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With the intent of being a prequel for the film The Conjuring, we see a familiar beginning with the same nurses discussing certain events having taken place with the doll received as a gift. However in this film, we go back a year to see (more or less) an origin story created for the doll. Though, don’t get too caught up in that concept.
John (Ward Horton) and Mia (Annabelle Wallis) Gordon; your all American idea of a family (from about four decades ago). First child on the way, husband studying for a residency. When on no particular night does a crazy couple (hinted at being correlated to the Manson family) violently kill their neighbors just before making their way over to the Gordon’s. For murder? Not entirely. But (mostly) for the creepy new doll that Mia had just received earlier in the night to add to her own mega creepy doll collection. Though she would be on forced bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy due to the altercation, it seemed the doll had become possessed from what I can only presume happens any time a crazy person dies next to a doll.
Prompting spooky things to occur around the house (Scream style) with popcorn overheating, causing a fire to take over the kitchen. Seeking revenge for…well who really knows why. Either way pissed off and deciding to take it out on Mia. Because while their little girl (Lea) eventually made a safe delivery, it needed a body to occupy. A task even moving and throwing away the doll couldn’t fix as it finds a way back into their lives at their new home across town. Later coming across a woman whose response to Mia admitting that her family was being bothered by a ghost was…”aisle 4.” Sharing a backstory that we’re supposed to believe will suffice for her sacrificing herself later in the film but I wasn’t invested in the character and I didn’t see how killing oneself actually dealt with the fact that a live body was needed. Concluding soon after as we find the mother of one of the nurses walking into a thrift store where the doll had found its way (brought full circle).
Now the film does a good job of maintaining the bare minimum, which is to entertain. Its definitely a different feel from whats been going on in Horror as of late; referring to this rise of paranormal sub-genre films that seem to be on the rise. But it doesn’t by any meas make it inferior or less than by bringing a sense of a more, traditional and classic Horror about. Because the doll was used as conduit (messenger) and didn’t move all that much, I can see where it’d become difficult to imagine such events scaring some people. But it was a well shot film with zoom-ins that created a tension that maintained throughout. James Wan certainly has some sort of knack for creating dolls considering the real one was a raggedy Ann.
Casting was near perfect. The only one I had any trouble with was Alfre Woodards character (Evelyn) but mainly due to her dialogue/interaction with the other characters. Where the film lost me dealt entirely with the backstory and validity of such a tale. By now most have heard of Ed and Lorraine Warren-self proclaimed demonologist associated with an array of Horror films released within the past four decades. Standing behind their affirmation of statements that proclaim no profit ever being taken from any of the families afflicted. Though travel expenses mind you-a seemingly different subject all together. Able to make a name for themselves off lectures/interviews or tours of their famed Occult museum conveniently located inside their home. Lest not forget any publicity that may be attained from any one of these cases being brought to the big screen. If you can’t tell by now, I’m somewhat over these two.
Keeping in mind that while this particular story doesn’t claim to be based on any particular truth, the doll is maintained as the catalyst behind ‘actual’ events taking place in its sequel The Conjuring. So why the need to connect the films? There isn’t one really. Almost as though they went and imagined an entirely new doll, conjuring up some story all their own.