No matter how many cinematic trends come and go, audiences love to be scared now just as they did when Count Dracula first invited Jonathan Harker in for a quick bite over 80 years ago. But for this generation of cinema goers, horror is a place of remakes and reboots, with much of the dark magic of the genre’s greatest moments lost over the years. Thankfully we have Annabelle; the spooky follow-up of sorts to 2013’s ‘The Conjuring’.
The film, which tells the origin story of the real-life possessed doll first seen in ‘The Conjuring’, is packed with nods, references and sly homage to the classics. For the younger crop of horror fans, it’s a demonic gateway movie, introducing them to a world of terrifying malevolence.
But is ‘Annabelle’ one of the most influential horror ventures for the new generation of horror fans? It’s certainly one of the most accessible.
Here’s are some of its most important references…
‘Annabelle’ pays its deepest respects to Roman Polanski’s 1968 classic ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. Most obviously, protagonist Mia (named after the original Rosemary actress Mia Farrow, perhaps?) is subjected to supernatural torment during pregnancy and motherhood, but also isolated in an apartment block where she has to do battle with the forces of darkness – and possibly her own madness – alone. The jury’s out on whether the neighbours are also Satanists.
The “uncanny” – that which appears human, but is unsettlingly not so – is one of horror’s oldest scare tactics. It’s taken many forms over the years: ventriloquist’s dummies, demonic toys, sinister lifelike robots, and now Annabelle. The original, of course, is Frankenstein’s monster himself. Annabelle’s pigtails and flowery dress might not resemble the monster much (commonly defined by a flat head and whacking great bolts in the neck), but they’re undoubtedly of the same lineage.
Mia’s ghost whisperer pal Evelyn is a nod to the eerie blind psychic from Nicolas Roeg’s sublime ‘Don’t Look Now’ – plus it’s always good to have someone who’s supernaturally inclined knocking about in case something needs explaining. Mercifully, Evelyn’s efforts at helping Mia ward off the demons requires less nipple twisting than ‘Don’t Look Now’s’ psychic (if you haven’t seen it, don’t ask).
Forgive Them, Father
Poor Father Perez, who has a devilishly rough ride when he comes into contact with Annabelle, echoes Father Delaney from ‘The Amityville Horror’, himself plagued by unseen forces after entering the famously possessed house. Not only is it a reference to a hugely influential horror story, it’s also a nod to the real-life case of Amityville, whereby the Ed and Lorraine Warren of ‘The Conjuring’ fame were involved. Could it also be a sign of where the franchise is going?
Losing Their Religion
Any horror film with religious undertones owes something to ‘The Exorcist’, and ‘Annabelle’ references the 1973 classic in several ways. Aesthetically, the doll herself is not unlike possessed girl Regan – the poster child for underage evil – while Mia is a practicing Catholic whose faith is tested. But the biggest homage comes when Mia tries to expel the demon by leaping from a window to her death, a direct homage to Father Karras’ suicidal jump in ‘The Exorcist’.
'Annabelle' is available on Blu-ray and DVD on 23 February.
Picture credits: New Line Cinema, William Castle Productions, Universal Pictures, Casey Productions, American International Pictures, Warner Bros.