It’s no secret that Annabelle, John R. Leonetti’s 2014 spinoff of The Conjuring, wasn’t exactly the best horror offering of the year. No one was really asking for a sequel, but a domestic haul of $84 million(!) said otherwise. It would be fair to say that expectations for the film were pretty low, at least until Lights Out director David F. Sandberg was announced as the director of Annabelle 2. This isn’t the first time that a talented horror director has been tasked with directing the sequel of a poorly-received horror film, and it certainly won’t be the last.
In an effort to convince skeptical audiences that his film will be an improvement over its predecessor, Sandberg took part in the “Face Your Fears” filmmaker discussion at the SXSW Conference and Festivals in Austin, Texas. At the panel, Sandberg and It director Andrés Muschietti treated attendees to an exclusive sneak peak of their respective films. Was Bloody Disgusting there to view the footage? You bet we were! Here are our thoughts on the two scenes that Sandberg elected to show us.
The time period that Annabelle 2 takes place in was not mentioned, but like Ouija: Origin of Evil, it seems like this may be a prequel that chronicles the origin of the titular doll. The plot of the film centers around a dollmaker and his wife who, after the death of their little girl, welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.
***SPOILERS TO FOLLOW***
In the first scene that was shown:
Janice (Talitha Bateman), who must walk using a forearm crutch, is hears music coming from a record player in a room that belongs to the dollmaker’s daugher. Sitting on the dead girl’s bed is the Annabelle doll. She goes to turn off the record player when another girl (Ouija: Origin of Evil’s Lulu Wilson) walks in and surprises her. The girls argue for a bit because they’re not supposed to be in the room, and then they get into a skirmish. One of them picks up a toy gun and fires a ping pong-type ball at Annabelle’s head. After arguing for a bit more they notice that Annabelle’s head has suddenly turned to face them. This scares Wilson’s character and she leaves Janice alone in the room with the doll.
After looking around a bit longer, Janice finds a diary with about three or four pages filled out. She flips though the remaining blank pages until she comes across a page with the words “Today I came home” scrawled on it. At that moment the door shuts by itself, frightening Janice. Eventually, two puppets appear in a toy puppet theater and begin moving by themselves. Janice grabs one of the puppets only to see that there is no one actually operating the puppets.
Janice then notices a young girl standing at the window, looking out into the yard while tapping the glass. Still facing the window, the girl (who is clearly the dollmaker’s deceased daughter) asks Janice if she can help her. Rather than immediately run out of the room, Janice asks the girl what she needs. Then, in a very effective jump scare, the girl goes full Bilbo Baggins and turns around to reveal a demonic face before screaming in a much deeper voice “Your soul!” Janice, finally wising up, attempts to run out of the room on her crutches. The door slams on her, but she manages to open it up and make it to the hall. All of the doors in the hall slam shut on her and she limps over to the stairs. She lifts herself into the lift chair and straps herself and flips the switch.
The chair doesn’t work initially, and she repeatedly flips the switch for a few torturous seconds as the door to the bedroom opens up and some black tendrils snake their way out into the hall. Finally, the chair starts working and begins its slow descent down the stairs. (I should point out that this moment in the scene is a very effective moment of suspense.) The chair makes it about two thirds of the way down the stairs before it stops and begins slowly ascending the rail. She sees the little girl glaring at her from the top, but once the chair reaches the top she is nowhere to be seen. Janice is then lifted out of her chair and thrown to the floor below.
In the second scene that was shown:
Janice is outside, but in a wheelchair thanks to her incident in the previous scene. She seems nervous, but the dollkeeper’s wife calms her down and tells her to enjoy the fresh air. The woman leaves her outside to relax. Suddenly another woman (her face remains off-screen) grabs Janice’s wheelchair and begins pushing it towards a barn (fun fact: we learned that this is the “rape barn” from HBO’s Westworld). Janice is shoved inside the barn and thrown off the chair.
She looks around the barn and crawls under some floorboards, where she begins to hear someone walking above her. She then looks off to the side and sees the girl that attacked her before crawling on the ground (think the game of hide-and-seek from The Visit) towards her. The girl attacks Janice, mounts her and then vomits a bunch of black goo into her mouth.
I’m fully aware that a reading a description of a scene isn’t really fun for you guys (and it certainly doesn’t do the footage justice), but until the studio releases the footage online there’s not much else we can do. I can tell you that there does seem to be a bigger emphasis on mood and atmosphere in this film. There are some jump scares, but they were handled well. The footage didn’t blow me away, but it was solid, which at least gives me hope for the sequel (prequel?).