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Movie Review

Bad news. Linda and Janice are orphans, and their Catholic orphanage has been shut down.

Good news! Samuel and Esther Mullins have told the girls that they can stay in their huge, rambling farmhouse! Linda, Janice, and four other orphans can live there until they're adopted by kind, loving parents. Oh, and there's room for their kindly teacher, Sister Charlotte, too.

Bad news. Samuel and Esther are a little … odd. Oh, they seem well-meaning enough. But Samuel seems awfully gruff and rather sad, and Esther—well, the invalid hasn't been out of bed in years, it's said. The girls never see her. Only the delicate bells that come from the Mullins' bedroom—a signal that Esther needs something—prove that she exists at all.

Good news! One fewer adult to get in the kids' way, right? After all, this place is practically a palace for the girls, what with its grand creepy staircases and its drafty dumb waiters and strange hidden crevices and decrepit barns and mysterious covered wells. Why, even polio-stricken Janice can explore the farmhouse a bit: There's a handy little chair lift installed in the staircase, allowing her to get up and down without too much angst. It even has a seatbelt. What could be safer?

Not that the girls have complete run of the place, mind you. Samuel keeps one room—an upstairs bedroom—locked, and he forbids anyone from entering.

But hey, it's not like the girls need to see what's in that room, do they? No need to open that mysterious door, right?

Bad news. Janice opens that mysterious door.

Good news! It's a child's bedroom! A beautiful one! It has a puppet theater! And a record player that sometimes plays on its own! Why, it even has a massive dollhouse that looks just like the farmhouse and has a mysterious little girl inside! Oh, and inside a closet—also locked, for some reason, and wallpapered with Bible pages—there's this … this, doll! OK, maybe it's not the prettiest of dolls. Maybe its eyes are just a little too wide and its grin a little too maniacal. But hey, it's certainly dressed nice. And what harm could a doll cause, anyway?

Bad news

Positive Elements

Janice and bunkmate Linda are the bestest of BFFs. It doesn't matter that Janice hobbles around on leg braces most of the time. They're constant companions—at least early on—and they make a pact that they'll never, ever separate. Even if a set of perfect parents comes to claim one of the children, they promise that they'll not agree to the adoption unless the other one gets to come along, too.

Sister Charlotte, for her part, unfortunately can't be everywhere at once. But when she is around, she's a dutiful, loving guardian. "Hope is a home unto itself," she tells Janice—a lovely sentiment. And indeed, she does her very best to give a little of that hope to her orphaned charges. So when a dark presence makes itself known, Sister Charlotte tries to protect the girls—with admittedly mixed results.

The Mullins, too, are well meaning. They brought the girls in with the best of intentions, even though Samuel and Esther knew they'd never be able to replace their darling little girl (who died in a tragic auto accident years earlier). Perhaps they should've shown a bit more foresight, it's true, but their hearts are in the right place.

Spiritual Content

In a quiet moment, Janice reminds Sister Charlotte how she's taught them that God is present, even when we can't feel Him. "In this house I feel a different kind of presence," Janice says. And boy howdy, is she right.

As the story unfolds, we witness a great deal of demonic influence in Mullins' home, from moving objects and ghostly presences to literal darkness (emanating from behind a door) and glimpses of physical demons (complete with nasty claws and slavering mouths). And they're obviously hungry for souls.

But these are spiritual beings, and thus under the dominion of God Himself. It's telling that Annabelle, the doll, was successfully locked in a closet for several years, one surrounded by Scripture and a crudely drawn cross. (In flashback, we see her placed in the closet by priests, who bless, pray and sprinkle the closet with holy water.) That prison kept Annabelle quiet for a number of years. Folks possessed by this/these evil entities seem to have an aversion to Catholic holy medals, too. And someone is rescued right after saying a fervent prayer. Sister Charlotte tells Janice that demons prey on those "weak in faith, not weak in flesh and bone. And your faith is as strong as any of ours."

But faith doesn't always seem to work. A crucifix brandished at the demon only seems to make that entity more angry (though the demon does force the person holding it to drop the cross before continuing its bloody work). Prayers don't stop a supernatural creature from throwing someone across a room and into a wall, either. A good person gets possessed by a bad demon. And the very fact that priests were apparently able to cleanse the house but were unable to eject a demon from Annabelle suggests that faith has its earthbound limits.

Elsewhere, Samuel leads the girls and Sister Charlotte in a dinnertime prayer. "Bless this food to our use, and us to Your service," he intones. Janice says a quick prayer before she opens the door to the forbidden room. "Bless me Father, for I am about to sin," she says. She later asks Sister Charlotte for the sacrament of confession, and when the nun hears that Janice entered the room, she's justifiably angry. "A sin is a sin, no matter the context," Sister Charlotte says. Charlotte also says a prayer later (under some duress).

A Bible lays on Esther's nightstand. Crosses—both clear and subtle, upside-down and right-side up—festoon the farmhouse. In flashback, we see the Mullins leave a church service, and a fellow congregant jokingly says that "prayers are answered" when hearing that Samuel's latest batch of collector dolls should be shipped soon. Esther says she and her husband hoped that letting the girls stay in their home would be "our penance."

Why would they need to perform penance, you ask? Well …

[Spoiler Warning] When their young daughter, Bee, was killed in a car accident, Samuel and Esther prayed to whatever power might bring even a semblance of their daughter back. And that ill-considered petition opened their home's door to demonic influence. Bee—or something that looks like Bee—does come back. They hear the ghostly child and sometimes spy her out of the corner of their eyes. She asks permission to possess a doll that her doll-making-father crafted—the titular Annabelle. Once she moves in, Bee grows stronger and more obviously malevolent. Is the demonic presence actually Bee? Esther seems to think that Bee's soul is lost to darkness, lamenting the fact that she'll not see her little girl in heaven. But clearly there's something more at work here: Bee's body morphs into something truly demonic, and it's physically capable of doing a great deal of harm.

Sexual Content

None.

Violent Content

Annabelle: Creation is part of the Conjuring horror universe—an R-rated franchise that had thus far been relatively restrained in its gore. Creation, however, marks a departure from that restraint. While blood isn't exactly unremitting here, this film definitely earns its restricted rating.

Someone's fingers are systematically snapped as a demon tries to free a crucifix from that person's grasp. The body of said person is later discovered, obviously dead. Someone else is literally torn in two. We don't see the attack, but we do see the upper part of the body essentially crucified to a wall, with plenty of blood on the floor. Someone bears horrific scars from another demonic assault (about a third of that victim's face has been clawed off and an eyeball is missing). In flashback, we see the immediate aftermath, with blood seeping from the victim's face. We also see someone's throat sliced open; blood spurts as an attacker and its assistant prepare to go after (and likely kill) someone else in the room.

A girl is essentially lifted up and dropped from a pretty good height. Someone gets slammed into a wall. Another victim is nearly yanked into a well by creepy hands. A girl is pushed out of her wheelchair and into a barn, where she's attacked by a demonic presence. Ankles are grabbed, kids are dragged.

Bee is killed by a rushing car, but we don't see the impact on screen.

Crude or Profane Language

Both Sister Charlotte and a priest seem to turn what were initially misuses of God's and Jesus' name into more pious exclamations. Outside of that, we hear one use of "d--n."

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Other Negative Elements

Some of the orphan girls ostracize Janice, ignoring her because she's "different."

Conclusion

Where can we find God in secular society today? Well, at horror movies, for one.

Even as America grows ever-more secular and religion itself is seen by some as an antiquated afterthought, horror flicks—particularly those in The Conjuring franchise—keep giving us stories where belief in God is not only relevant, but pretty critical if its characters want to survive to the credits. In the effectively creepy Annabelle: Creation, we see demonic evil at work, and the movie suggests that our best hope against it is in trusting and petitioning God.

Is faith irrelevant? Annabelle: Creation gives us a story where faith is extraordinarily relevant … and urgently needed.

But even though that message is explicit, the movie that delivers it is spiritually and violently explicit, too. We see evil and demonic forces onscreen. Moreover, we see what this movie says those forces can do to someone who stands in their way—both in body and spirit.

And while Creation acknowledges the need for faith, it's frustratingly enigmatic about how, when and why that faith works: Did that person who died with a crucifix in hand simply not have enough of faith? The movie doesn't have an answer.

Annabelle: Creation is a mixed, R-rated bag. And even though it acknowledges the need for God to confront spiritual evil, its problems are still legion.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Stephanie Sigman as Sister Charlotte; Anthony LaPaglia as Samuel Mullins; Miranda Otto as Esther Mullins; Talitha Bateman as Janice; Lulu Wilson as Linda; Samara Lee as Bee Mullins

Director

David Sandberg ( )

Distributor

Warner Bros.

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

August 11, 2017

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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