• by Wes Singleton

Annabelle: Creation, C

Rated R, 109 minutes

"Annabelle: Creation" is the prequel to the hit 2014 film "Annabelle" and the fourth in "The Conjuring" universe. Though well-acted, especially by the group of young girls who pepper the film, it's mostly a string of jump scares from that creepy doll. A lackluster, predictable script filled with some generic horror film cliches taken from films that have done this thing better ("The Amityville Horror" to "Chuckie" to the most obvious, "The Exorcist"), it'll likely still be a modest hit with horror enthusiasts and "Conjuring" fans.

Dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia of TV's "Without a Trace") and his wife Esther ("Lord of the Rings" Miranda Otto), whose daughter died twelve years earlier, open their home to Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman of "Narcos"), a nun, and several girls from an orphanage that has been closed. The dollmaker's possessed creation, Annabelle, sets her sights on the girls, turning their shelter into a storm of terror.

"Annabelle: Creation" is directed by James F. Sanderg, who directed the intense horror thriller "Lights Out" last year, written by Gary Dauberman and produced by horror master James Wan, responsible for bringing "The Conjuring" and "Insidious" to the big screen, is a mildly entertaining horror outing that's slightly better than the silly "Annabelle" but an otherwise lazy attempt to generate more cash for its producers.

LaPaglia and Otto, decent and well-known characters actors, are wasted here as the parents whose daughter Annabelle (or "Bee") is killed and then comes to life through one of her dolls and trying to possess one of the orphaned girls that comes to live in her house, Janice (Talitha Bateman). Besides that creepy doll, the most memorable human performances from the young girls, Bateman, Samara Lee and especially from young Lulu Wilson ("Ouija: Origin of Evil" as the spunky Linda, who goes to bat against the evil doll to save one of her friends. Wilson, in her third straight horror film, could easily become the next Jamie Lee Curtis.

The story is otherwise a predictable one, especially in its second and third acts, as the house and the doll do their best to overtake the humans, though it loses some steam in some obvious plot holes in which the girls could've easily left and escaped from the house, instead they're kept from leaving from an insistent nun, perhaps solely for the reason just to be frightened.

The last act picks up some steam, but that doesn't mean Sandberg doesn't keep it from being silly, with quick, jumpy shots designed to lift you from your seat instead of thinking about it. It also, unsurprisingly, ties in the other films in the series, which means there will probably be more of these.

"Anabelle: Creation" is a jumpy but forgettable horror film that provides nothing new in terms of horror films or filmmaking in general.

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