In this ‘The Conjuring’ prequel/ spinoff, a couple with a newborn baby are terrified by a possessed grinning doll.
Dolls are creepy, let’s just put that out there, at least to me. If you’ve seen The Conjuring or happen to have a friend or family member who likes dolls then you’ll know how weird they can be. The possessed doll idea has been done, and done well in the past so it’s a little hard to live up to. However this latest offering comes from producer James Wann and Director John R Leonetti who both worked on The Conjuring and Insidious, which is a good start.
What sets out as a promising possession idea soon falls in to what Mark Kermode describes as ‘quietly, quietly, quietly, quietly, BANG’. The main problem is the over familiarity and the creeping sense that you’ve seen and know this story already. If you’ve seen Insidious, its terrible sequel, Sinister or the ilk then you know when the overly done jump scares are coming, although notably most of the tension comes from the deliberate wide shots which leave the eye to flit round the frame looking for what may jump out at any second. There are some very well paced parts that build the unease to heart-rate rising tension, but these are soon ruined by ridiculously rubbish looking demons or whatever it is that’s supposed to be haunting them. The story is a bit of a mess, and despite the paint by numbers schlock, fails to keep the audience invested past the halfway mark as it rapidly attempts to ramp up the scares and wrap up by simply being louder and noisier (again refer to Insidious etc.) Remarkably it’s the doll itself that seems to have had the best acting classes as the remaining cast chew through the script without much conviction, especially Annabelle Wallis who despite her best concerned and frightened mother act, leaves you rooting for the dummy at times.
I was quite surprised to find that Leonetti was the cinematographer on Child’s Play 3, a classic Chucky film, surely there’s a few things that could have been learnt from this plastic counterpart’s movie outings? There’s worse you can do than to give it a go however, as the few golden moments of tension will have you questioning your/ your friends doll collection when you get home. Not the best we could of asked for at Halloween season but undoubtedly will be better than Ouija which is out soon and by looking at the trailer will likely spell out a resounding TERRIBLE.
(On a side note, if you haven’t guessed the film’s ending by the time Alfre Woodard’s kindly bookshop owner Evelyn turns up then… well you’re not very good at watching films I guess)
Words by Andrew ‘Mash’ Marshall