Horror prequel ‘Annabelle: Creation’ scores low on originality, high on fun frights

Justin Lubin, Warner Bros. Entertainment

Talitha Bateman as Janice and Lulu Wilson as Linda in “Annabelle: Creation.”

“ANNABELLE: CREATION” — 2½ stars — Stephanie Sigman, Miranda Otto, Lulu Wilson, Anthony LaPaglia; R (horror violence and terror); in general release

There are movies that break new ground and movies that just know what to do with the ground that has been broken. Director David F. Sandberg’s “Annabelle: Creation” leans heavy toward the second category.

“Annabelle: Creation” is a prequel to 2014’s “Annabelle,” which told the story of a demon attached to a really ugly doll. It opens with a brief prologue where a happy young doll maker named Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife, Esther (Miranda Otto), lose their young daughter Bee (Samara Lee) in a car accident on the way home from church.

Fast-forward 12 years, and Samuel and Esther, still in mourning, have offered to let a group of orphaned young girls stay in their large, creepy rural home. In the interim, some kind of mysterious accident has left Esther bedridden, so only Samuel emerges to welcome Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and her girls.

We watch the story from the perspective of the girls, and primarily through Janice (Talitha Bateman) and her best friend Linda (Lulu Wilson), who are isolated from the other girls because polio has compromised Janice’s mobility. Samuel has generously opened his home to the girls, but he comes across as tense and foreboding, sternly warning them to stay out of the locked bedroom that used to belong to Bee.

So, naturally, that same night Janice enters the room and frees a demon attached to an absurdly hideous-looking doll in a white dress — Annabelle!

From here, the plot unfolds like countless before it: Strange things start happening — mostly at night — people make increasingly poor decisions and, as the threat gets more and more dangerous, the principal characters slowly piece together the story of what is causing all the ruckus.

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