You don't need to be pediophobic to be creeped out by Annabelle, the hideous haunted doll who drifted in and out of the plot of James Wan's ghost horror The Conjuring. Annabelle eventually ends up under lock and key in the home of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the two paranormal investigators played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, but prior to that she had a pretty chilling backstory.
The fact that The Conjuring was based on a true story (well, as true as ghost stories get) probably didn't help audiences to sleep any better at night, and the Annabelle of the movie is based on a real-life Raggedy Ann doll that the Warrens took possession of after it began aggressively haunting its previous owners.
The Conjuring was released during last year's busy summer box office season and made an impressive $318 million worldwide, with a budget of just $20 million. More importantly, it won Screen Rant's approval, which is almost certainly the main reason why there are now three micro-budgeted spinoffs are now in development (along with a direct sequel).
The first of these is Annabelle, which fleshes out the spooky story behind the doll and will be directed by The Conjuring's cinematographer, John R. Leonetti. The Wrap reports that Annabelle's two leads have now been cast: Ward Horton (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Annabelle Wallis (Peaky Blinders, Fleming).
Assuming that Annabelle is a prequel, Wallis will likely be playing Donna, the owner and one of the victims of the Annabelle doll. According to the Warrens' account, Donna inherited Annabelle from her mother and brought the doll with her to college. Donna and her roommate Angie soon began to find that the doll would move itself around the apartment, and later the paranormal manifestations escalated as they found notes with pleas for help around their apartment and one day found that Annabelle seemed to be oozing blood.
The two students called in a medium to help them, who told them that their apartment complex had been built on the site of a field where a girl called Annabelle had been found dead. The well-meaning but naive pair decided that the best thing to do would be to invite the spirit to live inside the doll. Shortly thereafter, Donna's friend Lou (this will probably be Horton's role) found himself plagued by nightmares about the doll and one day found strange claw marks on his chest, as though something had attacked him. Soon after, the friends began to suspect that it wasn't a nice little ghost girl they'd invited into the doll at all.
The Conjuring director James Wan cottoned on to the effectiveness of dolls as objects of fright early in his career with Dead Silence, in which the vengeful spirit of a dead ventriloquist lived on in her collection of dummies. Though he has stated his intention to retire from the horror genre, Wan will remain as an executive producer on Annabelle, which Variety reports is set to begin filming on January 27th.
Annabelle doesn't have an official release date yet, but will likely arrive in theaters some time in 2015.