic” creepiness. 

There are few things more terrifying that an entire childhood and youth being devoted to evil. Even more chilling is how the most evil of realities can take the form of the purest and most loving.

After the demon was “defeated” in the house, it maintains its possession of one of the orphan girls, all the way through her eventual adoption by a couple into adulthood where her evil finally manifests and she kills her adopted parents. 

Deception, scheming and the fatal strike on the very people who cared for you and gave you everything — now that’s evil to the bone. Compared to that, a demon-possessed doll is as harmless as a piece of wood.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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