After a couple of false starts attempting to establish the origins of the demonically possessed doll first introduced in James Wan’s 2013 The Conjuring and featured as the centerpiece of the Annabelle spinoff a year later, Annabelle: Creation finally clarifies her complicated past, initially obscured by conflicting timelines.
Closer in tone and old-school psychological fright tactics to the original film than either The Conjuring 2 or Annabelle, David F. Sandberg’s incisive approach capably resets the franchise in what will surely become another hit horror sequel for New Line Cinema.
As he did with his assured debut in Lights Out, Sandberg demonstrates a deft affinity for the elaboration of horror conventions, as well as the expansion of the Conjuring universe. After deploying the requisite jump scares that get events in gear, the helmer settles into measured pacing that deliberately maneuvers the characters into mounting imperilment while gradually revealing the magnitude of the threat facing them.
First, however, he firmly establishes the narrative baseline for the emergence of the preternaturally disturbing doll by situating the film 12 years after tragedy strikes the Mullins family when Sam (Anthony LaPaglia) and Esther’s (Miranda Otto) beloved 7-year-old daughter Annabelle dies in a tragic, strikingly staged accident. Still remorseful over her passing, they offer shelter at their sprawling California farmhouse to a group of six girls from a local Catholic orphanage and their guardian, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman).