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Child's Play 

Annabelle and Chucky Sittin' in a Tree

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hen I first heard they were making "Annabelle 2: Electric Boogaloo," I rolled my eyes and sighed...something I don't like to do. I try not to be cynical about a movie before I've seen it, because it's lazy and counterproductive to the actual deconstruction and criticism of art. If we all chose to avoid movies that sounded like bad ideas, we never would have seen "The Lego Movie," "21 Jump Street" or eight different "Fast and Furious" movies.

The first "Annabelle," which itself was a spinoff of 2013's "The Conjuring," is terrible. The film wasn't scary or dumb enough to be funny—instead existing in a gray area between boring and forgettable. "Annabelle: Creation" is a prequel to the spinoff, which sounds like the idea some studio head had after a few peyote buttons in the desert. The "Insidious" franchise went the prequel route for the third installment (as well as the upcoming fourth) to much-diminished returns.

Still, somehow, "Annabelle: Creation" works a crowd like gangbusters. I brought someone who hates horror movies and hasn't watched a single one in over a decade. They were so disturbed by the end of the movie that they were pretty mad at me for bringing them along. I talked them into it by basically saying that it was a freaking evil doll movie...how scary could it be? Turns out, the evil doll is only the tip of the iceberg—and yeah, it will make you jump out of your skin a half dozen times.

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he film takes place from the mid-1940s to the late-1950s, following a doll maker and his wife whose young daughter is killed in a tragic accident. Twelve years later, the deeply religious couple invite a nun and several orphans to live with them. Too bad for the orphans that there's a demonically possessed doll and all sorts of other horrible shit in the house. Seriously, they're already orphans in the 1950s; they really didn't need to add demons to their already difficult existence.

"Annabelle: Creation" is also a part of "The Conjuring Universe," which includes both "Conjuring" movies, both "Annabelle" movies and (I'm starting to think... but not positive of) the "Insidious" franchise as well. My theory about the "Insidious" movies connecting to the "Conjuring Universe" is crazy and will make me sound like a giant, obsessive nerd, so email me for details or something.

But surprisingly, the "Conjuring Universe" is the most successful cinematic universe since Marvel got started. Warner Bros' "Dark Universe" (including Tom Cruise's "Mummy" and several upcoming monster movies) and "The Dark Tower" series both flopped hard, while D.C.'s Extended Universe has made over $3 billion—savaged by critics until the release of "Wonder Woman." "The Conjuring Universe" is still doing it better though; with a combined budget of $81.5 million, the four films have made $1 billion worldwide. That's one hell of a gross.

"Annabelle: Creation" is a fun little horror rollercoaster that cements why James Wan's creation is still pulling in huge numbers: the films take you on a ride. It's a spooky and fast paced series that takes the time to create compelling characters and an intriguing mythology for its ghosts and demons. I would watch several more movies set in this universe, and there are millions more just like me.

Annabelle: Creation

Dir. David F. Sandberg

Grade: B+

Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Redmond Cinema


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