Last year James Wan hit pay dirt with two similar kind of horror movies when both The Conjuring and Insidious 2 made a fortune at the box-office on relatively low budgets. While he's now gone off to tackle the Fast and Furious franchise, he returns to this spin-off of The Conjuring to produce and hands helming duties over to his regular Director of Photography, John R. Leonetti, who delivers a couple of solid scares, but not a lot else.
Titular doll Annabelle somehow ends up in the property of go-getting, inexplicably attractive young couple John and Mia Gordon. He's a doctor, she's a stay at home (about to be) mother and their life appears to be going very well - until they move into a new gaff. Pretty soon after settling in, their neighbours are brutally murdered and the Gordons' attacked, ultimately lucky to survive the ordeal. When they return home with child in tow, Mia has one unsettling moment too many and they up sticks to a new apartment
Boasting a strong opening, where the aforementioned neighbours are horrifically murdered from the point of view of the Gordon's room, things quickly take a turn for the lame when the young couple move into their new place - a soulless apartment block. The film then becomes a conveyor belt of horror character cliches... the priest, the spiritual pal the lonely wife has to confide in, some creepy kid foreseeing the tragic...
Horror movies can absolutely be ridiculous and work, but Leonetti doesn't have the panache of Wan when it comes to building tension, with the most laudable moments already flagged in the admitedly effective trailer.
It's already made a fortune at the box office so you will be seeing a sequel, let's just hope it's delivered with a bit more atmosphere and urgency when it does happen.