Welcome to our Killer Dolls series! Creepy dolls are a classic horror movie trope. Whether it’s a supposedly real-life haunted doll, a mannequin, a ventriloquist dummy, or a weird Hostess cupcakes commercial, they’re all terrifying residents of the Uncanny Valley. But some dolls aren’t just creepy—they’re killers.
Today, we enter a chapter from the Conjuring-verse. Based on a supposedly real possessed doll, we plod through 90 minutes of repetitive jumpscares, pointless scenes, and Christian propaganda (aka every Conjuring-verse movie). Enjoy this bland tale about a doll that is haunted, but isn’t, but is.
Plot / Commentary
The film begins with a scroll: “Since the beginning of civilization, dolls have been beloved by children, cherished by collectors and used in religious rites as conduits for good and evil.”
What’s truly evil is the absence of an Oxford comma in that sentence.
The opening scene is the same one from the first Conjuring movie, which introduced Annabelle. OMG. You thought you were seeing one movie before but in fact you were watching 2 movies at once! Doesn’t that blow your mind???
Be prepared for a theme in this commentary: the Conjuring-verse annoys me. Deeply.
What’s the Conjuring-verse? Ho boy. Pull up a chair, my sweet summer child.
The Conjuring-verse is a series of overlapping scary—ahem, “scary”—movies based on the true—ahem, “true”—chronicles of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Ed and Lorraine Warren were a pair of flimflam machines—ahem, I mean “paranormal investigators” who ran around in the 60s-80s finding ghosts and demonic activity every which way they looked. They came to national prominence via the total bullshit “true story” that was The Amityville Horror book and films.
This “verse” kicked off in 2013 with The Conjuring, starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as the Warrens. Totally ripping off the Marvel-style overlapping cinematic universe, the series proceeded to grow with inter-connected spinoffs like The Nun, La Llorana, and, of course, Annabelle.
Themes of the series include: vintage settings; Catholicism is the One Twue Religion (but the writers don’t actually know how Catholicism works); Ed and Lorraine Warren = Best Couple Ever / Catholic superheroes and totally not deluded con-artists; women be evil bitches + witches; jumpscares = the only way to scare someone; and rules about ghosts/demons that never make any sense.
This film, Annabelle, was the first Conjuring-verse spin-off. They slapped it together and put it out a year after the first Conjuring movie, so I guess I understand being lazy and replaying the exact same opening scene.
There are two lady roommates being haunted by a creepy-as-hell doll named Annabelle. There’s also a guy in the scene who just sits there with no lines. I always found that funny when watching The Conjuring. Who is this guy? Is he a roommate? Is he a boyfriend? Maybe he’s a demon or an emotional support ghost. It’s the Conjuring-verse, he could be anything and nothing.
One of the roommates explains that the doll was a birthday gift from her mom. Um. Does your mom, like, hate you or something? Because this isn’t so much a birthday gift as it is an ominous threat.
After the doll arrives, creepy happenings befell the roommates. So they called a medium. The medium told them that the doll is haunted by an innocent ghost girl named Annabelle Higgins. Little Annabelle Higgins is lonely, and wants permission to “move” into the doll. Nope! Sorry little Annabelle! Our lease doesn’t allow any ghost tenants. Go into the light or whatever, but most importantly: GTFO my apartment.
Alas, the roommates say, “Yeah, sure!”
OMG and somehow things got worse! Who saw that coming?
So this is where the Warrens step in with all their expert knowledge—ahem, “expert” “knowledge.”
They explain that there is no “Annabelle.” The doll is not haunted by a ghost. Because ghosts are human spirits tied to places, but inhuman spirits (aka demons) can attach to objects. THe demon has tricked the roommates into giving it permission to invade their lives. Unlike ghosts which can be avoided, demons attach to people and will terrorize you wherever you go.
Why am I telling you these rules? Because as per a main theme of the Conjuring-verse, these rules will make no sense as the plot unfolds.
The roommates are shocked. “All she wanted was to be friends…”
More like friends to the end, muahahahaha.
Okay, a couple of questions:
1) If the doll isn’t haunted, WHY are there 4 movies all about how this doll is haunted?
2) If mediums like Lorraine Warren are supposed to be legit in this world—ahem, “legit” “like” Lorraine Warren, how did the medium get this so wrong?
3) Spoiler: The Warrens also get this wrong—there really is / was an Annabelle Higgins. How? Why?
It’s almost like none of this makes sense because it’s born from a married pair of flimflam machines!
Oh, look, it’s time for the actual movie to start!
The camera zooms in on the big-eyed, evil-smiling face of Annabelle. Then it pulls back to reveal a much nicer-looking Annabelle, or at least looking less like she fell into Satan’s garbage disposal.
The movies should have kept this less-outright threatening Annabelle design. Because the “fully formed” evil Annabelle doll design is so over the top. It’s not as creepy as Fats in Magic, but there’s no way people would want it anywhere near them. But the Conjuring-verse creators did have to re-design the doll from scratch. The actual—ahem, “actual”–Annabelle doll was/is a Raggedy Ann doll. And honestly, how did that not discredit the Warrens immediately?
But this also connects to one of the reasons I find this series stupid. Based on the Conjuring-verse’s own rules, Annabelle the doll can never be a character. Unlike Fats or Chucky, Annabelle never speaks and never moves on her own. She is not an entity. Some demon is the culprit, and that thing doesn’t have any personality either.
Anyway, on with the movie. We’re at a Catholic church in Santa Monica in the year 196*cough cough*. Remember: Conjuring-verse films always takes place in the yesteryears before stuff like fact-checking.
Tony Amendola is here, playing the congregation’s priest, Father Perez. He’s giving a sermon on the divine imperative of sacrificing oneself for the greater good. That’s right, it’s Chekov’s Speech on Sacrifice right at the start.
During the service, a younger couple and an older couple sit together. The woman of the younger pair is pregnant. The younger couple are our protagonists for this supernatural romp, the Gordons (Mia and John). The older couple are their sweet next door neighbors, the Higgins (their first names aren’t going to matter 10 minutes from now).
Some trivia: Mia Gordon is, ironically, played by actress Annabell Wallis.
After the service, Mrs. Higgins prays at a niche of candles, the movie code for “I’m having a MOMENT.” But Mia Gordon approaches her regardless. Mrs. Higgins comments re: her husband, “I swear, he thinks that one day I’ll just run off too.”
Oooof… Okay clearly there are some Issues afoot….
The Gordons and Higgins head home together. On the way, they chitchat about the Gordons’ imminent baby. Once the Higgins head to their home next door, Mia warns John that they shouldn’t talk about the baby in front of the Higgins. Why? Because they lost their daughter. Oh, awkward… Oh, wait, let me check my notes…. Oh, the daughter isn’t dead, as that obviously implies. Nor is the daughter a child as that implies, nor is this a recent development. The adult daughter purportedly ran away to join the hippies. John speculates, “She probably has three husbands by now and calls herself Star.” Well damn, that’s not tragic—sounds like she’s living the life.
As the Gordons arrive home, Mia notes with alarm that John didn’t lock the door. He’s all, “Meh, why do that?”
Cut to a news broadcast on the recent Manson family murders. Ah. I see we have arrived at the “why” of the “why do that.”
Seeing what’s being broadcast, John lectures Mia about what TV she’s watching. Because welcome to the yesteryears. John cites new research about how babies in-utero can experience more of the outside world than we think.
Okay, so what? Little baby Gordon will just be a true crime nerd like their mama!
Turns out, John’s studying for med school. Oh, the 60s: when you’re not even a doctor yet, but you can still afford a house in the suburbs.
John observes aloud how he’s about to go through “an unideal situation.” You know, the trials and tribulations of being a doctor and a father while his wife bears a baby for 9 months and raises the child alone while daddy works. So unideal. For him.
Mia is having none of it. Good for Mia.
But John charms her into forgiving him (or so the script insists). They try to be cutesy and lovey together. Emphasis on “try.”
Here’s the thing about the Conjuring-verse: the chemistry between Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as a married couple is a miracle of happenstance. They are the only thing that works in these movies. And this script is trying to just plop that miracle into another pair of actors. It just doesn’t work.
John announces that he has a surprise for Mia.
She waits in the nursery while he fetches it. She plays with the crib’s mobile, which plays a tune that I’m sure won’t be used nefariously later.
John brings in a box. What’s in the box? OH, JUST A SCARY DOLL.
It’s the nicer-looking original “Annabelle” doll (which actually doesn’t have an official name, because I guess the ghost Annabelle Higgins isn’t the doll, but it is and—this is so annoying).
Somehow, Mia is delighted about this gift—ahem, “gift.” What the film doesn’t reveal until the very end (for no good reason) is that this doll is a collector’s item. Hence why Mia doesn’t get furious at John over this terrible gift. Okay, sure. I mean even sets of Garbage Pail Kids cards have value. To someone. Somewhere.
The nursery is already populated with other dolls from this collection. And ya know what? Each and every single of them is ugly as sin. They are not cute. They are not pretty or delicate. They just look hideous. Is the goal to give your baby nightmares to build character or something?
Later that night, the Gordons sleep peacefully while an ominous wind blows through their bedroom window. Through the window, we see into the Higgins’ bedroom. Okay, nope. You gotta change bedrooms. Your bedrooms are close enough that you can fully experience each other “making whoopie.”
The Higgins’ bedroom light turns on. In silence, we see them sit up in bed, startled by a noise. Mr. Higgins gets up to investigate and Mrs. Higgins grabs a phone.
Jumpscare time! The silence is shattered as the score’s violins screech. Blood spatters onto the Higgins’ bedroom wall. Mrs. Higgins gives a muted scream as a man emerges from out of frame, attacking her with a knife. In the struggle, the bedroom light goes out.
PSA: for your own health, do not drink for jumpscares in Conjuring-verse films. You won’t just die, you’ll kill yourself and pickle yourself. But hey, you might actually get scared!
Mia sits up in bed, as if she senses something. Like, maybe the people next door are being brutally murdered. But next door, she sees only darkness.
She wakes up John, saying that she heard a scream next door. They should call the police. But savvy John waves her off. All you heard was a scream in the middle of the night from our elderly neighbors. Why call the police? No, clearly we should investigate this ourselves, my 8 months pregnant wife!
John heads to the Higgins’ to check it out. Mia watches from their front porch, rather than staying inside and locking the door. Remember: she complained about locking the door to prevent murderers mere hours ago.
The Higgins’ house is dark and silent. As the silence and stillness stretches, Mia reluctantly starts to approach the Higgins’ house.
Then HOLY SHIT THE VIOLINS ARE BACK.
John bursts out of the house, covered in blood. He orders Mia to go call an ambulance. Then he returns into the Higgins House O’ Death.
Mia runs back into the house (pretty darn well for a very pregnant person) and gets to the phone, calling 911. A rarity in a horror movie, Mia successfully calls for help—although she’s unaware that she’s the one who’s gonna need it, and fast. As the operator answers, we see a figure lurking in the house behind her. Mia hangs up on the 911 operator (PSA: never do this, especially when murderers are lurking about). She turns and sees a strange woman emerging from the nursery, holding the Annabelle doll. It’s already time for the Conjuring-verse “women be evil bitches + witches” theme!
“I like your doll,” the woman says in a creepy voice. Really? Well, you two ladies are probably the only ones on the planet who do!
Mia warns that her husband will be back soon. I can never understand giving that as a warning to a crazed killer. You’re promising that their body count could be even higher if they just wait around for a few minutes.
Mia is approached from behind by the now-bloody man who attacked the Higgins. For ONCE, the violins chill the fuck out and stay quiet. This, just letting the tension build on its own, is much more effective. It brings you into the moment. Real life, real home invasions, real murder don’t come with a professional orchestra going OOGA BOOGA.
The man (who I don’t think ever gets a name) stabs Mia.
Suddenly, John’s back. He grapples with the man. The knife falls to the floor. Mia lies prone on the floor. The strange woman shrieks and attacks, grabbing the knife.
But John continues to basically be Batman for this scene. He grapples with the woman, throwing her against a wall. The bloody man jumps up, grabs some scissors, and stabs John. They fight on the floor while the woman regains her senses, gets up, and flees into the nursery with the knife.
The police bust in. Mia watches the fallout in a daze. The police shoot the male intruder.
John, injured but alive, runs to Mia’s side. Paramedics arrive and attend to Mia. The police kick open the nursery door. Mia sees the woman intruder, dead in the nursery with Annabelle in her lap. She has cut her throat and written on the wall in her own blood.
We get a close up. The woman’s blood drips onto Annabelle’s cheek, and is absorbed by the doll.
WOW! Now we’ve seen two great short films that are only tangentially related to the actual plot of the movie. I hope you love cheap jumpscares and get bored by action, ‘cause here we go!
There’s a montage of media coverage on the incident. The Higgins are dead, but the Gordons (even unborn little Gordon) are okay. The intruders were the Higgins’ wayward daughter and the man is…some guy. I dub thee “Husband #3,” as per John’s earlier suggestion.
Oh, and the Higgins’ daughter’s name? ANNABELLE. As in ANNABELLE HIGGINS, whom the Warrens promised didn’t exist.
It’s all comin’ together!
…spoiler: no, not remotely.
Sometime kinda-sorta later, Mia gets an ultrasound exam. John’s there by her side, which is supposed to make him look supportive. However, I am choosing to believe that John just sees this as a great studying opportunity.
Mia and unborn-unnamed Gordan are all right, miraculously. But the doctor recommends that Mia be on strict bed rest to avoid any additional stress on the pregnancy. How’s that for “unideal,” John?
The couple arrive back at the house—which they are somehow still living in. Mia emphasizes that the house has to remain locked. Well no shit!
John assures her that the nursery has been well-cleaned since a violent murderer bloodily killed herself in it. Mia is not assured. Yeah, ya can’t clean the stain of unimaginable horror out with elbow grease and Mr. Clean, John.
The couple prep for Mia’s prolonged bed rest. John brings the TV and Mia’s sewing supplies to the bedroom. Oh yeah, it can be like her own little sweatshop! So helpful, John. As always.
Yeah, okay, according to the script, John is doing everything right. He’s a damn hero, in fact. But I do not like him. The actor is more wooden than the doll.
Later that night, we see the crib’s mobile mysteriously playing by itself. Then the sewing machine starts whirring by itself as well. These noises are enough to wake up the Gordons, who are very much done with being woken up by noises in the middle of the night. John goes to investigate.
John finds the sewing machine running. He tries to turn it off, but the machine is too baffling for him, so he just unplugs it.
He sees that the nursery door is open. He tries to close it, but the door is too baffling for him as well. Ah, it’s stuck on something. The Annabelle doll is sitting in the door.
Nope. Time to leave. It was a nice house, but now it must be killed with fire.
John puts Annabelle in the nursery’s rocking chair. The weight of setting the doll in the chair causes it to rock. Great, John, that’s MUCH creepier. Just put the doll back on the shelf—or burn it. I vote burn it.
The next day, Mia is watching TV. The TV starts to go to static, so she hits it. Girl! You need to be on that TV’s good side if you’re struck with nowhere to go for a few months. Take it from us in the COVID times!
Mia hears a strange sound from the nursery. She looks in, seeing the rocking chair moving with Annabelle in it. See what you’ve done, John? The rocking gradually stops, and Mia closes the door. The scene ends, utterly inconsequential.
Are you seeing a pattern develop yet, audience? If not, don’t worry, it’ll repeat another 32 times before the movie ends.
That evening, John is excited because he expects to be matched to a particular hospital in Pasadena soon. See, I can’t fathom this: he’s not even into his residency yet, she doesn’t work, but they own a house in Santa Monica. What has HAPPENED to our economy?!
Alas, John will have to go to a conference in Sacramento to improve his chances of getting the residency. Mia assures him that she’ll be fine. Yeah, aside from the ongoing trauma, being stuck on bed rest, and the obviously haunted-as-fuck nursery. What could go wrong?
John also mentions that a detective will be coming by to go over the horrific crime they survived. Good thing Mia’s pregnancy isn’t at risk due to, again, that very same horrific crime. Otherwise, being interviewed by a detective about it would be a terrible idea!
As if to say, “don’t go 90 seconds without remembering me!”, the nursery door opens by itself to reveal Annabelle in the rocking chair again.
Fully Over It, Mia declares that the doll has to go. Good idea! How about all your creepy dolls? John says, “Consider it gone.” Okay, get rid of it now. Throw it out the window! Push it down the garbage disposal!
Later, John throws Annabelle out with the trash. Such an amateur move when dealing with a haunted doll. That thing will stay in the trash about as long as Epstein stayed alive in jail.
Later, Detective Clarkin from the police department of *cough cough* sits down with the Gordons. He provides almost no new or important information. Oh, except that human Annabelle and Husband #3 were in a Satanic cult. Yep, if it’s a cult, it must be Satanic.
Never mind that the Satanic Panic was hogwash pushed by the Christian establishment. Never mind that the most dangerous cults ever (Solar Temple, Peoples Temple, Children of God) were Christian, at least in their veneer. Yep, put that aside for the Conjuring-verse. In the world of the Warrens, the devil is always the problem, Catholicism is always the answer. Oh and, according to the Warrens, since they’re always finding/solving these problems, they should make bank.
For no real reason, Detective Clarkin promises that he’ll dig a little deeper into this whole cult thing and update the Gordons if he finds anything. Uh, why? He came to them. Didn’t Detective Clarkin come over to ask questions? Wasn’t that the entire reason he came over? Oh, that just never comes up? Okay, script.
Mia isn’t keen on learning even more about the stuff that has traumatized her, almost killed her, and threatened her pregnancy. She tells the detective that unless they’re in danger, they don’t need to be informed about even more horrible things.
Later that night, Mia’s getting settled into bed. John goes to make popcorn. Uh oh, not Jiffypop!
Before he can get started, John sees that Mia is fast asleep. He abandons the popcorn on the stovetop. Can we see where this is going? Grr, I HATE John!
The next morning, John goes off to his conference. Good. The less of him, the better.
Later, Mia is a very bad girl, sitting up longer than she should be and working on the sewing machine. Aw yeah, you endanger that pregnancy to make doilies or whatever, you dirty housewife.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, all of the stovetops are mysteriously turned on—including the one with the abandoned popcorn. That’s just overkill, Annabelle / demon / whatever you are!
The popcorn pops loudly as a warning, but with the sewing machine going, Mia can’t hear it. Suddenly, the popcorn explodes into flame. And the odor of burnt popcorn can never be ignored, so now the fire has Mia’s attention! The kitchen is going up in flames, smoke quickly fills the house. Mia is overcome by the smoke and collapses. She tries to get up, but some thing growls and pulls her back down.
Wow! How tense!
Too bad the scene’s already over! Neighbors come to Mia’s aid within seconds. Um, where were these heroic neighbors when the Higgins got killed? Did Mrs. Higgins hoard her best casserole recipes? Did Mr. Higgins mow the lawn at 7am on Saturdays?
We cut to John running through a hospital, rushing to Mia’s bedside. He apologizes for not being there. That’s not even the start of what you should be apologizing for, John!
But hoo-ray, little baby Gordon has arrived! Cool, little baby, you were brought into the world as a direct result of your daddy’s negligence and a demon’s mischief. Yeah, your future is a bright one.
Also, the new baby is named Leah. Yep, mom and baby’s names rhyme. Yep, that annoys me to no end.
Mia tries to talk to John about the fire, but he says all that matters is that she and the baby are fine. UM, no, John. There are in fact other things that matter. Like your house being infected by a frickin’ demon!
Mia is right there with us. She insists that the house is cursed. She and the baby aren’t going back there. John just immediately says, “You don’t have to. Ever.”
Oh, well that was easy. As in impossibly easy. Not even the script’s Perfect John can be this perfect. “Yeah honey, you can just stay here in the hospital while I start my residency, sell our house, find a new house, and move all our shit. Because the house is ‘cursed.’”
But nope, they did it. The next we see, bippity-boppity-boo, the Gordons have moved into an apartment in Pasadena. The dolls that aren’t Annabelle but still very creepy / ugly have come with them. Yeah, I’m gonna have to call that a mistake.
The apartment is, again, absurdly luxurious for one medical resident to be providing for. The one flaw is that the walls are thin. Traaaaagic….
John, Mia, and new baby Leah go to Mass, all the way back at their original church in Santa Monica. Father Perez (whom it seems we met a lifetime ago) welcomes the new baby and praises Mia, declaring, “Mothers are closest to God, for only they serve in God’s creative miracle.”
Oh cool, so women can be priests then? …Hello? Anyone there?
Father Perez confides to Mia his grief over the Higgins’ murders. Mia isn’t super interested in having that conversation, seeing as how she got a front row seat to that atrocity. And hey, maybe someone could ask how she’s doing what with the being stabbed, surviving a fire, and giving birth to a human in just a few short months.
We cut to Mia unpacking even more creepy dolls. Mia, you gotta let this go. How about something semi-cute, like those little troll dolls?
In the very last box… Mia unearths Annabelle. Wow, who saw that coming?
…can you hear my eyes rolling through the print, Dear Reader?
John enters with little Leah and is immediately like “I threw that abomination out, WTF!”
But Mia just looks at Annabelle admiringly, even though the trip through to the garbage can has left her looking much worse for wear. Um, that is not the proper reaction. The appropriate reaction is screaming and throwing that doll out your 20th story window ASAP. Or yelling at John, that would be good too.
But no, Mia wants to hang onto this monstrosity in lace for…reasons that are never explained. Annabelle once again gets a prominent spot on the nursery shelf, rightful Queen of the Creepy Dolls. Okay, well, everything that happens from here on is officially your fault, Mia. I’d love to blame John, but this is on you.
Later, Mia snoozes in front of the TV. Suddenly the TV goes static and turns off. The terror!
Suddenly, the ghost of Annabelle Higgins stalks into the nursery and leans over Leah’s crib. Leah is awoken and cries, waking up Mia.
…and that’s it. That was the scene. Wasn’t that something?
Okay… If the doll is infested by a demon and ghosts are tied to places but not people, what is the ghost of Annabelle Higgins doing here? Does it have something to do with the blood from the first scene? No idea, because that’s never explained. And what’s the point of the ghost walking around the apartment if no one’s around to see it?
No time for questions! Gotta keep this thriller moving!
Later, Mia goes out with Leah and runs into some neighbor kids. They have a cute, friendly exchange. Don’t worry—this will barely matter.
Mia takes baby Leah through the neighborhood in one of those old school baby carriages.
Between the demons, the motherhood theme, the apartment building, and now the carriage, it’s increasingly clear that Annabelle is
riding on the coattails of paying homage to the much better and classic Rosemary’s Baby. Even the first names of the Gordons match the stars of Rosemary’s Baby (Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes). And that just annoys me.
As is my motto: do not remind the audience that they could turn this schlock off and watch a much better film instead.
And it’s annoying because this script could almost Be Something. Rosemary’s Baby-level something? Ha ha, not on your life. But there’s potential in this idea of a woman confined to bedrest, and then confined to the home, while overcoming trauma of a home invasion. It’s like The Yellow Wallpaper meets Panic Room!
But instead, whatever original or thoughtful ideas might have been here have been watered down to fit with the Conjuring-verse films. And those aren’t exactly what I would call “thought pieces.”
Mia strolls past a bookstore with some occult selections in the display window. Hmm, wonder if those will become important later. Mia and baby are intercepted by their neighbor and proprietress of the bookshop, Evelyn. Evelyn is played by the lovely Alfre Woodard. And whoever talked her into being in this movie deserves to be punished.
When she returns to the apartment building, Mia finds a drawing left by the neighbor kids. This one shows Mia pushing the carriage. Oh look, a second picture! It’s almost identical to the first one, except it shows a big ol’ truck bearing down on Mia and the carriage. Hmm. Oh, a third picture! It shows the truck getting closer! Hmm. Oh, a fourth picture! I wonder what it could be! Oh dear, the truck has collided with the carriage and Mia. Red crayon has been laid waste to. Wow, who saw that coming? And who thought this cliché needed to be stretched out over four pictures?
Mia is pretty upset and shows the drawings to John. John is, once again, useless. He doesn’t see why they should be worried about the neighbor kids envisioning their baby being hit by a truck. Mia, again having none of it, gets John to acquiesce. Although he talks to the parents, John makes a comment about Mia working herself up over nothing.
SAY WHAT, JOHN? Come here, John. Come here. You say it to my face so I can smack you on the nose.
Before I or Mia can justifiably whap him with a newspaper, John kinda-sorta apologizes. And to make up for it, he promises that he’ll come straight home after work tomorrow and they can have a nice dinner together.
Well, I’ve never seen a movie where someone makes that promise and then immediately breaks it, so I’m sure this’ll all work out.
Cut to: a candlelit dinner with the candles low in their wicks. A record of romantic music plays, probably on its third go round. Mia has already eaten her dinner and starts picking at John’s cold food.
Giving up (hopefully on the marriage altogether), Mia turns off the record and starts cleaning up.
But then the record turns back on. And Mia turns it off again. So chilling. Stuff turning on after you turn it off.
There’s movement behind the nearby drapes. Mia pulls them aside and something within the curtains attacks her. She’s knocked to the ground. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a small figure dressed in white skitter around a corner.
The sewing machine starts up again. Mia turns it off. Things turning on and off does not equal tension, movie!
Mia sees a little girl in a white dress turn towards her. But as the figure rushes at her, it transforms into the adult Annabelle Higgins, brandishing a knife. It is one of the very few well-executed supernatural scare shots of the movie. Mia screams, but suddenly she’s alone in the room. What is this, a tantric haunting?
Later, Mia and John argue about if something is going on. Mia insists, “Something’s going on.” John insists, “Nothing’s going on.” Repeat in every horror movie for infinity.
John tries the ol’ “it’s perfectly normal for women to be hysterical / crazy because of womanly stuff.”
Mia, yet again, is not having it. “You know being a doctor doesn’t make you an expert on everything!”
And John just has this bewildered look on his face like “It doesn’t? Oh shit…”
Somehow, this leads to John suggesting that they talk to a priest. …not to deal with any of this supernatural stuff or Mia’s untreated trauma, but because he thinks that’s the best option for marriage counseling. Yeah, let’s get marriage advice from someone forbidden to have romantic relationships of any kind. #ClassicCatholic
The Gordons meet with Father Perez. He tells them some stuff about how a marriage is like a building and whatever. Somehow this is good enough for Mia, even though it does exactly nothing for any of her actual problems. But sure, two men have told her this is the solution, so why not.
Some other day (oh my gosh this is the longest doll haunting eveeeeer), the Gordons bump into Evelyn, who is once again super friendly. She departs with a “blessed day.” So if the Bohemian clothes and the occult bookstore didn’t make it clear enough, we now know that Evelyn is our supernatural Phone-A-Friend for the film.
So you may be wondering, Dear Reader: Gee, we’re 50 minutes into a 90 minute movie, and the most exciting stuff happened in the first fifteen minutes. Is anything else going to happen? Or are we just plodding through ten more jumpscares / glitchy machinery scenes until the credits roll?
…I got some bad news, Dear Reader…
Back at the apartment, Mia’s sewing. Once again, there’s a weird noise. Once again, Mia goes to investigate. Once again, NOTHING happens. Once again, I am banging my head against the wall while also taking notes on this stupid movie.
I hope ya’ll know what I endure for you, Dear Readers. All five of you.
Later, Mia puts Leah down for bed. The Annabelle doll sits on its shelf. The camera pans away for a sec, pans back, and the doll’s head is now slightly turned. And that’s the end of that scene, hope you enjoyed it.
Later in the middle of a thunderstorm, Mia decides to leave the baby alone while she takes some cardboard boxes down to the basement. Yeah, just leave the baby alone in your haunted apartment. It’ll be fine. Yeah, just go into the basement by yourself during a thunderstorm. It’ll be fine.
I’m just saying. Maybe between this and the creepy doll collecting, you’re inviting some of this trauma, Mia.
Even in the basement, Mia cannot escape strange noises. How about you try some earplugs, Mia?
The old-fashioned baby carriage comes squeaking out from behind a sheet. It sounds like a baby is crying from within the bassinet. Mia cautiously approaches the carriage. Inside it, she finds a bundle of bloodstained rags.
Time to go!
Suddenly, Mia is grabbed by a demonic hand and scratched.
EXTRA time to go!
Mia flees, and the demon just…stays in the shadows like an actor waiting for their cue backstage.
Mia reaches the elevator, but it of course takes for-fucking-ever to close. The doors finally do close…but the elevator doesn’t move. The doors open again onto the dark basement. Mia hits the button into oblivion to get them to close. The elevator’s lights flicker. The doors open, and it’s still the basement.
Finally, Mia just says fuck it and heads for the stairs.
SEE? In a scene with 4 minutes of screen time, something ACTUALLY happened in a fraction of it. The padding in this movie is worse than That Girl We All Knew’s bra in 6th grade.
Mia runs up flights of stairs, hearing a baby crying. She looks down the vertigo-inducing flights of stairs and sees a yellow-eyed demon coming up after her. …okay… If a demon needs to take the stairs, I don’t think it’s that scary anymore. Even Daleks can defy stairs.
There’s yet another drawn out, low pay-off jumpscare with the demon. Finally, Mia makes it back to the apartment, and that’s the scene. Such consequence, much stakes, wow.
The next morning, Mia sees that the demon’s scratch from yesterday has disappeared. …but why? That’s weaksauce. If I have a scratch one day and it’s gone the next, that’s a minor inconvenience at worst.
Mia has called over Detective Clarkin because suddenly she wants to know all about horrible cults. Never mind that she said the exact opposite a week or a month or a whatever ago.
Detective Clarkin has helpfully brought over all of his evidence, just in case he’d like to thoroughly taint any eye-witness testimony for later. His files include two photos of Annabelle Higgins—one as a child, one as an adult.
Mia realizes that the little ghost girl she saw previously was younger Annabelle Higgins.
Oh my lord—PLEASE tell me this is going somewhere. We got doll Annabelle, we got adult ghost Annabelle, we got little girl ghost Annabelle. It’s annoying and it continues to make no sense.
Clarkson reveals that Adult Annabelle and “Husband #3” were trying to “conjure” something. He said “conjure” in a Conjuring-verse movie! Confetti!
Mia looks through all the terrible crime scene photos because yeah, that’s totally going to help her increasing anxiety. In one photo, she sees Adult Annabelle lying dead with the bloody ‘A’ written on the wall. Mia asks to keep this photo. Clarkson says yes. Because that’s totally not a disturbing request and that definitely isn’t evidence he needs to hold onto.
FYI, the ‘A’ will not be explained and that photo will not be referenced again before the end of the movie.
Mia asks what the name of the cult was. Clarkson tells her, but don’t worry, audience, that also will not be relevant before the end of the movie.
So 99% of this scene is pointless.
And that’s that. Onto the next one!
Mia’s at the bookstore, browsing the religion section. She picks up a book on demonology. Oh good, this is definitely going to end well.
Evelyn, again being super-duper helpful, greets Mia and asks what’s wrong. Mia at first demurs that anything’s wrong. She’s just a housewife giving a ten-yard stare at a book of demonology, why should anything be wrong?
Evelyn states, “Mia, I am old–which means there’s very little that surprises me anymore.”
Um. Excuse you. Alfre Woodard should never be compelled by a script to describe herself as “old.” She’s awesome, she’s gorgeous. Shame on you, script.
Mia just comes out with it: she thinks she’s being haunted by a ghost.
Evelyn is not put off by this at all. Because she’s got an ‘open mind.’ Whatever you say, script.
After some chitchat about spooky business, Evelyn basically repeats the Warrens’ spiel from earlier. Blah blah Conjuring-verse rules: ghosts attached to places, demons attached to people. Ghosts not so bad, demons very bad, etc.
What does the demon want? Why, a soul of course!
During this talk, Mia notices a scar on Evelyn’s wrist. Evelyn launches into her backstory, ripped straight out of Touched By An Angel. She had a daughter, Ruby. Ruby died young. Sad! Evelyn got depressed and attempted suicide (hence the scar). Extra Sad! But then, Ruby’s voice told Evelyn that it was not her time, and God had another purpose for her. Clichéd! Extra Clichéd!
So now Evelyn and Mia are going to team up and hatch a plan right? Or at least get a martini together because WOW this is heavy?
Nope! Time for another unrelated scene!
Mia pushes Leah in the baby carriage down the street. Mia is suddenly distracted by Otherworldly Voices. In a display window, adult Annabelle appears as a reflection. She clutches doll Annabelle. It’s Annabelle-ception!
Startled, Mia lets go of the carriage and—of course—it rolls into traffic, right in front of a truck. OMG it’s just like the kids’ drawings from earlier! Who saw this coming? Aside from everyone?
The carriage is demolished—but oh look! Mia is holding Leah on the curb, safe and sound.
Yep, the movie didn’t even bother to explain the physics of that. It’s supposed to be scary, but it makes so little sense it’s just annoying.
Oh and the kids who apparently tell the future with drawings? Don’t worry, they shan’t be seen or heard from again. Thanks, script!
Back in the apartment, Mia reviews the demonology books. Still no martini? Girl, you gotta balance this demon stuff with some self-care.
Spoiler: Mia will learn absolutely nothing useful from these books. Thanks for nothing, Evelyn!
Mia‘s reading is once again interrupted by—a bird? A plane? Nope! Just more weird noises. She goes to check it out. Oh my God, learn a new trick, demon. And Mia, stop falling for this!
In the nursery, the mobile is tingling away. Mia looks around, but doesn’t notice that Annabelle isn’t on her Special Shelf. Seriously, why is that doll still in the damn house?!
Suddenly, the nursery door slams shut. Mia is trapped inside.
Girl. How could you fall for this?
Alas, Mia left her just-almost-got-murdered-by-truck infant alone in the living room. Leah is sitting on a blanket looking adorable as heavy books start hurling themselves off a nearby bookshelf.
Okay, I’m just going to say it…. “Throwing Books at Babies” would be a great mobile app game. Maybe that guy from The Oatmeal could make it?
Mia peers through a crack in the door, watching in helpless horror. Little Leah just keeps doing her cute baby thing as dictionaries and encyclopedias galore whiz about her. This demon has worse aim than (I couldn’t come up with a joke so feel free to insert one of your choice here).
Suddenly (would you believe?) it’s ANOTHER jumpscare as doll Annabelle the doll appears in front of the door. Somehow, this gives Mia some “fuck this shit” super-strength and she breaks the door open. She rushes over to Leah, who is still chilling on the blanket like “Mom, you and dad are way too dull to need this many books.”
Mia sees Annabelle the doll sitting in a dark corner of the room. The doll rises to its feet. Uh oh. Then starts to rise off the ground. Double uh oh. Annabelle the doll hangs there in the air.
Hmm, wonder how this pause will end.
Think it’ll be another jumpscare?
Then, oh no, the orchestra strikes yet again as Annabelle moves toward Mia. The rapid-fire jumpscares ruin what would otherwise be a great shot: the camera zooms in to show that the doll is not moving by itself. The demonic figure looms behind the doll, acting as puppet master.
Mia screams just in time for John to come in. He sees a terrified Mia, the overturned furniture, books all higglety-pigglety.
Finally our Catholic protagonists call their priest over to help with their demon problem. Are you serious? This call is long past due. My friend’s Irish Catholic aunt would call Father Michaels over to bless the entire house if she thought there were too many dust bunnies under the couch!
Father Perez does exactly zero hemming or hawing about this yuppy couple thinking they’ve got a ghost. Nope, he’s totally on board from the start. He examines Annabelle and explains the Conjuring-verse rules again: demons can use objects as conduits to do stuff.
Yet again, something never really explained. Doll Annabelle didn’t throw books around the room, the demon did that itself. Why bother with using a doll when you can just do your demon thing?
Father Perez says that while demons want souls, they can’t just take them. Souls need to be offered up. How do demons get people to offer their souls up? Seems an important thing to inform the couple about, Father Perez. Like maybe warning that demons will gaslight you into offering your soul? That might come up in, oh, the next 15 minutes.
Father Perez admits that he isn’t really equipped to handle this sort of thing. But don’t worry, the Warrens, some random couple who learned demonology on their own time, can totally handle it.
Father Perez suggests that he take the doll and put it in a secret place. Somehow this will weaken the demon so it won’t have the strength to stalk the Gordons. Well wait a minute, if the object is just a conduit, can’t the demon just randomly pick some other object? And so what if the place he takes the doll to is “secret,” the Conjuring-verse rules clearly state that demons attach to people, not places.
Yeah, no, it still makes no sense. It’s almost as if the premise of this entire franchise is a bunch of flimflam!
Faster than you can say “dead meat,” Father Perez takes custody of the doll. At his car, he first puts it in the passenger seat. But after a quick thought of ‘nope, fuck that, I’m not driving next to this freaky thing,’ he puts the doll in the backseat instead.
As Father Perez drives away, his radio starts to go all static. Oh noooooo.
Back at the apartment, Mia refuses to go to bed until she knows that the doll is never coming back. If you wanted that, you should’ve burned the stupid thing.
But John convinces Mia that she needs some sleep. Surely she’ll get some good rest if they just keep staying in this apartment where she’s been terrorized. Geez, John, your salary is basically magic. Could you spring for a hotel for a few nights?
Father Perez arrives at his church, bringing the Annabelle doll to its doors. But then Father Perez spots the ghost of Adult Annabelle looming in the shadows.
Suddenly, Father Perez is flung onto the pavement by an unseen spooky-wooky force. With blood mixing with the rain on the pavement, Father Perez is in bad shape.
Then, the ghost of Adult Annabelle picks up Doll Annabelle.
…okay, once again, how does this make any sense? So the doll is a conduit for an inhuman spirit, but Annabelle was a human and now a ghost, and ghosts can’t go anywhere, and demons do stuff through conduits, so what is physically picking up the doll now and how?
It’s stupid. It is just stupid.
Cut to John on shift at the hospital. Wait, wasn’t he going to watch the baby while Mia slept? Oh well! He discovers Father Perez has been brought in, gravely injured. I presume this is when he will jump to the rescue…somehow.
Back at the apartment, Mia, Evelyn, and baby Leah return from a shopping trip. Can’t wait til this happy scene is broken up by sheer terror.
Back at the hospital, John sits with the unconscious Father Perez. Hey, John? There’s an evil doll demon on the loose. This is not a time for sitting. I know this whole demon stalking your wife stuff has been real unideal for you, but now is the time for action.
As John continues to leisurely be a hero, back at the apartment Mia and Evelyn have a cup of tea. Mia decides to shatter this peaceful moment by asking Evelyn how her daughter died. Hey all, in case you’re wondering: do not ask this about people’s dead kids. Just don’t do it.
Evelyn explains that she was driving the family home after a long trip and fell asleep at the wheel. Her daughter Ruby died in the accident. Evelyn blames herself.
*sigh* Okay, movie, when’s the Redemption / Sacrifice Scene going to happen? Just tell me now.
Back at the hospital, Father Perez wakes up. He asks where the doll is. John’s like ‘dude we left it with you!’ Father Perez gives a shocking revelation: the doll is evil!
…why is that line even here? Father Perez took the doll away because it’s got a demon in it. Surely that strongly implied that the doll is evil?
Father Perez explains that somehow the evil demon is going to manipulate Mia into offering her soul to save Leah. Gee, maybe you could’ve figured that out back when you were talking about how demons get people to offer their souls up.
John finally does something and calls the apartment. No, he doesn’t rush home right away. Surely a phone call will suffice when a demon is threatening your wife and child. Mia answers the phone, but there’s only static on the line. Oh, pesky demon!
Suddenly there’s pounding on the apartment door. Mia looks through the peephole and sees the figure of a priest with his back to the door. Thinking it’s Father Perez, Mia opens the door.
And jumpscare in 3…2…1!
The figure turns to Mia revealing a monstrous face. It growls at her. She shuts the door on it. Electronics turn on and off. Disembodied voices chant in Latin.
Come on, demon, I’ve gotten more scared arranging a sale on Facebook Marketplace (suburban moms will not take “I’m not lowering the price” for an answer!).
Evelyn, who weirdly is not freaked out about this, says that they have to leave. Well no shit, Evelyn!
Mia runs into the nursery for Leah, but the baby is gone. All the other nursery dolls have been messed up. Well, those creepy things got what they deserved.
Suddenly, scratching noises emit from the ceiling. Evelyn and Mia look up, following the noises. Would you believe this takes us to yet another fucking jumpscare? Whatever. Demon appears. It screams. Ooga booga!
The demon tackles Evelyn, throwing her out of the apartment.
…okay, once again we must hit the pause button. Why hasn’t the demon been throwing people around this entire time? There’s no need to take the stairs or play with dolls, just tackle people and I promise they’ll get real scared!
Trapped in the apartment, Mia hears a demonic howl followed by Leah’s crying. Lights flicker. It’s a little too much like a state fair’s haunted house ride for me.
Mia stumbles upon Doll Annabelle sitting in the nursery. She screams, “What do you want from me?!”
Well duh, Mia, we’ve been over this: a soul. Like, seriously, catch up. In fact, Annabelle helpfully shows Mia a message written in big giant red letters over and over again: ‘HER SOUL.’
And now we’re at the moment required of every evil doll movie: someone beats up the doll. Mia picks up Annabelle the doll and begins throttling it, screaming, “Give her back to me!”
Mia throws the doll into a dark corner. The figure begins to whimper, sounding like a baby. Horrified, Mia runs over, taking the figure in her arms.
But of course, it isn’t Leah the baby, it’s just some other creepy doll from the nursery. Okay Mia, well, you did this one to yourself. This is what happens when you keep a whole flock of creepy dolls around.
“There has to be another way!” Mia cries out to the empty room.
She turns to see the window of the nursery with “YOUR SOUL” written on it. It opens. How helpful.
I can almost see the demon getting frustrated like “How much clearer can I be?! Do I have to draw this broad a map to the window?!”
John finally arrives on the scene. He joins Evelyn in trying to break down the door. Meanwhile, Mia looks increasingly all right with the idea of plunging to her doom. Anything to get out of this movie!
John and Evelyn burst into the nursery to find Mia already out on the window ledge. She’s clutching Annabelle. Yeah, I mean, if you’re gonna go, definitely take that doll down onto the concrete with ya.
Mia insists that she needs to sacrifice herself to save Leah. But John grabs her and brings her back inside.
Panicked, Mia points out the conundrum that the demon still has the baby and isn’t giving her back without a soul. Hmm. There wouldn’t happen to be a conveniently disposable black character around anywhere, would there?
Evelyn looks thoughtful for a moment. Hmm, could she be that conveniently disposable black character? She picks up Doll Annabelle and says, “This is what Ruby meant.”
Aaaand she goes out the window with Annabelle, falling to her death.
John and Mia look back to the crib and presto: Leah is cooing in her crib just fine.
Oh cool. Great. So glad we got an absurdly unsatisfying resolution to this.
In a voiceover, Father Perez talks about how God honors sacrifices. Oh, so Evelyn’s sacrifice has redeemed her, right?
Um, no. In fact, in actuality, in all truth: no. For one thing: demon still got a soul, so I don’t see how that would make God happy. For another: hate to break it to ya, but Catholic doctrine still considers suicide to be a grave offense. So either way, Evelyn has been sent to Hell. And finally, we know this is not the end of Annabelle, so the loss and suffering of Evelyn is all for nothing.
Cool. Great. Thanks. So glad we took time out of Alfre Woodard’s lovely days to include her in this.
Anyway, we cut to six months later (which is about how long this movie feels).
The Gordons are talking with Father Perez. The Annabelle doll hasn’t been seen since The Night In Question. So it’s no longer their problem. Seriously, that’s basically the entire scene.
They don’t even speak of Evelyn (which I suppose is how the Catholic Church would want it). (Seriously, fuck off with that shit.)
We fade to an antique store. A woman is looking to buy something for her daughter. She buys Annabelle. This is the mother of the roommate from the start of this movie / The Conjuring. OH FULL CIRCLE WOW.
The film assures us that the real—ahem, “real” Annabelle now sits in a glass case inside the artifact room of Ed and Lorraine Warren and is blessed by a priest twice a month. Oh, what a relief. So glad they’re taking this seriously. As we know, glass is like kryptonite to demons…somehow.
We cut to the Conjuring-verse’s version of the Warren’s artifact room / rogue’s gallery. The camera zooms in on Annabelle in her case. And wait for it…wait for it…wait for it…wait for it…wait for it…wait for it…
Oh, it just cuts to black without a jumpscare. Cool, thanks bunches, you stupid flimflam of a film!!
Yeah, I do not recommend this movie, not on any level. It isn’t fun. It’s barely enjoyable to make fun of it. It seems to stretch on forever (which is a very bad sign for a 90 min scary movie). While I think the main Conjuring movies can be worth a watch, across the board these spin-offs have been terrible. And the Annabelle movies are especially not fun because the plot demands that Annabelle not even have a personality. She might as well be a creepy-looking lamp or a scary can of soup.
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