Friday, October 6, 2017

The Halloween List: Killer Dolls! Annabelle: Creation and The Cult of Chucky

Annabelle: Creation (2017)

A serious step up from the first Annabelle, and a film that generally feels closer to the universe of The Conjuring. This is a prequel explaining the tragedy in a doll maker’s family that led to the creation of the eponymous toy, and why it was possessed. After the loss of their daughter, the family opens their house as an orphanage, and we follow Janice, a disabled girl who keeps finding clues that something is amiss in their house.

One of the biggest differences between the first and Creation is that so much more happens in this movie. Both the exploration of the house and creepy events fill much more of the film, giving the kids and their loyal nun attendant agency and investment. It also holds just enough back, such as the creepy well in the back of the property, which merely has to exist in the background of a few scenes and leave you waiting for something awful to come out of it.

I can be simple, and my highlight was simple. The Conjuring 2’s Evil Nun gets an exceptionally creepy cameo, suggesting she’s a part of the lives of the orphans, too. But she’s not chasing them through the world. It’s a deft enough touch to promise some of the characters you like best might appear in the Evil Nun’s own film, giving it at least one lovable protagonist.

My biggest criticism is that the movie tries too hard to tie into the first. Simply showing how Annabelle was created would have been enough. Without spoiling, it’s almost silly how much of the first movie is “set up” by this prequel. It suggests things were going on that, frankly, no one would care about.

What I care about is where this universe is going. Annabelle has yet to play a significant role in the mainline Conjuring films. Now we know that the Evil Nun’s existence can cross paths with Annabelle. Could the two demons come into conflict? Or is there a bigger story, with both crossing back over into something in Conjuring 3? Even the speculation is fun. Thank goodness there’s a cinematic spooky universe that works.

The Cult of Chucky (2017)
A movie so bad I wonder why I ever apologized for the series. The previous film, Curse of Chucky, introduced the paraplegic Nica as a worthy adversary and told a simple story of the evil doll sabotaging a household. Cult of Chucky is a God-damned mess, the result roughly equal to stuffing a script in a shotgun and filming whatever hit the wall.

So Chucky is a serial killer trapped in the body of a doll. Following the previous film, he’s been caught by Andy, the traumatized grown man who was once the child terrorized in the original films. Somehow, despite Andy keeping Chucky captive, another doll fitting the same M.O. has shown up at an insane asylum. It’s the very asylum where Nica is instituted, having feigned insanity to escape being framed for Chucky’s murders in the previous film.

This movie is trash, and if you honestly care to learn more, then good! You’re as deep into bad Horror as I am. But that means we need to dig both hands into the trash pile. It means *spoilers*.

After teasing resolution on why there are multiple Chucky killers for an hour, it turns out he went to “” and learned a new spell that lets him copy himself into anyone and anything. It’s a throwaway joke that isn’t funny, in a film full of incompetent storytelling and badly shot death scenes.

By the end of the film, Chucky seems both unstoppable by virtue of everyone in the world being incompetent and his infinite voodoo cloning powers, and it seems like even he doesn’t care about this. He just drives off with his girlfriend, leaving the plot whimpering and wishing for a better script, before it is mercifully killed off by the end credits rolling.

As you’d expect, a movie this tasteless set in an asylum is chock full of ableism. It’s not even self-aware enough to revel in its transgressions; it just does things. Sometimes it manages to be so egregiously transgressive that it is briefly funny, before collapsing back into characters who don’t know what they want and one-liners that weren’t clever in the 80s and still aren’t now.

Child’s Play got to me in elementary school, and so Chucky maintains a certain power with me. The series also won points at Bride of Chucky, when it veered from satirical Horror to straight Comedy. Even the last installment, Curse of Chucky, was a surprisingly passable story with a disabled protagonist who was tenacious. There is no tenacity about Cult of Chucky. It’s flaccid.

Up next: A day with the classics! Duel, Frenzy, and Picnic and Hanging Rock.

1 comment:

  1. Describing a movie as flaccid is such a damning comment. And now I am racking both brain cells for anything where flaccid could be a positive...


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