Even though he made one of 2016’s best-received horror films with Lights Out, David F. Sandberg was put in a tricky situation with Annabelle: Creation (read our review). It’s a prequel to a poorly received prequel to an exorcism film that it connects to directly.
The first Annabelle was both darker and gorier than The Conjuring, but Annabelle: Creation takes it to a different level. I wanted to know if there was a limit on how far Sandberg could push it. I was surprised to hear, speaking to him this week, that he was pretty much given free reign.
He told me, “There weren’t really guidelines and there was no talk about rating beforehand, it was just let’s see what it winds up as.”
I’ll be the first to admit that the film is full of some pretty creepy scenes. I’m not sure if it freaked me out as much as last year’s The Conjuring 2, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t come close. I think that’s because this movie is full of so many different scares that if one doesn’t make you jump, there’s always another one coming up soon enough that you don’t have time to feel left out. I wanted to know which scene was Sandberg’s favorite.
“One of my favorites is when Janice (Talitha Bateman) first finds the Annabelle doll with the sheet over it.” said Sandberg. “I like that it’s not a big scare, just a nice, creepy moment that we were having fun with.“
I knew exactly what scene he was referencing, and I was really excited to hear that it was his favorite because it gave me chills when I was watching the movie. I think another reason the movies in The Conjuring’s universe are so scary is because they’re not afraid to show you a clear view of the demonic entities the heroes are dealing with. The demon possessing Annabelle in Creation didn’t disappoint, so I asked what the filmmaker did to make it so scary.
“Well, I still try to not show it too much, there’s that shot of the demon in the mirror, you know we added a lot of dirt to the mirror, warped it and stuff like that, just so it doesn’t get too clear because it can get silly if you see too much of it,” Sandberg explained. “So yeah, it’s kind of a hard balance. I know some people in Lights Out thought we showed too much of Diana and I can see that.”
One of the creepiest aspects of Annabelle: Creation is the house where the film takes place. You might have seen the exterior of it in the HBO show, Westworld, but it wasn’t until I talked to Miranda Otto (Esther Mullins) that I realized how much work went into creating a haunting interior.
“I just loved all the detail on the set and the fact they built that entire ground floor and entire top floor and the staircase and everything, and that you could move from room to room, it was such a great thing that they spent the money to make an amazing set like that because it adds so much to the film,” she told me.
Finally, since Sandberg is currently working on a sequel to Lights Out, I asked if he learned anything on the set of Annabelle: Creation that was influencing his upcoming film.
“I don’t know if there’s any particular ways but I’m learning more and more how to make movies, how to approach it,” he said. “One of the things was on Lights Out, since it was my first movie and I wanted to make sure it was good so I would get to do more movies, I prepared like crazy, I made all these shot lists, story boards and diagrams and everything and then you show up on set and those are thrown out the window because I really don’t have time to do it that way or there’s technical difficulties or you just come up with something better to do. So on Annabelle it was more like, let’s just figure out on set together, don’t over prepare and it worked out pretty well.”
I’d say it worked out pretty well too. Annabelle: Creation is far and away my favorite new horror film of the year, and after talking to Sandberg, I’m even more excited for Lights Out 2.
Annabelle: Creation is in theaters this Friday, August 11.
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