The Horror Honeys: Satanists, Religion, & a Creepy Big-Eyed Doll...

Satanists, Religion, & a Creepy Big-Eyed Doll...

An Alternate Opinion Review from Guest Honey Chassity

Annabelle (2014)

Last night I went to see Annabelle, a film that I’d been waiting anxiously to see for a while now. But by the time we were heading into the theater, I’ll admit I experienced a few mixed emotions. I’d already seen quite a few negative reviews about the film, and although I am an unapologetic fan of anything James Wan is affiliated with, it was enough to give me pause about whether or not even I could enjoy this movie. 

But those fears proved to be unfounded. Annabelle turned out to be not only enjoyable, but much better than even I could have expected. 

So there’s that. However, I should add that the movie was far from perfect. There were definitely moments that made me think, “I absolute get where some of the bad reviews are coming from.”

So, let me start with those. 

For starters, Annabelle is a film about a possessed doll used by members of a cult to summon up demons and other creatures from the devil’s world. Their ultimate goal is to take over the soul of someone outside the cult, and offer it up to the devil. 

Now, I’ve got to be honest here. The few issues I have with this film stem from this concept, and are influenced by the fact that I grew up in a typical, Southern, Baptist, Christian background. I tend to, as some would say, throw shade at movies automatically when they use the whole devil/cult/religion elements in a horror movie. To me, it feels like such an easy way out (instead of coming up with interesting backstory, just blame it all on cults and “crazy religious zealots”), and these sorts of movies always seem to be made by people who aren’t religious, don’t understand religion, and have a generalized, stereotypical view that all religious people are fanatical and no different from cult members. So, I was ready to dislike this movie automatically based on my expectations from the first scene that took place in the church.  As a religious person, I do not know anyone, myself included, who believes in at least half the things included in this movie. So I was rolling my eyes at the whole, “satanic cult versus religious nuts” concept. 

The other problem with this movie is that there were some moments that were, at best, predictable. There were the typical jump scares, the typical close up shots of the object of impending doom, and about a million other clichés of the genre that most films fall victim to at some point or another. On top of that, the two main characters weren’t all that likable, and it definitely wasn’t easy to connect with them, or root for them. In fact, John and Mia were, at best, boring. 

But here’s the amazing thing: none of that took away from my being able to really, really enjoy the movie. It was still very suspenseful, and there were so many moments where the movie did a great job of building up tension in such a slow and painful way, making me watch the movie between my fingers because you just know something big is about to happen, and it happens so slowly that by the time it does, you’re just aching for it. 

And even though the characters of John and Mia were less than exciting, the one thing they did have going for them was vulnerability. They were about as bland as cauliflower, but they were ultimately good people who were open and vulnerable to the things around them. Unlike most horror movie characters, John believed his wife when she told him about the creepy things she’d witnessed in their home, and Mia doesn’t waste any time trying to pretend it’s all in her head. They both embrace what’s going on, and are quick to seek a solution. 

I have to say that, ironically, being a horror fanatic, in my case, means that by this point there is very little that actually scares me. Call it desensitization, if you must. But this film really surprised me by actually successfully frightening me. There were moments where I actually screamed in the theater. And not just me. My friends that I went to see it with screamed out loud, and so did the people sitting behind and around us. Jump scares aside, Annabelle was truly creepy and the way things happen in the movie really do surprise the viewer and make you both anxious and terrified to see what’s going to happen next. 

One other good thing I can say about this movie is that it truly felt like a throwback to older horror films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. Part of it is due to the time period the film took place, but a lot of it has to do with the way the movie is shot, the way the suspense is built up, and the fact that a ton of its scariest moments seem like an homage to those films and other older horror films. 

Would I recommend Annabelle? Yes. Most great films are great because of their lack of flaws; this one just happens to be worth the watch in spite of them. Before I was even halfway through the movie, I’d forgotten my issue with horror films that use religion, and any of its other flaws. I was just enjoying the ride for what it was.