I know, I know—another Duet. They’re just…so much easier than full-length reviews. However, I just saw a film that undoubtedly warrants a lengthier review (and you can probably guess the film), so expect that sometime next week. In the meantime, I saw two thoroughly mediocre horror films because I am apparently a glutton for punishment. One is currently in theaters, and the other came out on DVD not too long ago. So let’s discuss sing a little duet, shall we?
Synopsis: “A couple begin to experience terrifying supernatural occurrences involving a vintage doll shortly after their home is invaded by satanic cultists.” –www.imdb.com
The High Notes:
- The title doll herself, Annabelle. Let’s face it—vintage toys are creepy as all get out. Annabelle is the queen of these terrifying toys. Seriously, I don’t think there has ever been such a scary doll in the long history of scary dolls.
- The clever little nods to Rosemary’s Baby. The two lead characters, Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) have the same names as the lead actors in the classic horror film. Plus, the film focuses on pregnancy/a baby, and there’s a stroller that looks a lot like in Rosemary’s Baby. It’s pretty nifty.
- There are some pretty decent scares. I can think of one sequence of events in particular involving a faulty elevator and a staircase. It’s pretty freaky.
The Low Notes:
- The lead actors are not great. Try as they might, there is just zero chemistry between Wallis and Horton. Plus, the characters are just boring and predictable and not easy to care about. It’s not that I didn’t like them—they just have no personalities. The film relies too much on Mia’s pregnancy and, later, the risk to the couple’s baby to make them sympathetic. But I might also feel this way because of…
- The writing. At this point, I think most of you who have been around here awhile know how important good dialogue is to me. This dialogue is not good. It’s stiff and unrealistic, so maybe that’s part of the reason the actors struggle to bring life to these characters. Plus, the whole story is…blah. But the worst part is…
- The ending. UGH this ending. It’s just bad. Rushed, predictable, and a terrible treatment of the most likable and interesting character in the whole movie, Evelyn (Alfre Woodard). Annabelle could’ve been significantly better if the ending had been different.
The Staccato Version: Another bland horror film here. It’s a shame that The Conjuring—the best horror film of last year, in my opinion—had to inspire something that could’ve been so much better. It has some decent scares in it, sure, and that doll is probably one of the scariest things you’ll see all year, but Annabelle simply doesn’t measure up. Too bad, so sad.
My Grade: C
Synopsis: “A newsteam trails a man as he travels to an undisclosed location to find his missing sister. Upon entering ‘Eden Parish’ and meeting the community’s leader, it becomes apparent to the newcomers that this paradise may not be as it seems.” –www.imdb.com
The High Notes:
- Gene Jones as Father. He is by far the best—and creepiest—thing about this movie. He’s so confident, so sure of his own righteousness, and he’s surrounded himself with people brainwashed into thinking he is God’s gift to humanity. A thoroughly unsettling, yet weirdly charismatic character.
- The premise. It’s just really fascinating…in a severely twisted way. Apparently it’s loosely based on the Jonestown Massacre, which, if you haven’t heard of, I urge you to Google with caution. It’s pretty horrific.
- The atmosphere. On the surface it’s all sunshine and smiling faces, but there’s clearly some unsettling, messed up stuff going on underneath that façade. This is portrayed really well.
The Low Notes:
- The slow beginning. Until we meet Father, not a lot happens. There are a few tense moments and clearly some strange things going on beneath the too-perfect surface, but not enough to really hook you until Father shows up. And after that we have the opposite problem when…
- Things escalate really quickly, leading to a pretty dissatisfying ending. Nothing happens, and then all of the sudden a million things are happening at once. The ending, though horrifying, is also somewhat predictable and disappointing. I guess there’s something to be said if they’re clearly inspired by Jonestown, but ultimately the problem is…
- I just want to know more about Eden Parish. Who are these people really? How the hell did Father convince them to come here? Who is Father, for that matter? How was he able to set all this up? How does he brainwash them? A little bit of mystery is good, but when there are more questions than answers, it’s problematic.
The Staccato Version: The Sacrament kind of makes me think of As Above, So Below in that there are some really cool things going on at its core, but the execution as a whole is something of a letdown. Not a bad film—just not as good as it could’ve and/or should’ve been. If you’re a horror fan and you’re curious about it, that might warrant a rental. Just don’t expect the best thing ever. Also, be warned: it is another found-footage film. I’m okay with that, but I know a lot of people who probably wouldn’t be.
My Grade: C+