Annabelle: Creation (2017) [Blu-ray]

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2017-10-25 00:47

Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Studio: WB Home Video
Release date: October 24th, 2017

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)

The movie:

Note: This a review of a Blu-ray copy provided by WB. click here for my full theatrical review from earlier this year.

Few filmmakers can boast a horror franchise to their name, and even fewer can boast several, which makes me wonder if we’re somehow not appreciating James Wan enough. Any filmmaker would be (rightfully) revered for kick-starting any of the franchises he’s helmed, as Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring have each become embedded in pop culture. The latter, however, has been a particularly ambitious project, one that hasn’t content to spawn a mere franchise but an entire cinematic universe, a concept that has been largely unexplored in the realm of horror outside of the Universal classics and Toho Studios.

As such, it’s hard not to be excited about the prospect, especially since Wan has remained onboard as a producer of the spin-off films. It helps, too, that this venture has shown a bit of promise, at least if you count Annabelle: Creation as a sort of mulligan for the doll’s first solo outing. Where that first film can best be described as a serviceable bit of brand extension, this follow-up feels like a much more assured thrill ride that more than earns its place in this burgeoning universe.

Granted, it is fair to say that this further origin story (which takes the audience all the way back to Annabelle’s literal creation) hews a bit too closely to The Conjuring formula, even if that’s not an altogether terrible aim. After so many of these things (including director David F. Sandberg’s own Lights Out), fatigue is naturally setting in, creating a bit of an uphill battle for something like Creation. It’s a testament to Sandberg’s chops, then, that it mostly overcomes that sense of familiarity: Creation is a damn fun entry with potent, meticulously crafted scares underpinned by genuinely affecting character work. Sandberg has obviously paid close attention to both aspects of Wan’s work, as he’s done an admirable job replicating his mentor’s work, to the point that Creation feels like Diet Wan.

For the most part, this is fine since it results in some terrific sequences involving the usual assortment of haunted house parlor tricks: suspenseful tracking shots, devious mise en scene manipulation, and loads of killer imagery, including one very cool scarecrow that I wouldn’t mind seeing in its own film. In the process, Sandberg doesn’t lose sight of the characters—the group of girls, their nun protector, and the two grieving parents who have taken them in—nor does he forget to lay the groundwork for further entries in this universe. If nothing else, Creation is a fully functioning cog in a franchise machine that shows no signs of slowing down.

I know that might sound like a backhanded compliment to some, but I can’t help but welcome The Conjuring universe with open arms. Franchises were my gateway drug into horror fandom, and, as someone who has barely batted an eye at certain titles being run into the ground, I’m in no position to really dismiss this one. Here’s hoping future entries do venture out and do a bit more of their own thing, though.

The disc:

Even though Creation was only released a few months ago, I’ve been eager to revisit it in the comfort of my own home since the audience at my screening acted like a bunch of damn fools during the entire thing. While that might reflect well on its effectiveness, it didn’t exactly make for an ideal viewing experience. Luckily, it fares just as well (if not better, now that I can actually hear the movie during quiet moments) at home, especially since the disc features a nice assortment of extras. Sandberg is involved throughout, appearing on a feature commentary track and a 45-minute behind-the-scenes feature on directing the film. The latter has a personal, almost handcrafted quality to it, as it features Sandberg addressing the audience, explaining that he wants to capture the process of directing a film. It’s full of fly-on-the-wall footage of the film’s production, with Sandberg narrating the nuts-and-bolts aspects along the way. Per the director himself, it’s meant to act as a practical look at what seems like a mystifying process until one actually observes it. Aspiring filmmakers should glean some solid advice and information from it.

Sandberg also appears in “The Conjuring Universe,” a fluffier, 4-minute piece hyping this shared universe concept. Wan himself actually anchors most of the feature, and his enthusiasm about the project is positively infectious: if this is any indication, we can expect much more from this franchise. Viewers will also catch a brief glimpse of The Nun, the next entry in this franchise due next year. A 12-minute reel of deleted scenes also appears, with Sandberg explaining why each scene (or in the case of Stephanie Sigman’s Sister Charlotte, entire subplots) was cut. Most were cut to alleviate the already lengthy runtime, but some of the horror gags here are quite well done even in a vacuum.

Finally, the film’s trailer and a pair of Sandberg’s short films (clocking in at 3 minutes apiece) round out a pretty solid release thanks to Sandberg’s involvement. It’s clear that both he and Wan are truly committed to this project, and I love that these guys have conspired to make horror a huge priority at New Line, a studio label whose early success absolutely hinged on this genre. Indeed, The House that Freddy Built may be returning to its roots in a big way, and it’s one of my favorite developments in recent years—especially if Wan can convince them to resurrect Freddy himself. A man can dream, right?
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