I’m a really big fan of director James Wan and his work on ‘The Conjuring’ film series. Although the films don’t particularly add particularly much to the horror genre, Wan understands horror movie tropes and is able to use them to great effect and still make films that although familiar, are fairly scary and entertaining. ‘The Conjuring’ was released in Summer 2013, an unusual release date for a horror film but Warner Brothers were very confident in their product and although the film only had a $20 million budget, it grossed $318 million – an excellent return. As the film had performed so well, a spin-off focusing on the infamous Annabelle doll that had featured in the opening sequence to ‘The Conjuring’ had been commissioned and was directed by frequent Wan cinematographer, John R. Leonetti. As I had suspected due to the poor impression left by the trailers, ‘Annabelle’ was an unoriginal, preposterous cash grab that save for one very well orchestrated scare and beautiful cinematography, was a dud. Critics too didn’t take to ‘Annabelle’ too well as it landed a measly 29% score on Rotten Tomatoes but although lacking in quality, it managed to gross $257 million on a $6.5 million budget which is outstanding. Luckily, James Wan went on to save the day for me quality-wise as he directed a sequel to ‘The Conjuring’ and ‘The Conjuring 2’ was released in June 2016. Although not as fresh as its predecessor, it was still suitably scary and fairly entertaining despite awkward pacing issues.
I knew that ‘Annabelle 2’ was in the pipeline for a fair while but last night, the first trailer for ‘Annabelle 2’ was released and I have to say I was pretty impressed. Now although one should never judge a film by its trailer as has been demonstrated plenty of times lately (I’m looking at you ‘Suicide Squad’!), it looks like the film is taking itself seriously and once again looks beautifully shot, this time by Belgian cinematographer Maxime Alexandre.
However what really makes me have faith in this product is the choice of director. John R. Leonetti is gone and this time replaced by director David F. Sandberg. Although I am yet to see it, Sandberg seems to have done a very good job on this Summer’s, ‘Lights Out’ and it was a hit both critically and commercially. He seems to be a much stronger director than Leonetti and a lot of the reasons why ‘Lights Out’ got good reviews was due to being effectively scary and being paced well something which hopefully with a good script should be something he can replicate here.
The casting for this film also looks promising. Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton were the leads of this film’s predecessor and both were awful, in particular Horton who should be very embarrassed with himself. Alfre Woodard rounded out this cast and although normally a great actor, her character was so dreadfully written and the film’s ending makes some rather baffling decisions with her character. Although it is not clear who the leads are yet or what the story is, a film with Miranda Otto and Anthony LaPaglia is normally a pretty safe bet and surely better than the combination of Wallis and Horton. I’m also sure that James Wan doesn’t want another poor quality film and hopefully he will be able to lend assistance in his producing role and ensure that this time we get a much better quality film.
Now I realise that all this is just pure speculation and it’s a very real possibility that we could end up with an equally horrible entry into this spin-off series but I think that the talent involved here are so much better, particularly Sandberg who seems to understand the horror genre with his work on ‘Lights Out’. This also doesn’t look like a straight-to-DVD project unlike the first film which gave that impression. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get an equally successful spin-off series alongside the main ‘Conjuring’ films? I think this is a step in the right direction.
‘Annabelle 2’ is currently slated for release on Friday 26th May 2017.
What are your thoughts? Does this look more of the same or do you think this film might actually be able to right the wrongs of the first film? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister