Horror films went all ironic during the Knowing Nineties, especially when the Scary Movie franchise came along and it's been almost impossible not to treat them as comedies these days. But there's a lot of money to be made from this genre, and Australian film producer, screenwriter and film director James Wan has been at the forefront in recent years.
A prequel to last year's hit The Conjuring, this one sees Wan vacating the director's chair and concentrating on being the producer. Presumably this is due to his involvement in the Fast and Furious franchise, and offers an opportunity for his regular Director of Photography, John R Leonetti, to step up to the plate. And while there's nothing groundbreaking on offer here, it's an enjoyable film that starts off really well before a rather clichéd conclusion.
The spooky, eponymous doll Annabelle arrives innocently enough as a present from cardboard-cute husband John Gordon to wife Mia, who's expecting their first child. Everything's very happy families until their next-door neighbours are brutally murdered by their own daughter and an accomplice, both of whom are members of a cult.
The Gordons are also attacked, with Mia and baby lucky to survive, and they're only saved by the cops, who shoot dead the two assailants. And then when mammy and baby come home, strange things start to happen in their house.
Despite moving to the more cosy surroundings of an apartment, the spooky occurrences continue and Mia meets a bookshop-owner and a priest who endeavour to help resolve her problem and banish the demon inside the doll. This is where it all starts to, not quite fall apart, but descend into cliché. The key, as always, is to build tension, but it's not always there in Annabelle.
Okay, it's not The Exorcist of The Wicker Man, but if you're not some horror bore and just want a bit of fun and the odd scare, Annabelle offers a good night's entertainment.