Demonic Doll Haunts Yet Another House in Prequel to “The Conjuring” Franchise

 

Annabelle: Creation

Film Review by Kam Williams

Demonic Doll Haunts Yet Another House in Prequel to “The Conjuring” Franchise

Annabelle: Creation is the fourth film in a horror franchise that previously featured The Conjuring 1 and 2 as well as Annabelle. Because this prequel is set in 1952, well before the events which transpired in the others, one need not be familiar with those pictures to thoroughly enjoy this one, provided you like having the bejesus scared out of you.

The stand-alone screamfest trades in all the staples of your generic  haunted house adventure, ranging from a spooky disembodied voice singing a cappella, to involuntary levitation, to a victim leaving nail marks in the floor as she’s dragged down a darkened hall by a mysterious force. The movie was directed by David F. Sandberg, the Swedish wunderkind who made an impressive debut just last year with the low-budget thriller Lights Out.

As the film unfolds, we find dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his reclusive, bed-ridden wife, Esther (Miranda Otto), passing their days in a ramshackle, Victorian mansion sitting on a mountaintop in the middle of nowhere. They’re ostensibly still shaken by the loss of their daughter Bee (Samara Lee) who was hit by a car over a decade ago.

Annabelle: Creation,  Film Review,  David F. Sandberg, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Samara Lee, spine-tingling

That might explain why the inconsolable couple has decided to share their humble abode with a half-dozen orphans. The homeless girls are being chaperoned by Sister Charlotte  (Stephanie Sigman), a God-fearing guardian grateful to get a roof over their heads.

  The waifs are pretty much given free rein of the place, except for a direct order from Mr. Mullins to steer clear of Bee’s bedroom. But that injunction proves too tempting for Janice (Talitha Bateman), a curious kid suffering from polio.

Of course, she ventures inside and unwittingly unleashes a host of demonic forces doing the bidding of Annabelle, a doll Samuel had originally made for his dearly-departed daughter. It isn’t long thereafter that all hell begins to breaks loose.

Annabelle: Creation,  Film Review,  David F. Sandberg, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto, Samara Lee, spine-tingling

Director Sandberg proves particularly adept at ratcheting up the tension. In fact, the spine-tingling flick delivers innumerable heart-stopping moments along the way, though they come more from jolting sounds and abrupt edits than from investment in the simplistically-drawn characters.

Ask if they’ll sell you a ticket for half a seat, since you’ll never bother to sit back during this edge-of-your-seat thriller.”

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for horror violence and terror

Running time: 109 minutes

Production Company: New Line Cinema / Atomic Monster

Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

 

Source:  Baret News

 

 

Holocaust Drama Recounts Daring Exploits of Heroine Who Save Hundreds of Jews

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife

Film Review by Kam Williams

Holocaust Drama Recounts Daring Exploits of Heroine Who Save Hundreds of Jews

In 1928, Dr. Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh) became the director of the Warsaw Zoo. Over the next decade, he ran it  with the help of his wife, Antonina (Jessica Chastain), who was something of a wildlife whisperer. The institution flourished under their control until the outbreak of the Second World War in September of ’39 when Hitler invaded Poland.

The Zookeeper's Wife,  Film Review by Kam Williams, Dr. Jan Zabinski, Warsaw Zoo, Diane Ackerman, spine-tingling, quality performance

The zoo was closed to the public after being repeatedly bombed by the Luftwaffe during the siege of the city. However, the Zabinskis continued to live on the grounds with their young son (Timothy Radford) and the beleaguered animals that survived the attacks.

But once Warsaw was occupied by the Nazis, the couple was ordered to report directly to Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), the Third Reich’s recently-appointed chief zoologist. Despite being married, Heck never bothered to hide his lust for attractive Antonina, shamelessly forcing himself on her as they attended to the agglomeration of exotic beasts scattered around the premises.

Knowing that resistance was futile and might cost her her life, Jan directed his wife to submit to the unwelcome advances. And he understandably ended up feeling utterly emasculated by the frustration of failing to prevent her being pawed by the creepy Hitler henchman.   

The Zookeeper's Wife,  Film Review by Kam Williams, Dr. Jan Zabinski, Warsaw Zoo, Diane Ackerman, spine-tingling, quality performance

Nevertheless, the  Zabinskis did find an avenue of retaliation in the Polish the resistance movement. Joining the Underground, they secretly helped smuggle Jews destined for the concentration camps out of the Warsaw ghetto. Furthermore, they hid the escapees on the grounds of the zoo at a time when death was the punishment for attempting to liberate a Jew.

This is the spine-tingling series of events chronicled by The Zookeeper’s Wife, a fact-based docudrama adapted from Diane Ackerman’s best seller of the same name. Ackerman’s book, FYI, had, in turn, been based on an unpublished memoir by Antonina Zabinski herself.

The Zookeeper's Wife,  Film Review by Kam Williams, Dr. Jan Zabinski, Warsaw Zoo, Diane Ackerman, spine-tingling, quality performance

Directed by Niki Caro (Whale Rider), the picture stars Jessica Chastain as the fearless and endearing title character. The two-time, Academy Award-nominee (for The Help and Zero Dark Thirty) delivers another quality performance here, which is no surprise given how Caro has previously coaxed Oscar-nominated performances out of a trio of talented actresses (Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand and Keisha Castle-Hughes).

A bittersweet biopic belatedly paying tribute to an unsung heroine who selflessly put her life on the line in the face of unspeakable evil.     

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated  PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, mature themes, smoking, sexuality and brief nudity

Running time: 126 minutes

Studio: Scion Films

Distributor: Focus Features

Source:  GIG News