A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the devil doll flick “Annabelle: Creation,” the Jeremy Renner thriller “Wind River” and Brie Larson in “The Glass Castle.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies including the devil doll flick “Annabelle: Creation,” the Jeremy Renner thriller “Wind River” and Jenny Slate’s dramedy “Landline.”
Since 2013 she’s been seen in more movies than Angelina Jolie. The films she appeared in have grossed over $1 billion at the box office. She doesn’t have much emotional range—her motions are largely confined to opening and closing her eyes—but in these politically correct times you can call her a doll and not fear sounding sexist.
She’s Annabelle, devil dolly.
The real life inspiration for Annabelle, the creepy, possessed toy from The Conjuring series, is safely locked away in ghost hunter Ed and Lorraine Warren’s cabinet of curiosities but her onscreen counterpart is back this weekend in Annabelle: Creation.
But what do we really know about the sinister plaything?
In real life the story began in 1970. A mother bought a vintage Raggedy Ann doll for her daughter Donna. Then it got weird. The doll moved around the apartment and left upsetting messages for her new owner. Freaked out, Donna called in a psychic who determined the spirit of a seven-year-old girl named Annabelle Higgins possessed the toy.
Enter the Warrens, “self-described “demonologists, ghost hunters and kooks.” After a failed exorcism they removed the doll from Donna’s apartment but the supernatural hijinks didn’t stop there. On the way home they claim the doll took control of their car, causing their power brakes and steering to fail. At the Warren house Annabelle continued to act out until they finally contained her evil in a specially built glass lock box. Currently she is on display in the warren’s Occult Museum, located in Lorraine Warren’s basement in Monroe, Connecticut.
In reel life the details are different. Movie Annabelle is a porcelain doll with a white ruffled dress, not a worn Raggedy Ann. Then there’s the invented backstory of the first prequel to The Conjuring movies. The closing credits to 2014’s Annabelle state, “The story, all names, characters and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious.”
The story isn’t true but don’t worry, she’s still the wickedest doll since Chucky.
Annabelle begins in the late 1960s with a gift from John to his expectant wife Mia. “There’s something I want to give you,” he says. “Oh no,” she laughs, “the last time you said that I ended up pregnant.” He gives her Annabelle, a seemingly harmless antique doll, decked out in a lace wedding dress. The quiet peace of John and Mia’s life is broken by a Manson Family style home invasion, and even though Mia and John survive, strange things start happening in the wake of the attack. “Crazy people do crazy things, ma’am,” explains a detective before everyone starts to realize that Annabelle has something to do with the eerie goings on.
Annabelle: Creation goes back further, digging into why and how the dolly became so disturbed and disturbing. In the new film a doll maker and his wife lose their daughter Annabelle to a car accident. Years later one of her dolls appears to have a life of its own.
The new film will likely raise the hairs on the back of more than a few necks, but one thing is certain, the original doll is still the scariest of all. Visitors to the Occult Museum who mock the doll report having accidents on the way home and Lorraine’s son-in-law Tony Spera says Annabelle is the exhibit that terrifies him the most.
She doesn’t have much emotional range—her motions are largely confined to opening and closing her eyes—but the films she appeared in have grossed over $1 billion at the box office. She’s Annabelle, devil dolly, and she’s back to prove that you can’t keep a good doll down.
“Annabelle: Creation” is a second prequel to “The Conjuring”—following 2014’s “Annabelle”—to tell the story of the creepy, possessed doll before she was safely locked away in ghost hunter Ed and Lorraine Warren’s cabinet of curiosities. The first prequel, set in the 1960s, saw the creepy antique doll cause havoc in the lives of a pregnant woman and her husband.
This time around it’s an origin of evil story digging into why and how the child’s toy became so disturbed and disturbing. The preamble takes us back to the 1940s when kind-hearted dollmaker Mr. Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife (Miranda Otto) witness their daughter Annabelle killed in a terrible—and rather dramatically filmed—accident.
Cut to twelve years later. The once kindly couple are now shells of their former selves, still wracked with grief over the loss of his daughter. Their rambling Californian house, once alive with activity is now a cobwebbed mausoleum. When a nearby orphanage shuts down the couple welcome six residents and their nun custodian Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) into their home. They both get something from the deal. Mr. and Mrs. Mullins hope the orphans will inject some soul into their lifeless home.
On the upside the young tenants have a place to live, a TV and a radio. “It’s as big as a castle,” they gush. “I guess that makes us princesses!” On the downside their high-spirited ways bring out the doll’s evil spirits.
“Annabelle: Creation” is a less-is-more horror movie. The scares are bare boned, small moments—a shadowy figure here, a slamming door there—that add up to an atmosphere of dread. Add in Linda (Lulu Wilson), a little demon battling girl with creepy, concerned eyes and a handful of good lines like, “Forgive me father for I am about to sin,” make an impression but everything else feels too tastefully restrained.
In movie math demons plus little kids equals “The Exorcist” but “Annabelle: Creation” isn’t so much scary as it is weird. Those looking for overt terror à la William Friedkin’s masterpiece will be disappointed.
Director David F. Sandberg—whose horror bona fides were well established after “Lights Out”—is unafraid to take his time and creating the dread. Except for a few frights near the end, unfortunately, audiences may leave the theatre feeling the same way, unafraid.
A new Australian drama titled “The Daughter” tackles a variety of topics. Everything from a small town decimated by the closing of a lumber mill to infidelity, the nature of parent’s relationships to their kids, young love, addiction and class divides are explored but despite the busy schedule of events the film is very focussed.
Loosely based on Henrik Ibsen’s 1884 tragedy “The Wild Duck,” the movie is set in a dying Australian logging town. Christian (Paul Schneider), son of the town’s lumber magnate (Geoffrey Rush), hasn’t been home in years. On the occasion of his father’s wedding to a much younger woman (Anna Torv) Christian brings his swirling mass of daddy issues and personal problems home for the first time since his mother committed suicide.
He reconnects with his best chum from university, Oliver (Ewen Leslie) and jovial but unemployed lumber worker, husband to Charlotte (Miranda Otto) and father to teenager Hedvig, played by Odessa Young. Over the course of the wedding weekend some dangerous truths are revealed, family secrets that threaten to blow families apart and destroy an innocent life.
To be any more specific would do a disservice to director Simon Stone’s storytelling. He skilfully brings together a small group of characters, overlapping their lives to bring them to a devastating conclusion. You won’t leave the theatre with a smile on your face but you’ll exit having seen an uncompromising but engaging look at personal dysfunction.
Naturalistic performances from a who’s who of Australian actors, Rush, Leslie, Otto and Sam Neill—who now plays old cranky grandfather parts—draw the viewer in but it is newcomer Young as Hedwig who is at the center of the action. Leslie has the showiest part but Young’s work gives us a reason to care about the personal politics.
“The Daughter” is a gem, an emotionally affecting film that transcends melodrama to cut to the core of how people react and regret in the face of fidelity and betrayal.
A cross between an old school western and a Merrie Melodies cartoon, “The Homesman” is the latest from actor and director Tommy Lee Jones. A rough and tumble look at the harsh realities faced by women in frontier life it sheds light on a little seen aspect of life in the old west. It features a terrific performance from Hilary Swank and a spot on impression of Yosemite Sam from Jones.
Swank is Mary Bee Cuddy, a woman from New York State, now living in Loup City, Nebraska. She’s cultured, wealthy in land and know-how and unmarried. She’s well regarded in the town—one local says she’s “as good a man as many man hereabouts”—but her overtures at romance fall flat. She proposes marriage to Gam Sours (Jesse Plemons) with the caveat, “I won’t take no for an answer,” only to be rebuffed. “You’re as plain as an old tin pale,” he says, “and bossy.”
That may be so, but she has faired better than several other local women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) whose fragile mental states have been pushed to the limit by the grim reality of life in Loup City. Cuddy volunteers to transport them on a five-week journey to Iowa where they can be cared for properly.
On the way she meets army deserter, coward and all round scoundrel George “Yosemite” Briggs (Jones). She saves his life and in return he reluctantly agrees to make the journey with them.
“The Homesman” starts off as one thing, a look at Cuddy’s life as it intertwines with these mentally ill women but shifts story wise and tonally with the introduction of Jones’s character. What could have been a tale of female empowerment does a u-turn, shifting the focus to Jones and his cartoonish portrayal of the hard-drinking, jig dancing Briggs. What begins as an unconventional western becomes even less conventional as Jones cuts ghastly scenes of women dumping babies into outhouse holes against more jocular dialogue.
Swank, when she is given something to do, does it extremely well and Tim Blake Nelson as an amorous cowhand is menacing and funny, which seems to be the offbeat tone Jones was searching for, but never quite finds.
Story and character wise “The Homesman” is muddier than the rough terrain it takes place on.