October 9, 2014
Annabelle (**) • R
The pre-credits sequence from last year’s surprise horror hit The Conjuring had all the earmarks of what looked to be a good feature film idea, should the filmmakers choose to expand it. That sequence, actually more chilling than anything else in The Conjuring, dealt with a terrorizing demonic doll going by the moniker of Annabelle. And now with the success of The Conjuring we finally have the feature film version of Annabelle, which certainly makes a textbook case for less being more.
If warmed over, half-baked horror clichés are your thing then the film is certain to be your cup of tea. When I say cliché, that should be with a capital C. It’s all over the film, all the way down to the fact that the film is set during the heady days following the Manson family murders in the summer of 1969, as if there’s some correlation between the purported connection of Manson to satanism and the ceramic doll known as Annabelle. Puhleeeezz!
The main character in this hum-drum horror mishmash is Mia (Annabelle Wallis, and you can bet that character name is a reference to Rosemary’s Baby actress Mia Farrow.
How Clever!). Mia has just given birth to a baby girl named Leah and is quickly diagnosed with postpartum depression in spite of the fact that I’m pretty sure that precise terminology was not known in 1969, but I digress.
At any rate, Mia is married to medical student John (Ward Horton). John’s idea of shaking Mia out of her postpartum baby blues is to purchase wide-grinning ceramic doll Annabelle, since Mia seems to have some sort of thing for creepy looking dolls. It isn’t long before the young couple’s elderly neighbors are murdered by what is apparently a satanic cult. Of course, those pesky home invaders with their inside connection to Satan make the mistake of leaving behind a demon of some sort, which eventually makes it way into the form of Annabelle. Or so we’re supposed to believe.
Mia eventually befriends the owner of a local occult bookstore, Evelyn (Alfre Woodard, who definitely makes one wonder what she’s doing in a film of this low caliber). Evelyn’s character is written into the script for one reason and that’s so she can educate Mia about what’s really going on since Mia seems to be so ridiculously clueless. You know it’s all going to be downhill from there and that’s exactly where it goes.
The basic problem with Annabelle is a simple one. It just isn’t scary enough, often enough. There are maybe a good three or four effective scenes and that’s about it. Though I had problems with The Conjuring, especially in its final section, it’s a more superior and effective film than Annabelle.
That’s really too bad because the framework for a good film was there for Annabelle. The trouble, however, is that somewhere between scripting and execution it was lost. A good example of what happens when studios rush to cash in on the latest craze: a film that’s likely to please few discerning horror fans.
Gone Girl (*** ½) • R
It must be said that on its own terms, director David Fincher’s rousing film Gone Girl is one of the best movies you’re likely to see this year. Forget about the source material it’s based on, as a movie of its own accord it’s an astoundingly entertaining film. It also doesn’t hurt matters that Fincher’s film is also a fine example of how to adapt a beloved novel without sacrificing any of the ingredients that made the novel so successful. I dare say that some of the elements that made Gillian Flynn’s novel so entrancing in their literary incarnation work even better in their cinematic context. The film is that good. It’s filmmaking of the highest order and a sure-fire movie high that so many of those who love film have been starving for far too long this calendar year. The wait is over and Gone Girl is the cure.
In case you haven’t heard, Gone Girl is a densely plotted piece of work with an unconventional twist making it extremely difficult to recap the film’s basic story without giving too much away.
Pike (postser) & Affleck in Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn adapted her own best-selling work for the screen and has done an extraordinary job of keeping the book’s delicate balance of twisty plot turns and razor sharp observations on the state of married life in the 21st century intact. Who would have known that Flynn’s novel had so much cinematic potential?
Ben Affleck stars as Nick Dunne. Nick is a former NYC writer who finds himself unemployed as a result of the downsizing of print journalism in the mid 2000s. He chances to meet Amy (Rosamund Pike) who as a child was the subject of a series of children’s books. Their fairy tale romance and five year marriage is recounted via Amy’s voiceover as we hear her reciting passages from her diary. This is intercut with a separate story involving Amy’s disappearance and presumed murder at the hands of her husband, Nick, although he steadfastly proclaims his innocence. And that’s not all folks, not even by a longshot. To reveal anymore would only spoil the film’s multiple surprises—and there are many.
The casting here is impeccable, from lead actors Affleck and Pike all the way down to the casting of Tyler Perry in the role of Nick’s attorney and everyone in between. The film is also aided immeasurably by Fincher’s usual choice of technical co-conspirators that he chooses to employ steadily in the production of his films. These include Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (music), Kirk Baxter (editing) and Jeff Cronenweth (cinematography). Their contributions only serve to heighten what is certain to be one of the seminal moviegoing experiences this year. See it and you’ll know whatI mean.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at email@example.com.