If the thought of a low-rent prequel to James Wan’s The Conjuring helmed by his director of photography holds little excitement, watching Annabelle might surprise you, as John R. Leonetti’s picture is nowhere near as terrible as its shotgun production implies. Ignoring the central implausibility of anyone anywhere ever being happy to own the monstrosity of a doll that causes all the kerfuffle (a doll which actually manages to look even more malevolent than the evil housed within it) and the hilariously clunky links to events depicted in Wan’s film, there’s actually some well-staged, eerie stuff going on.
Horton and Wallis are fine as John and Mia, a handsome, wholesome couple terrorised by spirits following a bloody home-invasion by Manson-ish satanic cult members, and who seek the support of an open-minded neighbour (Woodard) and kindly priest (Amendola – a kind of Aldi-brand F. Murray Abraham). Several sequences hold a great deal of dread – the initial cult attack and a prolonged scene in a basement stand out – while the aptly named Mia’s increasing angst for her un/new-born daughter is one of many aspects that (not entirely unwelcomely) recall Polanski’s masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby. Annabelle is not great, not by a long shot, but it's scary enough to draw anyone looking for a wee fright of an evening.