For my money, there will never be a doll as spooky as Chucky was in the 1988 scare flick "Child's PLay". It worked so well because the heart of the horror was a doll fashioned after Hasbro's controversial My Buddy doll for boys.


For some reason, during James Wan's spooky film "The Conjuring", everyone's attentions was draw by the life-sized doll Annabelle. Remember, the doll was in a glass case in the spooky room. It stirred so much interest that Wan decided a prequel for "The Conjuring", thus we got "Annabelle" three years ago. It was not a very good movie, but for the $6.5 million spent, they had a return of $84-million domestically and a world wide take of $256 million. In Hollywood speak, that means there must be a sequel.


The directing reins were turned over to Dave Sandberg - whose last film was the mildly spooky "Lights Out". Once again, the writing was handled by Gary Dauberman who is trying to keep the story loosely attached to "The Conjuring" franchise. With no place else to turn, he wrote a prequel to the spin-off of the franchise. So this is somewhat of an origins story for Annabelle.

The film starts out sometime in the 1940's with kindly Sam Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia), a dollmaker who is married to his lovely wife Esther (Miranda Otto); they have a charming daughter Bee (Samara Lee). Bee's fun time thing is playing hide and seek by leaving little "find me" notes for her folks.


Alas, all goo things come to an end and the daughter gets killed; her death sends her parents into a lifetime of grief. Much like Steven King's "Pet Sematary" the parents wish for their daughter back, but the spirit that returns isn't their daughter and takes possession of a doll he made named... you guessed it. Time to lock the doll up and move on.


Twelve years later however, the Mullins decide to open their house to and orphanage run by kindly Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman). She brings with her six girls who have the run of the house with the one caveat that no on go upstairs into the lock room with the locked closet. Well if you've seen any fright flick, you already know that the girls will be drawn to that room like bees to honey. Any kind of warning is ignored, just like in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Visit", "Candyman" and many other films with warnings.


The rest is rather formulaic with the weakest of the girls, Janice (Talitha Bateman) who has polio, being the target of the demonizing. To his credit, Sandberg gets effective use from things that go bump, auto-opening doors, and the rocking chair scene that we've seen before. Nothing new, but effectively used. Probably used too much but he wasn't working with the best talent, so best to mask the dialogue with scary stuff.


You aren't getting anything new, but you are geting a vastly superior film compared to "Annabelle", though it is still a film we could live without.


"Annabelle: Creation" is a decent fright flick that does a good job of slipping into James Wan's "The Conjuring Universe". It's not as good as the Wan directed "Conjuring" films but better than the first "Annabelle".   -- GEOFF BURTON