Last year's "The Conjuring" was something of an anomaly; a major studio horror movie that was rated R just for being so insanely scary. And what's more was the fact that people showed up, making tons of money on a minuscule budget. So, of course, with a movie of that size making that much of a profit, what was once a wonderful one-off has evolved, rather quickly, into its own little franchise.

The first cog of this franchise is "Annabelle," a quickie spin-off/prequel that focuses it on the demonic doll from the first movie (this is the story that acts as an entry point to the wild and weird world of the ghost-hunting Warrens). Set a few years before the events of "The Conjuring," it follows a young couple (played by Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) who first encounter the nasty plaything.

But does this live up to the lofty legacy of "The Conjuring"? Or does it fizzle before your very eyes, like a ghostly apparition? Read on to find out!

1. It's Not Funny
This isn't to say that every horror film should be funny. Sometimes deadly serious horror movies are the way to go ("The Conjuring" certainly didn't have much in the way of laughs), but this is a horror movie about a possessed doll. Typically, that's a premise that you can milk a few guffaws out of. But nope. "Annabelle" plays it completely straight, which is not only a drag to watch but seems sort of unrealistic (I know we're dealing with a movie about a possessed doll but still. Something funny must have happened while this young couple was being terrorized. Right? Right?

2. It's Not Scary
More damnably, "Annabelle" just isn't scary. Again: this is OK. Most horror movies aren't scary. But this is the follow-up to one of the scariest movies ever (or at least in recent memory). Sometimes the scares are played out in long, single takes. That's admirable but again it never amounts to much. Quite frankly there's not much difference to the way the scares are delivered here than in your run-of-the-mill "Paranormal Activity" sequel. Which is pretty sad.

3. The Connection to 'The Conjuring' Is Tenuous (At Best)
While Warner Bros. is really trying to stress how connected this movie is to the original "Conjuring," the actually ties are tenuous (as best). "Annabelle" actually starts with a scene from "The Conjuring" – with the two young nurses telling the Warrens (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) about the cursed doll that has been terrorizing them relentlessly. Then we flash back to see where that doll came from. Or something. The point is that there is actually very little connection with "The Conjuring" and, for all we know, the actual story of Annabelle, since it is based on a real doll that the Warrens had in their possession.

4. It Both Embraces and Ignores Its 'Rosemary's Baby' Ties
What's so weird is that the movie clearly apes "Rosemary's Baby" (the main character is called Mia and slowly goes mad inside a '60s apartment building) but also denies those ties at the same time. Like why not really go for it? Have the character cut her hair short or invest in the other characters in the building. Unfortunately, just a cursory reference here and there is all "Annabelle" is good for.

5. The Political/Historical Commentary Could Have Been Better
Early in the movie, the couple watches a news report about the Manson family murders and there is a lot of talk about the fear that satanic cults are a very real problem. But then that is never really brought up again. There are some killers in the beginning of the movie who are attached to a cult but there's not a lot of parallels drawn between that cult and the actual Manson murders and anything else '60s-related (strained race relations, Vietnam, the feminist movement) is never even touched upon. Listen, all of that stuff is great, but we've got a killer doll to deal with here.

6. There's Very Little Going On
Not only is "Annabelle" curiously lacking in the sociopolitical subtext arena, but there isn't a lot going on inside the narrative, either. The husband is getting his medical degree so is away from the house a lot, leaving the poor wife to deal with all of the demonic goings-on. So, naturally, we assume that there is something going on with the husband, either that he's a.) having an affair or b.) involved in the satanic cult that created this whole mess in the first place.

7. The Demon Is Lame
There's a demon in this movie that looks like the all-black version of Hannibal from "Hannibal." In short: we've seen it before and it isn't scary enough to make the cut on an off season of "American Horror Story." Try again, Hollywood creature creators!

8. The Photography Looks Cheap
"The Conjuring" is a gorgeous movie, so Warner Bros rightfully played John Leonetti, that film's cinematographer, in the director's chair for "Annabelle." Unfortunately, "Annabelle" looks cheap and unconvincing, a digital movie that has less mood and texture than a Facebook photo album. There's one shot, in particular, when Mia is in the elevator of their apartment building, that looks like it was shot with a GoPro camera.

9. The Last 'Child's Play' Movie Is Way Better
"Curse of Chucky," the last film in the "Child's Play" franchise (it was included in the box set of all of the films that came out last Halloween) is way, way better than "Annabelle." It's similarly contained but much more stylish and scary. If you haven't seen it yet, give it a rent. It's worth your time.

10. I Wish My Entire Review Could've Consisted of the Following Jenna-from-'30 Rock' GIF

"Annabelle" is in theaters now.

categories Movies, Reviews