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Annabelle: Creation

A terrifying doll gets an old-fashioned horror origin in this clever scare movie
    Moving from a dreary orphanage to a secluded country mansion could be these girls’ dream come true. Instead, it’s their nightmare.
     Their welcome by Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia: Riviera) is gruff. They’re warned that his wife is an invalid and that they must not approach the locked room on the second floor. Immediately intrigued, the girls entertain themselves by making up spooky stories about Mr. Mullins and his mysterious wife.
      Orphan Janice (Talitha Bateman: Vengeance: A Love Story), a polio survivor, uses a crutch and braces. Unable to play outside with the other girls, she explores her new home. Of course she enters the locked room, where she discovers a creepy doll — inadvertently releasing a very bad spirit. 
      The extension of The Conjuring movie universe, Annabelle: Creation is the origin tale of the haunted doll that has lurked in all three of the films. Director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) uses old-school tension-building techniques to create a genuinely creepy film. He got his start crafting short horror films on YouTube and knows how to pace scenes to build dread. 
     When Sandberg accumulates subtle incongruities to create anxiety, the film is brilliant. The doll-finding sequence is masterfully paced and shot. Sometimes, however, he pushes too hard for scares. When demons show their faces and storm around the house, the movie goes from subtly frightening to silly. The audience switches from shouting frantic warnings to characters to mocking them.
     An impressive cast of child actors helps Sandberg keep the movie on the right side of the horror spectrum. Bateman and costar Lulu Wilson (Raised by Wolves) are fine pre-teen scream-queens, and Wilson in particular proves a sympathetic and sweet heroine.
     Annabelle also gives a powerful performance, as Sandberg imbues the inanimate doll with enough menace and expression to carry entire scenes. 
Like most horror films, this one falls apart on examination. But logic isn’t what you’re looking for in a movie about a demon doll.
    If you’ve enjoyed the Conjuring series so far, this flick is worth a bucket of popcorn. See it on a busy night so you can scream and laugh along with the crowd. That’s half the fun. 
Fair Horror • R • 109 mins.
 
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