A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Annabelle is a prequel to the horror movie The Conjuring, about a possessed doll. There's lots of bloody horror, splattering blood, and scary images, plus some jump-shock moments, shooting, fighting, and dead bodies. A pregnant woman and, later, a small child are in jeopardy. It's all pretty terrifying. But on the upside, other than the scary/gory stuff, there's not too much other iffy content of note -- no sex, strong language, alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs. Though the central couple is married and affectionate, they're very rarely physical onscreen (not much beyond a hug or a kiss). And since the movie is set in the 1960s, not many brand names are shown. Horror fans will probably want to see this, but it's not likely to be as big as The Conjuring was.
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What's the story?
ANNABELLE's story takes place before the events of The Conjuring, following the titular evil doll. In the late 1960s, young couple Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward Horton) are expecting their first baby. As a gift, John gives Mia a creepy doll for her collection. With images of the Manson Family murders showing on the television, two murderous creeps break into Mia and John's home; while John fights them off, Mia is stabbed, and Annabelle is caught in the fray. Soon terrifying things begin to happen. The baby is born, and the couple moves to a new apartment, but the disturbances continue, and the ghosts and spooky disturbances give way to images of a demon. With the help of a bookseller (Alfre Woodard), Mia learns that the doll won't stop until it possesses a human soul.
Is it any good?
This movie is probably fairly forgettable, though horror fans will get a quick kick out of it. The Conjuring was an excellent horror film that introduced two real-life ghostbusters, the Warrens, who seemed poised to be the subjects of many good sequels. But instead/in the meantime, this quickie spin-off/prequel was devised, directed by the cinematographer of the previous film, John R. Leonetti, without any of the original cast. Annabelle doesn't bring a single new idea to the screen, and most of the scares are of the jump-shock variety.
But some of the old standbys still work, and Annabelle is certainly well-made; it's directed with patience, a sense of space, and incredible period detail. The performances are fine, especially Woodard as a grieving mother who runs a helpful bookshop, and the characters are sympathetic and intelligent. (The husband could take offense to his wife's experiences, but he chooses to support her.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Annabelle's violence. How did it affect you? How much is shown, and how much is withheld?
If The Conjuring was based on a true story, does Annabelle also feel like a true story? Does it make you believe in ghosts?