If you're planning a relaxing night out, avoid this film - unless you have an unusual tolerance for supernatural horror films featuring freaky dolls.
Annabelle is a spin-off from The Conjuring Universe film franchise, which stars demonologists Ed (Wilson) and Lorraine (Farmiga) Warren, and is set mostly in their home, which includes a basement filled with haunted and possessed knick-knacks.
After a brief set-up, in which Annabelle is safely secured in the Warren's basement museum, Ed and Lorraine depart for a job, leaving daughter Judy (McKenna Grace) at home with babysitter Mary (Madison Iseman). Babysitting can be a tough gig, but no amount of money could make up for what they go through after a friend of Mary's unleashes the demons in the basement.
The aesthetic is the same as previous films; detailed retro setting, plenty of dark spaces, shadows and mist. Director Gary Dauberman, making his directorial debut, builds suspense slowly, isn't afraid to use silence to create tension and at times just leaves the audience hanging. Despite knowing a spirit will eventually appear, they still jangle the nerves on arrival.
The slight twist on earlier films is that this story isn't about someone being possessed by a demon; more like what it's like living with evil locked up in the basement. The upside of this is it gives Dauberman a variety of demons to throw at us.
There are moments of light relief, with fun at the expense of Bob the neighbour, who has a crush on Mary and pops around to woo her - man, did he pick the wrong night.
I don't have as much resilience for frights as I'd like, and judging by the nervous laughter and occasional yelps at the screening I attended, I'm not alone. If you enjoy the genre, and a yelp, this certainly delivers.
Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson
M (Violence, offensive language, horror & content that may disturb)
You know what to expect but it still brings the frights home.