The first reviews are now online for the spinoff/prequel, Annabelle: Creation. In addition to earning a massive profit for Warner Bros., James Wan’s original Conjuring was both a darling of critics and a hit with genre fans, with many ranking it as the best horror film of 2013. One particularly memorable aspect of the film was supporting antagonist Annabelle, a demon-possessed doll usually kept safely locked away by married paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.

So popular proved Annabelle that a spin-off film starring her was quickly greenlit. A period piece set in the 1960s, Annabelle (2014) set out to tell the origin story of the titular doll’s possession, and revealed that the suicide of a satanist while holding the doll was to blame for her turn to the dark side. While Annabelle made enormous bank at the box office – earning over $256 million worldwide on a budget of only $6.5 million – critics were not kind to it, and even most horror lovers acknowledged that it was both a very flawed film and a big step down from The Conjuring.

Last year, The Conjuring 2 arrived to scare audiences all over again, earning nearly the level of acclaim as its predecessor. With the franchise’s course seemingly righted, hopeful eyes have turned to David F. Sandberg, director of upcoming prequel Annabelle: Creation. Sandberg burst onto the Hollywood scene last year with Lights Out, a hit with both critics and fans. Is he talented enough to rescue the Annabelle sub-series? According to the first round of early reviews, the answer is a fairly resounding yes. Presented below are some spoiler-free excerpts from those reviews.

Lulu Wilson as Linda in Annabelle Creation Annabelle: Creation Early Reviews   The First Good Conjuring Spinoff

IGN – Jim Vejvoda

“Annabelle: Creation is the rare horror sequel that improves upon the original, featuring more engaging protagonists and a far less problematic ending.”

Collider – Perri Nemiroff

The way Sandberg utilizes the doll is extremely effective, especially during a few very clever stunt scenes that feel reminiscent of The Conjuring but are fresh enough to deliver a fun, unique thrill you don’t see coming. […] Between this and Lights Out, director David F. Sandberg is clearly one to watch. With Annabelle: Creation he manages to successfully do his own thing while still respecting a past installment.”

THR – Justin Lowe

“As he did with his assured debut in Lights Out, Sandberg demonstrates a deft affinity for the elaboration of horror conventions, as well as the expansion of the Conjuring universe. After deploying the requisite jump scares that get events in gear, Sandberg settles into measured pacing that deliberately maneuvers the characters into mounting imperilment while gradually revealing the magnitude of the threat facing them.”

Annabelle 2 image doll featured Annabelle: Creation Early Reviews   The First Good Conjuring Spinoff

Variety – Peter Debruge

“Despite being stuck with a lame script, ‘Lights Out’ director David F. Sandberg manages to conjure some effective scares in New Line’s demon-doll prequel. […] Here, Sandberg once again plays with both lighting, composition and suspense, framing shots in such a way that we’re constantly searching the shadows for hints of movement, while drawing out scenes for maximum tension.”

Bloody Disgusting – Kalyn Corrigan

“The follow-up film to director David F. Sandberg’s wildly successful debut thriller Lights Out, Annabelle: Creation surpasses the first Annabelle movie in nearly every way. Whereas the first film felt long and tedious and uneventful, Sandberg proves once again that he knows how to scare his audience.”

Dread Central – Staci Layne Wilson

“Sandberg’s scares are successful. He straddles a nice cinematic line between the measured burn of 1970s auteur horror and today’s hit-and-run shocks tailor-made for the ADD generation. I found the story just a bit messy. But Sandberg has said that when the Annabelle: Creation script came to him, it was a lot longer and had everyone’s backstories – thank goodness, the director made it leaner and meaner.”

Annabelle movie 2014 Annabelle: Creation Early Reviews   The First Good Conjuring Spinoff

As one can tell from the above excerpts, the majority of praise for Annabelle: Creation’s success as a horror film is being offered to director Sandberg, although the full linked reviews make clear that the majority of the cast does well in their roles too.

The biggest stumbling block here seems to be the script, written by returning Annabelle writer Gary Dauberman. One wonders why Warner Bros. brought in a new director for the follow-up, but kept the guy who wrote the last widely-panned entry. Still, it appears that Sandberg manages to salvage things.

NEXT: The Conjuring: Crooked Man Spinoff in the Works

Sources: Various (see the above links)

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