Dragons, Zombies and Aliens:
As anyone who’s seen the 2014 Conjuring prequel Annabelle, I went into Annabelle: Creation thinking it would suck balls. I was pleasantly surprised at the skilled actors, tension-racketing scenes, and the fact that most of characters are not idiots. Besides the original problem--“Hey, let’s invite a bunch of orphans to live with us in our haunted house to make up for our past transgressions! That’ll go well.”--there are very few “horror movie mistakes,” and any stupid decisions are easily explained by the fact that the people making them are ages nine to sixteen.
The latest of the Conjuring series, Annabelle: Creation is the prequel to the prequel, the real origin story to the creepy doll that opened the first Conjuring movie. The toy was made by a dollmaker and his wife who mourn the death of their little girl, who died in a car accident and whose name is, of course, Annabelle. Then the movie jumps to twelve years later, when the couple invites the half a dozen girls of a shut-down orphanage to live with them until they find their forever-homes. Somewhere in those twelve years, the mother has become bedridden with a Phantom of the Opera-type mask, the father is now grim and secretive, and the house is haunted.
The end of the movie ties in neatly with the beginning of the 2014 Annabelle film, wrapping everything up in a tidy little bow. Remember that couple that was murdered by their Satanist daughter and her boyfriend before breaking into the pregnant lady’s house? That’s our final scene in Creation. The entire movie leads up to that, and we find out exactly who and what that murderous daughter is.
I appreciated Sister Charlotte, the woman in charge of the orphan girls and one of only two black people in the movie. Minor spoiler here: she lives! The 2014 film had the wise old black woman sacrifice herself to save the sweet white family. Seeing compassionate Sister Charlotte taking care of her precious little orphans--all but one of them white--and I was rolling my eyes expecting this movie to follow the same thread. Nope! She’s the one who outsmarts the demon and rescues the survivors. Without killing herself.
Granted, there’s no way that a rural 1950s couple would let two “colored” girls live under their roof in real life, Catholic nun or not. But it’s the thought that counts.
I did have a couple issues with the film. The first is Janice, one of the orphan girls and the center of the movie. The victim of a recent polio outbreak, she’s limited by a crutch and heavy limp. So of course, she’s the one the demon goes after.
Basically, while the movie manages to avoid the “dead black character” trope, it falls into the “victimized disabled character” trope. Disabled characters have one of two roles in horror films. If they’re mentally disabled, they’re a serial killer, like in Split, Halloween, Psycho, Friday the 13th, The Roommate, The Shining, etc. If they’re physically disabled, they’re a victim, as is the case here. Janice’s physical limitation makes her the demon’s primary target, as she gets thrown off the stairs, trapped in the shed, and finally possessed. That kind of crap sends a very bad message.
My other problem with this movie is a bit more personal, and has to do with the series itself. Most American demon/possession stories are based on Christianity. It makes sense as that’s the most popular religion in the country and the one we’re all familiar with. The writers don’t have to spend as much time on exposition. The Conjuring series is on the far end of that spectrum. One could even call it religious propaganda. The first movie even goes so far as to quote Ed Warren--one of the real life characters the film is based on--at the end:
“Diabolical forces are formidable. These forces are eternal, and they exist today. The fairy tale is true. The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges upon which one we elect to follow.”
The only way any of these characters defeat the bad guys are through rosaries and Bible verses. There are no other options. It’s the Christian way, or the highway.
I’m a Buddhist, and I call bullshit.
I don’t mind watching Christian-based horror films. I really like them. Just as I like movies based on Jewish lore (The Possession), Hindu lore (The Other Side of the Door), and...actually, those are the only horror movies I’ve seen that are based on non-Christian religions in a neutral manner. There haven’t been any others in major theaters in the last decade. And that’s a problem.
What happens if Ed Warren runs into a Buddhist demon? What if the family moving into the haunted house was Muslim? The next time a hapless white person wakes up angry Native American spirits, shouldn’t they have a religious leader of said Native American tribe handle it?
I liked Annabelle: Creation. Despite it’s flaws--and the fact that I missed half of it because I was cowering and unable to look at the screen--it’s a solid movie. I just wish it wasn’t religious propaganda.
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!