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Movie Review

Annabelle

MPAA Rating: R for intense sequences of disturbing violence and terror.

Reviewed by: Ryan Callaway
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Supernatural Horror
Length:
1 hr. 38 min.
Year of Release:
2014
USA Release:
October 3, 2014 (wide—3,000+ theaters)
DVD: January 20, 2015
Copyright, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures Copyright, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures

satanic cultists

Satan in the Bible

Is Satan a real person that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer

SATAN’S STRATEGY—What is one of Satan’s most successful strategies in dealing with followers of Christ? Answer

What is one of Satan’s most successful strategies in dealing with followers of Christ? Answer

young people that leave their families to join a cult

devil and demons in the Bible


FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

Featuring: Annabelle Wallis … Mia
Ward Horton … John
Tony Amendola … Father Perez
Alfre WoodardEvelyn
Kerry O'Malley … Sharon Higgins
Brian Howe … Pete Higgins
Eric Ladin … Detective Clarkin
Ivar Brogger … Dr. Burgher
Geoff Wehner … Neighbor
Gabriel Bateman … Little Boy
Shiloh Nelson … Little Girl
Sasha Sheldon … Nurse
Camden Singer … Clerk
Robin Pearson Rose … Mother
Keira Daniels … Young Annabelle Higgins
Director: John R. Leonetti—“The Conjuring” (2013) Director of Photography, “Insidious” (2010) Co-Producer
Producer: New Line Cinema
Evergreen Media Group
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

For the last few years James Wan (Annabelle’s Producer) has been a force in the horror genre, directing films like “Insidious,” “Insidious 2,” and last summer’s blockbuster “The Conjuring,” one of the most frightening films in recent memory. In the prologue to “The Conjuring,” audiences were introduced to Annabelle—a doll inhabited by an evil presence that allows it to move, cause mischief, and even seriously injure people. In the first film, the young women who owned the doll believed the disembodied spirit of a child named Annabelle possessed the toy. Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren inform them that it isn’t a child, but rather a demonic entity that used the guise of a child to prey on their sympathy. At the conclusion of “The Conjuring,” the doll is locked in the Warren’s office where it’s (hopefully) unable to harm anyone. In real life, the doll, an antique Raggedy Ann model, resides there to this day.

After summarizing the events of “The Conjuring” related to our title character, “Annabelle” then goes on to tell us the story of how the doll came to be inhabited. We’re introduced to newlyweds John and Mia (Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis). John is a medical student in his final year, while a very pregnant Mia is preparing to be a stay at home mom to their daughter.

Since Mia is a doll collector, John surprises her one day with a rare model that she’s been unable to acquire. Of course, it’s Annabelle. One night, in a disturbing and bloody scene, cultists slaughter Mia and John’s neighbors. They then break into the couple’s home and attack them. John, with the help of the police, manages to subdue one of the attackers. The other, a troubled young woman named Annabelle, is found in a spare bedroom cradling Annabelle (the doll) in her arms. She’d slit her own throat and, in a crucial shot, a drop of her blood finds its way into the doll’s eye. Thus completing some sort of Satanic ritual, binding an evil spirit to the doll.

Shortly afterward, Mia gives birth to baby Leah, and she and John move into a luxury apartment, hoping to put the disturbing past behind them. They even ditch the doll, a reminder of their horrifying evening, in a trash can before moving. However, while unpacking boxes one day, Mia and John find Annabelle stashed away. Along with the doll comes a supernatural force that haunts Mia at every turn and ultimately seeks to claim a life… and more importantly—a soul.

I enjoyed “Annabelle.” James Wan handed the directorial reigns over to John R. Leonetti, who handled the duties remarkably well. While this film may not have as many horrifying moments as “The Conjuring,” in my estimation it does an even better job at establishing an atmosphere of dread. There are several moments where I not only leaped in my seat, but sat there captivated, waiting for the inevitable scare. Even when I saw it coming, it didn’t lessen the sting. I also thought the characters of Mia and John were well developed. They seem like a typical 60’s couple, and many of the shots, and a lot of the non-score music, is similarly dated. It really manages to take the audience back to that era, which isn’t easy to do with consistency. They pulled it off well in “The Conjuring” and did the same in “Annabelle.”

Joseph Bishara, who composed the music for the Insidious films and The Conjuring, returns here and is again at the top of his form. He creates a soundtrack that, while borrowing some elements from The Conjuring, is uniquely haunting.

Spiritually, this film presents a few discussion points. For starters, I the concept of some “ghosts” being demons—masquerading as something more innocent—is established. I don’t believe the Christian worldview really allows for “ghosts,” in the traditional sense. I think with supernatural manifestations, the source has to be either something beyond explanation, angelic, or more than likely demonic. Demons trying to gain a foothold into someone’s life, or plant seeds of doubt in the Word of God, which says that “it’s appointed unto man to die once, and after that the Judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “Annabelle” deals primarily with demonic spirits, so I don’t think it causes any contradiction with the Christian worldview.

There aren’t many curse words or blasphemies, and I certainly didn’t see any sexual content. Visuals are what will most likely offend some. There is a lot of blood, and some scenes that are gruesome, even if the violence occurs just off the screen. Someone is stabbed and their blood splatters onto a nearby window. Another person is seen with her throat slit. Bodies are seen after falls from considerable heights, with pools of blood forming under their heads. There are also numerous, very frightening, demonic appearances. ***SPOILER*** The demon is ultimately after the baby, which is certainly disturbing. In one scene, what looks like baby Leah is found on the floor, supposedly deceased. ***END SPOILER***

In the end, rather than relying on the power of God to overcome the evil, a sacrifice is made to appease it. A person gives their “soul” to the Devil through death. In reality, that CAN happen, if the person is an unbeliever. I don’t believe it’s possible to sell your soul to the Devil and then be trapped under that curse for the rest of your life. The blood of Christ can set anyone LIVING free from anything, including a contract with the wicked one. And ultimately, anyone who isn’t saved is “under the sway” of the Devil, anyway. Our souls are already his until we put our faith and trust in Christ to save us from our sins. That being said, it’s not unrealistic that someone might seek their own method to battle evil.

I also warn about the character Evelyn, a bookshop owner who is drawn to Mia and eventually tries to help her. She speaks like a Christian, but some of the scenes draw a parallel between Christianity and general Spirituality (New Age). And there is no parallel, one is true, the other is false.

Overall, if you’re a fan of horror, particularly James Wan’s other films, you may enjoy “Annabelle.”

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Moderate—OMG (3), “hell” (1) / Sex/Nudity: Mild

Editor’s Note: Keep in mind that this film is R-rated for very strong violence, and it essentially uses the occult to fight the occult. Although it may generally treat Christianity positively, it certainly does not present any strong, theologically sound answer to dealing with great evil. It gives demons credit for more power than they actually have, depicting them as virtually unstoppable. It fails to show that God is real and fails to show Christ’s absolute, ultimate power over demons and Satan; He can fell them with a little word. Depictions of evil beings, their perverse followers, and supposed satanic rituals are surely not suitable entertainment for followers of Jesus Christ.

As always, we recommend keeping your focus on pure, holy and lovely things, and real truth, rather than on things that are fouly violent, evil, ugly and in error, even if it is “just a movie” (and ultimately fiction)—even though it claims some tenuous (likely minor) foundation in reality.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This movie had its scary moments—mostly jump scares, although there were a couple psychologically disturbing scenes. Without giving too much away, this movie really showed the greatest act of love… sacrifice. The ending is most certainly an allegory of Christ’s death so that other’s are saved. I was moderately to majorly surprised at this. Religion doesn’t seem to be mocked, but rather the key to success at the end.

However, the acting and the story line could use a little more “definition”. Nevertheless, I would see this film and its relative “The Conjuring” as border-line Christian horror-movies. I love a good horror movie. This one for sure delivered a fair share of scared and eeriness, but it wasn’t as deeply concentrated as movies such as “The Ring.” Still, though, a good scary flick to watch.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Charlie Heller, age 26 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—…this review of the film… fails to mention the most curious facet of the film. This couple, attends church every Sunday, have their baby baptized eventually, yet they have absolutely no walk with Christ. We never see them praying, reading the Scripture or speaking about God really in any fashion. When the demonic force threatening them begins growing more malevolent, they never call on God or Christ for deliverance. The husband even doubts that a “ghost” is even really haunting them, in spite of what his wife tells them. And when finally confronted with the truth that a demon is after them, the wife stares with a slack jawed expression and goes “But, what do we do?” Huh??

For film purposes, this is to be expected. However, this sets a dangerous precedent because there are far too many alleged believers that think sitting in a pew every Sunday earns them brownie points. God commands us to a walk with him, to pick up our cross daily and deny ourselves in order to follow him. This movie shows such a thinking: All church, no Jesus. All religion, no faith. All rituals and rites, no fellowship with the Lord.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Amari, age 24 (USA)
Negative
Negative—“Annabelle” is one of the dumbest horror movies I have seen in many a year. While it does contain about half a dozen effective jolts and some interesting shots, it also contains the stupidest couple in a horror film, and most of the supposed suspense is predictable, offensive, given away by the trailer, unoriginal—has some good build ups with lousy payoffs, and some doesn’t make a lick of sense.

***SPOILER*** For an example of how stupid the couple is I present as evidence the following scene: After being terrorized several times, the wife actually leaves her newborn baby in the apartment to go down into the basement to dispose of some cardboard. This is stupid and neglectful behavior when you are NOT being terrorized by a supernatural entity. The scene develops into a frightening moment involving a demonic entity and a baby carriage, but then loses its suspense when the wife flees to the elevator and takes way too long to realize that the elevator isn’t going to work and she needs to flee for the stairs. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Andrew, age 38 (USA)
Movie Critics

…a surprisingly well-crafted chiller… Despite the silly and hackneyed premise, “Annabelle” is a decent horror film thanks to the vision and restraint of director John R. Leonetti. … [3/4]
—Bruce DeMara, Toronto Star Newspapers

…blandly crafted and dourly derivative …All things good and God Himself are utterly neutralized here. In this world, demons are all-powerful creatures that will get exactly what they seek. …
—Bob Hoose, Plugged In

…Inanimate objects are deployed to endless would-be-scary effect in “Annabelle”… cheap jolts are provided by an errant sewing machine, a record player… heavy books, a malfunctioning elevator and even an unattended Jiffy Pop popcorn pan. The filmmakers literally throw in everything but the kitchen sink. …
—Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

…Devil-doll flick “Annabelle” rings hollow…
—Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

…It’s all a far cry from Wan’s superior haunted-house movie, which embraced the thrill of the paranormal even as it respected its frazzled, earthbound characters. … [1½/4]
—Christopher Gray, Slant Magazine

…what it lacks in originality it makes up with in hair-raising execution. You will scream like a teenage girl. …We’re lulled to sleep by the acting, jolted when something we’ve seen a million times happens. [2/4]
—Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

…In truth the jumps and jolts are all pretty predictable. …The performances are uniformly one-note…
—Mark Adams, Screen Daily International

…a cut-rate “Conjuring” spinoff that’s more wan than Wan…
—Scott Foundas, Variety

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