Day 278: Annabelle 2014

Day 278

3 April 2018  2344

Annabelle    2014

This film has been sitting on my shelf to watch for about five months. I hired it from Quickflix as part of my monthly fee but the sheer number of films I have to watch each week has made it difficult to find time. Each night I think about the four Quickflix films that have been sitting and sitting, day and night, on my shelf, and chosen not to watch them. One was Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas – Irma Vep) another was Old Boy (Spike Lee – Do the Right Thing), Annabelle and Something Else. I chose poorly tonight: Annabelle.

I’m a horror movie buff. It’s a great genre and I’ve watched hundreds of horror films, most average, many good, some very good and occasionally excellent.

When I visited Los Angeles in 1988, I stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel and was keen to see a film at the famous Chinese Mann Theater on Sunset Blvd. Child’s Play opened that week so I went to see it and thought it was both clever and thrilling. A definite three-star (***) film on a four-star system. It was good. This was long before the film and the sequels were found to be influential in affecting the behaviour of children.

Other good horror series included Final Destination, A Nightmare on Elm Street; and Hellraiser, Saw and Scream; and Stephen King adaptations like Carrie (very good) and The Shining (brilliant). [I have to add that Firestarter and some other Stephen King adaptations are beyond bad.]

Of course, horror series nearly always have duds and I haven’t always got to the end of a series of films just because one or two of them were good.

Great horror films that are regarded by an overwhelming majority as the very best will always include The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining. I would add the 2017 film, It.

The bad ones are as numberless as grains of sand in the desert. But, for twenty years they were a good way to wind down after a day and evening’s work before going to bed. Yes, horror films relax me. They don’t wind me up. A film like the original When a Stranger Calls engages my appreciation of a much-derided genre, by using twists on the standard horror storylines. Even some moments in the Urban Legends series were brilliantly done. As for Scream and its sequels, it’s rare for horror films (or any films) to maintain such a high standard of creativity in sequels. Jaws and Jurassic Park couldn’t do it. What Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson did in the Scream series is unsurpassed in terms of blending horror and comedy and the outstanding display of ironic and sarcastic comments on the entire horror genre.

The Conjuring was a pretty good horror film of recent times with good actors and good direction.  That’s why Annabelle intrigued me. A prequel that failed on every level of Horror Filmmaking 101. If I was reviewing films for The New Yorker, I’d be writing about all the other horror films which were good and bad and say nothing about Anabelle until the final few paragraphs. After all, if you can’t say something good, why say anything at all?

So! I will say the one good thing: the doll’s limbs, head and eyes never moved onscreen. I was sure that they would do that old cliché. But thankfully it wasn’t another nail in the coffin of a film which is so bereft of ideas, tension, thrills and horror, that it should rank amongst melodramas not horror films. Gee. Maybe that’s the whole point. It’s an anti-horror film and it took itself seriously as a drama.

But if you’re looking at good drama, from a kind of horror source, then look no further than Kathy Bates and James Caan in Misery. It’s not really horror but it’s written by a master of horror.

Even owning up to liking horror movies is a hard thing to do if you want someone to take you seriously as critic. But, I admit it! I like genre films. I like Foreign films, Comedies, Dramas, Psychological films, Erotic films, Melodramas, Thrillers, Disaster films, Fantasy, Action movies, War movies, Sci-Fi, Blends, Documentaries and Mockumentaries. [FYI: Blends are films which know how to blend many different genres like Basic Instinct – a horror, thriller, action, psychological, erotic, drama – so (potentially) bad it’s good.]

Scariest films are Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror. Greatest fun horror films include Jaws, Alien, Aliens and The Omen. Strangely, those four excellent films also constitute four of the best horror film soundtracks of all-time, composed by John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith. Basic Instinct was also Jerry Goldsmith.

Honourable mentions go to Carrie and Dressed to Kill (Pino Donaggio) and The Fury (John Williams).

Obviously, the missing entrant, with a Bernard Herrmann score, is Psycho.

The unsung hero is the film that didn’t have a score. Like with 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon (mostly) and The Shining, Kubrick liked to create his own musical soundtracks rather than have someone try to approximate what was in his mind. He often used classical, often progressive classical, music to create those soundtracks and The Shining is one of the best – ever.