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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Annabelle movie review: everything that is wrong with movies today

Annabelle red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
A yawningly empty movie, the epitome of brainless, heartless, soulless, shameless cash-grab corporate filmmaking.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): The Conjuring did not demand a prequel
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Did you require a movie about the doll from The Conjuring that was so evil that it had to be kept locked up? You did not. And even if you did, I’m gonna take a wild stab — which is taking a bigger risk than Annabelle ever dares — and presume that you did not require a movie devoid of anything that makes a movie even mildly interesting. Bland nonentities — a young couple (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) about to have a baby — in 1970 Southern California engage in tedious, unrelated, unenlightening exposition until the obviously creepy doll he gave her as a gift starts doing utterly clichéd horror-movie stuff: slamming doors, turning the TV to static, dragging a kindly priest (Tony Amendola) and a Magic Negro (Alfre Woodard: American Violet) into what passes for a narrative, etc. Will gauzy curtains flutter in an ominous breeze? Will a spectral woman float across the background? Will someone say, “I’m not crazy”? Is Satan, Father of Lies, the Prince of Darkness, Grandmaster of All Evil, the Ultimate Adversary once again boring, easily tricked, and 100 percent incapable of surprising us with his doings? Did you guess Yes to all? You must be psychic! This is a yawningly empty movie, the epitome of brainless, heartless, soulless, shameless cash-grab corporate filmmaking. It is a crime that this cynical product, an insult to moviegoers and horror fans, is getting a wide release and the infinitely smarter, scarier, wiser Babadook — which beautifully and spine-chillingly explores in a full, rich way themes and motifs that Annabelle glosses over as unimportant — isn’t. This fact is everything that is wrong with movies today.

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Annabelle (2014) | directed by John R. Leonetti
US/Can release: Oct 03 2014
UK/Ire release: Oct 10 2014

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated UPIU (unnecessary prequel is unnecessary)
MPAA: rated R for intense sequences of disturbing violence and terror
BBFC: rated 15 (strong horror, bloody violence)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • This movie belongs in a time capsule marked “Shit early 21st century Hollywood horror movie.” The most annoying aspect is the intrusive sound design, which denies us the chance to engage with any sort of visual storytelling. One can only assume this is for the benefit of the cretins in the audience who need to be told when to look up from their “smart” phones.

  • Matt Clayton

    I agree completely. Alfre Woodard was the only one who brought class and dignity to the film, and I’d wish the film had been centered around her. The married white bread Catholic couple was bland as all get out. What’s worse is that the movie is no way scary or thrilling.

    I pray James Wan returns to direct “The Conjuring 2.” Not that he hasn’t been guilty of doing cash-ins himself, but after seeing “Annabelle”… this “Conjuring” franchise needs his guiding hand back behind the camera.

  • Anne-Kari

    You know a movie is going to suck when the spin doctors who make trailers can’t hide how bad it is. I saw what, 4 different trailers for this movie? All of them made the movie look just as pointless as your review indicates.

    And thing is, I really LIKE a good horror movie, but they are few and far between. Sigh.

  • I pray there is no *Conjuring 2.*

  • Be on the lookout for *The Babadook,* coming soon…

  • Matt Clayton

    It may be titled something else, but they have Vera & Patrick locked to return, plus a script and release date (October 23, 2015).

    I agree that the ideal scenario would be no more follow-ups though. But what Wan did in “The Conjuring” was really something, and if “Annabelle” is any indication of where WB/New Line is going… they ought to pick better directors or just make more one-and-done movies.

  • The Truth

    Married white bread catholic couple? You have a problem with Catholics? What does their race hafta do with the film, and the article above calling Alfre Woodard a “Magic Negro” I hope the “Negros” read this and will have something to say about that, shame on you!

  • Matt Clayton

    Look, I’m white myself and I have no problem dubbing the “Annabelle” couple as white bread — that’s how bland and interchangeable they are. But their faith plays a large role in the film, the husband works at a Catholic hospital, et al.

    I disagree on MAJ’s comment about Alfre Woodard’s ‘Magical Negro.’ Woodard really added layers and emotion to a fairly standard character (the supportive best friend/psychic medium), and she is so good that I wish she had been the lead character instead of Annabelle Wallis.

  • Bluejay

    “Magical negro” is an accepted literary term that describes a certain black stereotype in film and fiction. The use of the word “negro” intentionally calls attention to the racist use of black characters. MaryAnn is saying that she thinks Alfre Woodard is used in this kind of stereotyped way in the film.


  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Bluejay, I admire your restraint in not linking to the TVTropes page on “magic negro”. :)

  • bronxbee

    i love the wonderful always underrated woodard — she deserves to have a full movie or a long running tv series revolve around her!

  • No, what the *cast* of *The Conjuring* did was really something. It was pretty much the same old crap apart from them.

  • Shame on you for not knowing that “Magic Negro” is a slam on the movie, not on Woodard.

  • Woodard is wonderful. But the character is a Magic Negro.

  • I’m *furious* at this movie for using Woodard this way, and at Hollywood for basically giving an actor of her calibre little option but to accept such a role if she wants to work.

  • Matt Clayton

    While the cast was exceptional, the director played a crucial role. In the hands of a less capable director — with the same cast– it would’ve been a missed opportunity.

  • Directors are important, clearly. But the only thing that elevates this film over other examples in the genre, including the director’s previous work, are the performances.

  • Beowulf

    The “Mammy” or Maid years ago, the “Magic Negro” today.

    Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for rising above the shackles of her role as Mammy in GWTW in 1939. (She gave Rhett as good as she got!)

    I’d have to look it up, but I’ll bet she played a maid in her next film.

  • Beowulf

    Are you talking to me??
    I WAS slamming the movie, arguing that roles for black women (and men) haven’t progressed all that far since the maid and mammy days. Ms. Woodard, is great and a favorite, but she make up the movie around her. She has to take shit like this if she has to work.
    This turd is doing fantastic, let’s see how it holds up for the second weekend in the U.S.

  • Bluejay

    Are you talking to me??

    No, she was replying to “The Truth,” who was replying to Matt Clayton. The order of comments on Disqus is confusing if you select “Sort by Best.” It’s clearer if you select “Sort by Newest.”

  • Bluejay

    And in any case, you can tell who a person is replying to by looking at the username to the right of the arrow, at the beginning of the comment.

  • I wasn’t addressing you.

  • Chris Hagen

    It seems any bit part that a black actor or actress takes can be reduced to a “magical negro”. There are thousands of films where non-negros fill the same basic supporting character / sacrificial role. But when it’s a black person, it’s somehow insulting… would you prefer they didn’t get the role?

  • I would prefer that black actors get to portray a full range of human beings onscreen. This is only an issue because black faces are otherwise almost entirely absent from the screen. Unlike the thousands of films in which white men fill every sort of role available in a film.

  • Chris Hagen

    Nonsense. Any time they add “diversity” to a film, 9/10 it’s a black person – at the expense of all the other non-European and non-African races in the world. I am actually sick of seeing them shoehorned into places they clearly don’t belong (medieval England, playing Norse Gods etc. and other characters who are meant to be white).

  • Danielm80

    And that rebuts MaryAnn’s argument how exactly? Racism in other films doesn’t eliminate the racism in this film. It just points out that the racism is part of a larger problem.

  • Bluejay

    I am actually sick of seeing them shoehorned into places they clearly don’t belong (medieval England

    Read your history.


  • Danielm80

    I’m also going to mention this site (and the companion site medievalpoc.org), just because it’s amazing:


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