As of last Tuesday, the old man and I had been out to see one movie in the last year. It was that possession movie with Jeff Winger in it as a tough guy. We enjoyed it, but being forced to say that’s the best movie we’ve seen together in a year is pretty much a fucking travesty. Theatrically released horror movies are so few and far between now we hardly get out to see anything. When something does come along, Real Life™ comes along and kicks one of us in the balls.
So, when we saw previews for a movie with a possessed doll that looks creepy as fuck we honestly didn’t expect to be able to get out to it. However, the stars and planets aligned and Real Life™ chose to leave our balls alone for a week. Or so we thought.
It turns out that last week, Annabelle was our kick in the balls.
This is arguably the least scary horror movie I’ve ever seen. I honestly can’t think of a worse one at the time of this writing. The only word to describe my experience here was outright apathy. Aside from two moments where I briskly snorted some air out of my nose with a surprised mixture of humour and disappointment, this movie left me as cold and unfeeling as a Siberian quadriplegic prostitute.
Aside from the actors–who I felt ended up giving a neutral performance thanks to a poor script and worse direction–this movie failed on every level. It took too long to even try to get scary, and it lagged for seemingly hours between scare attempts. There’s little to no tension in scenes that were clearly attempting to build it. Unfortunately, just having a creepy looking doll take up 1/3rd of the screen in a shot taken from an odd angle doesn’t automatically add tension to a boring, bullshit scene.
The movie’s worst offenses come at the hand of the sound direction, however. They clearly tried to create a spooky, but nostalgic feel. The film is set in 1970, and old CRTs are everywhere. Spirits and ghosts end up wreaking havoc on them, but the sound editor takes extra pains to make sure that authentic CRT whine/crackle as it shuts off is audible.
Unfortunately, that same sound guy has the spooky background music just… stop… almost in the middle of a note. It’s instantly replaced by the sound of a creaking rocking chair, and silence. It truly is horrific, though, because it’s such a jarring edit it pulls you out of whatever little bit of immersion you might have mustered.
The ball is dropped here so many times that you’d almost think the movie would start reaching So-Bad-It’s-Good levels of shittiness. But it just never crosses the line of pure mediocrity one way or the other. The tropes are all there… creepy doll, dark spaces, little girls laughing with reverb applied, nothing managed to entice, scare, or even interest either me or the old man.
The most fun I had in the movie was looking at the thrift shop wares that the set designer probably got to have way too much fun looking for. Macrame, crafty decor and kitsch are everywhere. Adding to the fun was looking for anachronistic set pieces and plot devices. I laughed to myself at the idea of dialing 911 on a rotary phone in 1970, only to discover it was in play back then in various parts of the US. (I can remember 911 going live all the time where I live at some point in my lifetime.) At another point the TV, which had only been showing B&W General Hospital episodes, starts showing a colour airing of (I think) Lawrence Welk.
Shut up. That might be true of some shows, but I looked it up. General Hospital, while being the last daytime soap to make the jump to colour, started airing in colour in 1967. By the year the film takes place, the novelty of New™ colour had even wore off, as the introduction stopped adding “Now in Colour” that particular year.
Shut up, again. It matters because I fucking noticed it. I’m watching a movie that’s supposed to be scary. There’s some kind of possessed conduit doll creating shadow demons in corners. I should be pissing my pants, white knuckling my armrests hoping I don’t flinch bad enough that my old man laughs at me. Instead, the execution is so poor I’m sitting in the fucking theatre wondering “I wonder when General Hospital actually switched to colour?”
Fuck you, Annabelle. Fuck you, you un-scary, time wasting, screen-hogging waste of life.