Annabelle: Creation (Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 8-Nov-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Featurette-Deleted Scenes Featurette
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Directing Annabelle: Creation
Featurette-The Conjuring Universe
Short Film-Horror Shorts: Attic Panic
Short Film-Horror Shorts: Coffer
Audio Commentary-with Director David F. Sandberg
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 109:42
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By David F. Sandberg
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Talitha Eliana Bateman
Lulu Wilson
Stephanie Sigman
Anthony LaPaglia
Miranda Otto
Samara Lee
Mark Bramhall
Grace Fulton
Philippa Coulthard
Tayler Buck
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music Benjamin Wallfisch


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Dutch
Danish
Finnish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Post-credits scene

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††† 2017ís Annabelle: Creation is a prequel to a prequel that wasnít any good in the first place, and the very idea of this particular movie seems like the worst kind of Saw or Paranormal Activity-esque money-grab, with Warner Bros. trying to build their own Conjuring cinematic universe. And yet, in spite of all the baggage, Creation is a d*** good little horror movie, exceeding all reasonable expectations. The ace in the hole here is director David F. Sandberg, late of 2016ís Lights Out, who again demonstrates his deft hand with spine-tingling horror, guiding the movie above the ordinary. Indeed, even though Creation was penned by returning scribe Gary Dauberman, itís Sandbergís compelling direction, smooth pacing, and hair-raising use of sound and imagery which catapults this one to unexpected success. Itís worth watching, especially given that decent modern horror flicks are so few and far between.

††† Twelve years after toymaker Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther Mullins (Miranda Otto) lose their daughter Bee (Samara Lee) in a tragic car accident, the grieving parents choose to provide shelter for a group of young, orphaned girls. Overseen by Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman), the girls quickly take to the sizeable farmhouse property, playing games and enjoying the outdoors. The youngest of the children, Linda (Lulu Wilson) and the polio-stricken Janice (Talitha Bateman), mostly stick together, praying that they will someday be adopted by a good family together. Beeís bedroom is off-limits and remains locked at all times, but Janice simply canít help herself one night when she finds a key that opens the door. However, Janiceís actions unwittingly release something evil living within one of Samuelís dolls, and the occupants of the house are subsequently terrorised by dark forces, plunging them all into a sinister nightmare.

††† Although the first Annabelle was intended to reveal the origins of the creepy doll seen in 2013ís The Conjuring, Creation goes back in time even further, showing how it was manufactured and how a demonic spirit came to possess it. And to the credit of screenwriter Dauberman, the concept makes sense and the narrative manages to neatly tie into its 2014 predecessor, for better or for worse. Itís a standard set-up filled with genre clichťs, to be sure, and it mostly amounts to an excuse for a string of scary set-pieces, but the execution is a cut above the norm. After all, if any of the characters do silly things, itís easier to overlook it and forgive them because theyíre just kids. But above all, Dauberman and Sandberg evidently understand that the purpose of this type of movie is to cram as many taut set-pieces as possible into the 110-minute runtime while ensuring that the primary characters are compelling enough for us to care about, even if theyíre not fully three-dimensional. Sandberg really milks all the scary stuff for all that itís worth, and there are even some commendably unexpected plot turns. However, there is a clumsy-as-hell scene to tease the next Conjuring spin-off, The Nun, which feels awkwardly shoehorned-in. (Itís actually surprising that Warner Bros. didnít choose to retroactively connect Lights Out to the Conjuring universe, really.)

††† Sandberg established his strong horror credentials with the bone-chilling Lights Out, which was actually produced by The Conjuring architect James Wan. Itís easy to see why Wan and the studio felt comfortable handing Creation to the newcomer, whoís a wise replacement for Annabelle helmer John R. Leonetti. Without the burden of any PG-13 constraints, Sandberg is free to use all the tools at his disposal to create an unnerving and sinister movie, and he doesnít use the R rating as an excuse to go all-out with mindless gore. The director makes wise use of every square inch of the Mullinsí vast farmhouse, where evil can strike from above or below at any given time, and even the most predictable of moments (of course Janiceís stair lift will malfunction at the most inopportune time) are still effective and riveting. All hell breaks loose in the final act, but Sandberg can still build dread with stillness, initially taking things slowly - the mere presence of the Annabelle doll in the background, or the littlest sound effect is enough to send chills down your spine. Creation may have jump scares, but itís not entirely built around them, making the picture feel old-fashioned in all the right ways, even though Sandberg doesnít exactly colour outside the lines. Less successful, however, are certain digitally-enhanced moments which are too obvious and phoney, but at least these scenes are few and far between. With Sandberg reportedly set to helm the DC movie Shazam that Warner Bros. still claims to be making, letís hope that he still has a few more solid horrors up his sleeve for the future.

††† Backed by a modest $15 million budget, Annabelle: Creation is slick and stylish, with its 1950s setting adding to the creepiness of the material. Sandberg and director of photography Maxime Alexandre (The Hills Have Eyes) eschew needless shaky-cam, relying on a routine of dynamic but smooth handheld compositions to heighten the sense of immediacy. Further chills are provided by the hair-raising original score courtesy of Benjamin Wallfisch (Lights Out), which thankfully doesnít feel too overbearing. Furthermore, itís tricky to locate good child actors, but Bateman and Wilson manage to carry the story extraordinarily well, which is no small feat. Both girls are thoroughly sympathetic and exhibit terrific chemistry, making them believable as best friends. The two are also able to navigate a range of complex emotions, and, miraculously, they arenít at all grating. Also of note is Sigman, who emanates real warmth as Sister Charlotte, while LaPaglia and Otto are effective in their relatively small but nevertheless pivotal roles.

††† With Annabelle: Creation, there is promise that these Conjuring spin-offs will have more worth than 2014ís Annabelle initially implied - in the right hands, these minor side projects can deliver the type of chilling, nail-biting horror delights that genre fans crave. In addition, with 2016ís Ouija: Origin of Evil and now Annabelle: Creation, a bizarre trend seems to be appearing wherein prequels to subpar horror movies are all-round superior and more worthwhile. (Coincidentally, the movies also share young Lulu Wilson.) The movie isnít at all revolutionary, and it wonít exactly get under your skin or stay with you for days after viewing, but itís competently-constructed and doesnít take its audience for fools. At least thereís one Annabelle movie that approaches the quality of Wanís original Conjuring.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† Although there were rumblings of a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release, and even though the movie (as well as its predecessor) is currently available to stream on iTunes in 4K with Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range, Annabelle: Creation has only been released on regular old 1080p Blu-ray at this point in time, which is the same in all territories around the world. Framed at 2.40:1 and making use of a dual-layered BD-50, the encode is astonishingly strong for a Warner Bros./Roadshow title, with an unusually high bitrate around the 30 Mbps mark and with little in the way of compression artefacts. Nevertheless, it does lack the refined textural precision of 4K, and the colour palette lacks the distinctive pop of HDR.

††† Detailing is strong from the first frame of the movie, exhibiting a finely-resolved layer of source noise which amplifies the texture of the video. Annabelle: Creation was shot digitally with Red Epic cameras, and though said cameras habitually produce an image that looks too smooth in my experience, this particular Blu-ray consistently provides a detailed image. Intricacies on clothing and skin are effortlessly brought out, particularly during close-ups, and the transfer thankfully remains stable in wider shots. The transfer looks pristine - it was evidently minted direct from the digital intermediate - though textures aren't as strong during the darker set-pieces. Indeed, the transfer lacks a certain pop of detail when the lights are low, which is common with 1080p presentations. Sharpness, meanwhile, is enormously impressive, with not a single soft-looking or smeary shot to be found. Even in the darkest scenes, object delineation is tremendously impressive. When the Mullins are broken down by the side of the road, you can count the thousands of blades of grass in the background.

††† Colours are fine, retaining an autumnal palette in outside scenes, true to how the movie was exhibited theatrically. Skin tones look realistic, and the palette is slightly desaturated on the whole whilst still looking vivid (it's still not a patch on what HDR can offer, mind you). In spite of the transfer's strengths, it's still not perfect. The very first fade-in shot exhibits noticeable banding, and other instances of banding crop up at other points during the movie, usually during darker sequences. And although clarity is fine, blacks are not quite as inky or as deep as they should be during the final act, and contrast occasionally falters. Luckily, however, there is nothing in the way of black crush, aliasing, macroblocking, or any other encoding anomalies. A 4K Blu-ray would certainly provide a noticeable improvement in terms of textures, colour and contrast, but Annabelle: Creation still looks very good on standard Blu-ray and fans should be pleased.

††† English subtitles are available. I had no issues with the track; the subtitles are easy to read and well-formatted.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† Audiofiles rejoice! True to its theatrical exhibition, Annabelle: Creation comes to Blu-ray with a stunning Dolby Atmos mix which defaults to a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track if your player cannot decode Atmos. The track is a clean, faithful representation of how it sounded at the cinema - it's both layered and aggressive. First things first, the dialogue is admittedly mixed too low, which seems to be the norm for horror movies of this ilk because the scary sequences and sound effects are therefore louder. Unfortunately, it's not a great fit for the home cinema, as I found myself toggling the volume up and down a fair bit to be respectful to the neighbours. Still, the dialogue is clean at least, never sounding muffled, but the levels can be quite maddening nevertheless.

††† This aside, Creation's Atmos track is a winner in all other departments. Subtle ambience frequently comes through the rear channels, with soft sounds of bugs to give the impression that this house really is in the middle of nowhere. Panning effects are used too - see the scene in which something climbs into bed below Linda, and we only hear its footsteps. The music by Benjamin Wallfisch is clean and precise, filling the channels to hair-raising effect. During the movie's primary set-pieces, creepy sounds come from all around, making the mix sound rich, deliberate and full. There are no sync issues, nor are there any clicks or drop-outs, and the track is crystal clear to boot. On top of the excellent use of surround channels, subwoofer is exceptional - there's plenty of oomph and impact whenever something scary happens, which is destined to make your walls shake if the volume is up high enough. In addition, those who mixed the sound understand the value of silence when appropriate, as some moments are quiet to build tension, or rely on minimal sound. It's hugely effective.

††† Free of encoding issues and greatly benefitting from the Atmos mixing, Annabelle: Creation sounds superb on Blu-ray. For those interested, the disc also carries a lossy 5.1 English Descriptive Audio track, as well as lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in German, Italian and Spanish. I was only interested in the Atmos track for the purposes of this review.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† Whereas Sandberg's Lights Out got shafted in the extras department, Warner Bros. have splashed out for a reasonable selection of special features here. Perhaps Sandberg demanded it this time around.

Deleted Scenes Featurette (HD; 12:04)

††† Calling this a featurette is a bit misleading - this is a selection of deleted scenes with forced commentary by Sandberg, who often doesn't have a great deal to add. Indeed, Sandberg for the most part comments on the on-screen action, and reiterates a few things he also reveals in his audio commentary on the movie itself. There are a few nice chunks of information, but it would have been better to provide the deleted scenes by themselves with optional commentary.

Directing Annabelle: Creation (HD; 42:21)

††† In lieu of a more traditional making-of documentary, Sandberg has assembled a featurette which concentrates on the directing aspect of filmmaking. This is a unique extra, cutting between snippets of Sandberg talking about a director's duties and how he approaches the role, and on-set clips of the director interacting with actors and setting scenes up. As it turns out, this was actually created as a promotional tie-in for the movie, and was released in parts on YouTube. Therefore, the extra ends with Sandberg telling you to see the movie when it hits theatres, which is a little awkward to see in a Blu-ray special feature. Nevertheless, I'm glad this was included on the disc.

The Conjuring Universe (HD; 4:51)

††† In this brief featurette, James Wan drops in to talk about his approach to the Conjuring movies, and the decision to expand the franchise with a series of spin-offs. The segment provides a brief behind-the-scenes glimpse at Annabelle: Creation as well as next year's The Nun. This feels EPK in nature, but it's still worthwhile.

Horror Shorts: Attic Panic (HD; 3:10)

††† A horror short directed by Sandberg. Worth a look.

Horror Shorts: Coffer (HD; 3:09)

††† Another tense horror short directed by Sandberg. Both of the shorts feature Lotta Losten, who also has a cameo in Annabelle: Creation.

Audio Commentary

††† Sandberg drops in to deliver an informative, fascinating director's commentary, running through as many scene-specific anecdotes as he could. This was recorded two weeks before the movie's release, and he touches upon screenings at film festivals and the initial wave of positive reviews. Sandberg initially points out that he pushed to include the opening Warner Bros. logo used in the Conjuring movies, and he reveals a number of surprising elements that were executed with CGI (including leaves, as well as black goo "vomit" in one scene). Quite frustratingly, Sandberg discusses overseeing the Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range grade, which is currently only available to stream but should get a disc release (Warner Bros. is due to start authoring Dolby Vision discs with the upcoming IT, so perhaps we'll see a 4K release for Creation in 2018 sometime). Other topics include adding material on the fly, test screenings and additional photography, as well as finding the movie in the edit and changing things in post, which sometimes involved digital effects. Sandberg even shot a number of things with his own Black Magic Mini camera, and did a few VFX shots himself. He does struggle to fill in some gaps, but for the most part this is a grab-bag of insightful anecdotes that's worth listening to if you enjoyed the movie.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † The disc is almost identical to the United States release, only differing in terms of language options. Buy local.

Summary

††† Without reinventing the horror genre, Annabelle: Creation is a competent, intense exercise in terror, easily surpassing its dud of a predecessor. And it's more pared-down than The Conjuring 2, which leaned too heavily on digital effects. If you like horror movies, you'll almost certainly enjoy this one.

††† Even though a 4K release would have been preferable, the movie still looks and sounds terrific on Blu-ray, and features a small but agreeable supply of extras to round out the disc. No hesitation or caveats here - this one comes recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, November 17, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDLG UP970 4K UHD HDR Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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