M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2016 and going through September 30, 2017. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on August 11, 2017! Available On Demand, digital download, & DVD here from Warner Brothers Entertainment!


Directed by David F. Sandberg
Written by Gary Dauberman
Starring Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Miranda Otto, Anthony LaPaglia, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Grace Fulton, Samara Lee, Philippa Coulthard, Joseph Bishara, Kerry O’Malley, Brian Howe, Adam Bartley, Lotta Losten, Brad Greenquist, Tayler Buck, Mark Bramhall, Lou Lou Safran
Find out more about this film here, @AnnabelleMovie, and on Facebook here

Color me surprised that I actually liked ANNABELLE: CREATION quite a bit. Every time I think I’ve had my fill of James Wan’s universe of hauntings, demonic possessions, and things that go bump in the night, another film is released from Blumhouse that actually proves that, next to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s probably one of the tightest and most entertaining connected set of films you’re bound to see in theaters in recent years.

ANNABELLE: CREATION focuses on the makers of the evil doll that starred in ANNABELLE and THE CONJURING were the doll what first shown. Samuel and Esther Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) who suffer a horrible loss when their bright and shining daughter Bee (Samara Lee) dies suddenly. After a lengthy period of grief and recluse, the couple believe that it is time to have the pitter patter of little feet in the home again so they open up their doors to a group of orphans lead by the compassionate Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman). Among the six orphans who arrive at the home are Linda (OUIJA: THE ORIGIN OF EVIL’s Lulu Wilson) and Janice (Talitha Bateman), two best friends who vow to be adopted together. One night, Janice is compelled to go into a room Mr, Mullins has deemed off limits and finds a creepy looking doll locked inside a closet wall papered with bible pages. Janice has no idea of the evil she has unleashed once the doll is free and all souls are on the table to be taken, consumed, and destroyed.

What I feel ANNABELLE: CREATION does well is actually put weight to the scares that have become a trademark to Blumhouse. In typical Blumhouse films, there’s about a scare every five minutes, be they hollow cat-jumping-through-a window scares or real ones, punctuated by a sound burst that causes more of a fight-or-flight response than any kind of weighty scare that actually affects the viewer. So by the end of it, you’re kind of exhausted from jumping and laughing over and over again. ANNABELLE: CREATION doesn’t really do that. This film really does a great job of allowing us the space to get to know these characters, sympathize with them, and then when they are put into peril, the peril is real rather than a simple burst of sound for no reason. With this film, this feels like a maturity to the CONJURING Universe, as there are long moments here that allow the film to breath and settle before the scary starts. I was impressed by the patience of LIGHT’S OUT director David F. Sandberg who really does a fantastic job of showing the scene, allowing the characters to be filled out, and really let the audience get comfy before things go creepy.

This makes the scares all the more potent. By focusing on telling a story and not making teenie-boppers jump and giggle every few seconds, the film pays off after a rather scare free first half hour-forty-five minutes. Sandberg sets up quite a few scenes that pay off big time later on as this house has all kinds of secret closets, dark corners, twisted dollmaking workshops, and a dingy sheds containing a terrifying scarecrow. Because Sandberg introduces these creepy elements in the first half of the film, the scares really hit home in the latter half of the movie when we revisit the creepy dark places after the evil is unleashed.

ANNABELLE: CREATION is a fun film with solid character work from LaPaglia and Otto and some strong performances from its two younger stars (Wilson and Bateman). The film knows how to introduce creepy elements and give them a payoff later. It also manages to nestle in quite nicely into the universe first seen in THE CONJURING and then expanded upon in the less-than thrilling ANNABELLE, all the while managing to connect rather seamlessly with THE CONJURING 2 its upcoming spinoff THE NUN in a surprising and entertaining fashion. There’s even a post-credit sequence confirming that THE NUN is the next offering in this universe. I don’t know what Wan is working towards with all of this. Maybe after AQUAMAN, he’ll return to make his CONJURING style AVENGERS film mixing all of these movies together. There even seems to be some kind of INSIDIOUS tie-ins in ANNABELLE: CREATION as the demon looks an awful lot like the red-faced monster that haunted the nightmares in INSIDIOUS. Whatever Wan has planned with this series, ANNABELLE: CREATION is a surprisingly high-quality, compelling, and potent popcorn scare flick. We don’t get enough of those these days, so when it happens, we should celebrate it.

Click here for the trailer!

THE 2016-2017 COUNTDOWN!

#21 – SPLIT
#23 – 47 METERS DOWN

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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