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We Asked David F. Sandberg About His Favorite Scare in ‘Annabelle: Creation’

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.



  • Rohan

    I thought they already explained annabelles origin.

    • ItalianBadAss37

      Janice (still possessed by demon) escapes the farmhouse at the end. She is then shown at an Orphanage going by the name Annabelle and is adopted by the Higgins family from the original, which is shown through a sequence of family photos. The post credit sequence takes place is Romania 1945 and shows Valak creeping down a hallway and jumping at the camera.

      • ItalianBadAss37

        When Sister Charlotte is unpacking her suitcase at the Mullins, it’s revealed that she came from the same convent that the upcomming movie The Nun takes place in. She has a photo of a couple of Nuns and Valak is in the picture

    • Jonathan Larsson

      It sucked too much, so they’re trying to delve deeper and see if they can do something about it.

  • Necro

    That’s kind of disappointing to me to hear Sandberg is working on a ‘Lights Out 2’. I’m not saying it’s going to suck or anything, I was hoping he’d do something else before dropping a sequel already. He just came off a prequel film, now on to a sequel. Not taking anything away from the guy cuz I do like what he’s done so far. I say this with the utmost respect for him, it’s just an observation. IMO

    • Jonathan Larsson

      He wants to make a sequel because of some of the backlash the movie received, so that he can correct it. It’s kind of like what Wes Craven did with Dream Warriors.

      • Necro

        Yeah I can see that, but I honestly don’t see how a sequel is going to bring anything other than more backlash. I mean he had a 3 minute short (Lights Out) and was lucky enough to have someone with pull see it, and boom! a full length out of that. I enjoyed ‘Lights Out’ and I’m sure he could make an adequate sequel, but I feel the genre is in good hands with not only him, but a good deal of up and coming directors. I say that because I’d hate to see him crash just as quickly as he ascended with a sequel he really doesn’t need to do. I do get what you’re saying and obviously he’s going to do it regardless, it’s just my opinion.

        • Jonathan Larsson

          I see what you mean, but I still have to say yes and no. A lot of directors have a tendency to abandon their movies and leave the sequels over to other directors, and while sometimes it works (Aliens for instance), these days it’s rare that a proper director is attached to a sequel. Usually it’s music video directors who can create good look but who adds no real context to the movie. This guy seems to care enough about his creation to return. And to be fair, he’d crash just as quickly if he made a bad movie that isn’t a sequel as opposed to a sequel that turns out bad. He’s a very promising moviemaker, so I’d say we should just sit back and let him do what he likes.

          • Necro

            Yeah that’s a good and fair point! Also I’d rather him do the sequel than someone else. So yeah you’re right.

  • Zachary Brown

    Very talented director. This horror fan is glad to have him! Would like to see something besides Lights Out 2 though, but I’m sure it will be good no matter what.

    • Necro


      • I also would like to see something original again instead of a sequel. He’s a great director though so I’ll watch it regardless.

        • Necro

          Yep same here

  • Gavin Dobbs

    I’m going to say my favorite scenes are when Lulu Wilson’s character finds the Annabelle doll under the stairs and the scene with Mr. Mullans when he’s holding the cross. The minimalist use of eyes in both those scenes were AMAZING and exceptionally creepy.

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