- Nikki Baughan
- 7 August 2017
The demon doll is back but ideas are lacking in the latest instalment in the Conjuring franchise
The fourth film in the Conjuring horror franchise, and the second prequel (following 2014's Annabelle), this origin story from Lights Out's David F Sandberg concerns the birth of the titular demon doll. Sadly it suffers from a flimsy narrative and a roster of all-too-obvious scares.
Set in the late 1950s, just over a decade before the events of Annabelle, a preamble introduces us to the happy home-life of dollmaker Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia), his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) and pigtailed daughter Bee (Samara Lee). When Bee is killed in an accident, her grieving parents shutter themselves away until, 12 years later, they open their creaking home to a small group of convent orphans. It's not long before one of the girls, Janice (Talitha Bateman), discovers the creepy doll in Bee's bedroom, and all hell breaks loose.
Ushering a busload of pretty young girls into the home of a demonic doll – albeit one locked in a cupboard plastered with bible pages – is clearly an unbelievably stupid idea, despite the eventual, tacked-on explanation. Indeed, the increasingly poor decisions of Samuel and Esther – and, by obvious extension, screenwriter Gary Dauberman (Annabelle, Wolves at the Door, the upcoming It) – fuel this preposterous narrative. From letting the girls sleep in a room strewn with doll parts, to routinely creeping up behind them in dark corridors, the couple seem determined to deliver an old-fashioned haunted house experience, rather than a comfortable home.
It's no surprise then that, aside from a couple of imaginatively executed moments, the horror on show here is decidedly rote, with influences from Amityville Horror to Ring on vivid display throughout. All of the usual genre clichés are present: (underexplored) themes of grief and religious fervour, alongside well-worn visual tropes of cutesy kids, animated toys, malevolent shadows and footsteps in the dark. It all points to the fact that, four years after she made her debut in solid series opener The Conjuring, Annabelle has well and truly outstayed her welcome.
General release from Fri 11 Aug.