It’s okay to see Annabelle: Creation without first seeing Annabelle, but like most prequels, even though it takes place earlier, this one is more satisfying if you’ve seen what came before. The new movie, which is also part of the greater Conjuring franchise, ends with a repeat of events in the 2014 original.
I’m going to let that and anything involving the cast or crew of Creation be givens, especially director David F. Sandberg’s feature debut, Lights Out, and the much better horror prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil, which also featured child actress Lulu Wilson. I also wanted to limit my recommendations this week to only four horror titles. See eight I did pick below.
Maybe it’s just because I’ve been watching this Disney classic lately with my kids, but the opening scene of Creation reminded me of Geppetto at the beginning of Pinocchio carving out his prized puppet. Neither creator knows it at the time, but soon enough they will have to deal with their creation being brought to life, taking the place of a child.
This animated feature is also quite the horror film in various parts. The sequence where Pinocchio’s pal Lampwick turns into a donkey is terrifying no matter how old you are. And Stromboli and Monstro the whale are also frightening adversaries. Carlo Collodi’s story has inspired true horror movies, but that’s always been unnecessary since it’s scary enough as is.
The Bad Seed (1956)
Most of the plot of Creation takes place in 1957, which is 12 years prior to the events of the original Annabelle. That movie owes a lot to Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, which was released the year before its setting, so it’s fitting that the prequel reminds me of this horror movie released the year before its setting.
The Bad Seed is more horrifying than any movie about ghost children or possessed little girls because there’s nothing paranormal at play here. Little Rhoda (Patty McCormack, who was Oscar-nominated for her performance) is just an 8-year-old psychopath who keeps murdering people around her. The ending is disappointing but understandably so for the times.
Polanski clearly influenced the original Annabelle, and I wonder if this early short, made while the director was in film school, informed at least the opening of Creation. Again we’ve got a creator, this time another doll maker, working in his shop. After the man in Lampa leaves, his work also seems to come alive, at least in the form of audible whispers.
The short is less than eight minutes in length, but it packs in a more chilling experience than Creation does with two hours. Lampa is all about the eerie atmosphere of the doll shop, as Polanski compiles close-up shots of the toys and a cuckoo clock and a light bulb (one of the visuals that Creation brought to mind) and a dangerous electricity box that also seems alive.
The Haunting (1963)
The Annabelle movies are almost more haunted house movies than evil doll movies, and the one best true example of the former genre is this classic adaptation of “The Haunting of Hill House” produced and directed by Robert Wise. It features no creepy doll or creepy child but does have a large home inhabited by evil.
Sandberg has cited two influences on Creation and both are of the haunted location variety. One is The Shining, for its music, and the other is this. “In terms of references,” he told Moviefone, “it was visual — a big reference was The Haunting, I love the CinemaScope cinematography in that movie.”
Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977)
Near the end of Creation, young Janice (Tabitha Bateman) is gifted a large Raggedy Ann doll, which is definitely a nod the real Annabelle doll of legend. Read the true story as investigated by Lorraine and Ed Warren on their official website (I was lucky enough to see them present a slideshow of the case when I was a kid and will never forget it). It’s creepier than the fiction.
Raggedy Ann is not just forever creepy because of the Warrens’ story, though. The iconic rag doll and her brother, Raggedy Andy, have starred in a number of cartoon films, but this feature from animation legend Richard Williams is the best and also maybe the worst. Regularly included on lists of the most disturbing movies for kids, it’s full of nightmare-inducing scenes.
Pet Sematary (1989)
While Sandberg admits to being influence by The Shining, I was reminded much more of this other Stephen King adaptation from the ’80s (as well as honorable mention Silver Bullet, if only because of the kid with a physical disability). Just as in Creation, parents in Pet Sematary watch in horror as their only child is lethally hit by a truck. Then the couple wishes for the kid to come back to them, but the resurrection attempt doesn’t quite go as they imagined.
In Creation, a daughter is brought back via a doll (I guess?), while Pet Sematary involves a burial ground where the dead return in evil form. The revived little boy here, Gage (Miko Hughes), is memorable for being so small, similar to the Chucky doll in Child’s Play, which was also inspired by the Annabelle case. He could just creep up and stab your Achilles tendon.
Child’s Play 2 (1990)
I’d actually assumed the Annabelle movies were more focused on the evil doll concept, but neither of the movies have much in the way of the possessed toy running around and murdering people. I prefer my evil doll movies to be more like the Child’s Play series with Chucky the Good Guy doll being inhabited by the transferred soul of a serial killer.
If the first Child’s Play goes best with the first Annabelle, then this lesser-quality yet still enjoyable sequel aligns with Creation. Both movies involve a foster home setting and casts of likable veteran actors mixed with young talents. Child’s Play 2 isn’t quite as scary in tone as Creation, but it sure beats it in terms of murders committed directly by a possessed doll.
Of Dolls and Murder (2012)
John Waters, who appears in one of the Child’s Play movies, narrates this week’s documentary selection. It’s not what it sounds like, which would be a film about real cases of alleged evil dolls. Rather it showcases the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, a series of dollhouse dioramas depicting true murder cases that were used to train detectives in forensics.
The conventional documentary isn’t so artful itself, but it does its job to show and inform of the miniature reenactment models and is somewhat relevant to the dollhouse featured in Creation. And Waters’s voice makes anything worthwhile. Other docs that I recommend are those about the “reborn dolls” phenomena, though they went best with last year’s The Boy.