Annabelle, released in US theatres on Friday, kicks off October’s Halloween offerings at the box office with the origin story of a porcelain doll that masks a sinister secret, a spin-off from last year’s Warner Bros. horror hit The Conjuring. Set in 1970s California, newlywed couple Mia and John, played by Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton, settle into a small house in Santa Monica.
Soon after pregnant Mia receives Annabelle, a gift from her husband for her growing doll collection, the couple endure a terrifying break-in, and then strange things start happening.
“It was set in the ‘70s at a time where movies of the genre were very well respected,” said Wallis. “I think the element of truth to it, that it stems from real events and whether or not you believe in occult, there are documented things that happened.”
Dolls are usually associated with innocence and playfulness, but have been distorted into dark creatures in numerous horror movies, such as 1987’s Dolls and Chucky the serial Killer in 1988’s Child’s Play, which spawned numerous sequels.
In The Conjuring, directed by James Wan, Annabelle is possessed by a twisted supernatural force, and the doll’s porcelain face becomes warped into an evil grin.
“For an inanimate object, (Annabelle) really stood out and when The Conjuring came out, it was validated to us how much people loved her character,” said Wan, a producer on Annabelle.
Wallis said she took inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s icy blonde leading ladies, while director John Leonetti said he was influenced by Hitchcock’s use of suspense, as well as 1973’s The Exorcist and 1976’s The Omen.
“It belongs to a recent wave of paranormal films that have edged out gory horror offerings and drawn studios back to the genre.
“Back in the ‘70s, all the great horror, scary, suspense movies were made by the studios,” Wan said, adding that he and Leonetti wanted to “hark back to that spirit.”
“We believe that you can make something that’s studio quality filmmaking, but retain what we love about this particular genre.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2014.