Horror movies are not immune to the franchise game, but rarely, if ever, has a studio managed to achieve a shared successful cinematic universe in this genre before. It appears as though that might be coming to an end if 2017's Annabelle: Creation is any guide, with the title working as both a prequel (Annabelle) and spinoff (The Conjuring) while becoming something entirely new.
Directed by David F. Sandberg, this installment brings Australian filmmaker James Wan back as a producer and from what the critics have said, the dynamics in front and behind the camera operate perfectly. Prior to its official opening on August 11 in the United States, the reviews have backed the 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Better than 2014 as Sandberg Makes the Most of his Budget
Jim Vejvoda at IGN believes the success of this picture lies with the screenplay, offering a simpler storyline that is easier to follow for the audience.
"Annabelle: Creation is a marked improvement over its 2014 predecessor, Annabelle. Although neither film can top the movie that spawned them, James Wan’s The Conjuring, Annabelle: Creation is the rare horror sequel that improves upon the original, featuring more engaging protagonists and a far less problematic ending."
Not given hundreds of millions to play with via CGI effects, Vejvoda is of the opinion that Sandberg is the stand out star.
"Having previously directed Lights Out, Sandberg knows that what’s left to the imagination - and creating an atmosphere of dread - can be just as, if not more, effective... (He) makes good use of this real estate, milking the house’s various attributes - namely, the dumbwaiter and chair lift - for maximum effect in the movie’s more chilling sequences."
Giving a B+ rating at Collider, Perri Nemiroff argues that the freshening up of the cast in this prequel-spinoff pays off.
"I didn’t have the highest expectations for the sequel, Annabelle: Creation, but it turns out this is actually one of those rare sequels that far exceeds the original," he says. "The way Sandberg utilizes the doll is extremely effective, especially during a few very clever stunt scenes that feel reminiscent of The Conjuring but are fresh enough to deliver a fun, unique thrill you don’t see coming... Strong characters are the key, and ones like Janice and Linda have absolutely no trouble supporting a Conjuring franchise movie."
More Mind Bender, Less Stomach Churner
Scott Davis offers a 4/5 star critique for Flickreel, admitting that he did not expect a film that would top its predecessor.
"A strange thing has happened that is a very rare phenomena in Hollywood – a sequel/prequel/spinoff that is better (far, far better) than the original in which it is based," he writes. "There are scares, of course, but they never feel cheap or underwhelming with each one cranking up the stakes and goosebumps... More 1970’s psychological thriller than true, gory fodder Annabelle: Creation continues the fine rehabilitation of the horror/thriller genre that so many have set the standard for. A terrific surprise."
Finally for Ethan Anderton, he enjoyed the pacing of the installment with his 8/10 review at /FILM.
"While Annabelle: Creation is a little slow to start, once strange things start happening around the house, things escalate quickly and simply don’t stop, almost as if writer Gary Dauberman had a rule to scare you every few minutes. It’s shocking how intense, suspenseful and gruesome the scares are in this movie, each more surprising than the last... The most important thing is that this is a suspenseful, scary and superior follow-up to Annabelle, and that’s great news for fans of The Conjuring cinematic universe."