Firstly, Annabelle. I had seen and enjoyed The Conjuring and I'm not normally a fan of prequels. After all, a prequel is quite often concerned with the back story of the original. There is usually a reason why the back story remains largely untold. It's mostly superfluous, except occasionally as a point of reference to explain the character's reaction and/or behaviour in relation to whatever is going on. It can also help to ensure that certain aspects of the plot make sense and hang together. Once it has accomplished that, its job is done. To attempt to turn the back story into the main story is frequently a recipe for disaster.
Not in this case.
Annabelle makes a brief appearance in The Conjuring and is barely involved in the plot of that film, but there is something sinister in that doll's face, even before she is possessed. The only question I had is why on earth anyone would want to collect a doll that looked like that in the first place. But then, there appears to be a lucrative market for those life-size baby dolls made of some vinyl material which looks and feels like real skin. I don't know about you, but those things creep me out!
From the moment Annabelle makes her first appearance, to the closing credits, the tension and scares kept me riveted. Of course there is nothing new about creepy doll movies and there was nothing intrinsically unique about this one, but it ticked all the boxes for a great evening's horror entertainment and didn't resort to the need for flying dismembered body parts in lieu of a story. I loved the way the tension mounted and the ending left plenty of room for a sequel - with no reason why that shouldn't also be excellent, if handled as well as this one.
As for The Babadook - this Australian film has been quietly accumulating much critical acclaim. Justifiably so, in my opinion. It stars an actress whose performances I have come to enjoy in a distinctly different role and genre. When she's not being terrified out of her wits, Essie Davis is the cool, sophisticated, amoral and unconventional 1920s sleuth, Phryne Fisher in the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries TV series.
The Babadook also adds another dimension, as it is essentially two stories. One is the sad story of a woman desperately trying to cope with her life after appalling tragedy, while also dealing with a son who is troubled and prone to violence, and the second being the mounting horror of the entity that has invaded their home. Here again, there is no lazy recourse to slashing or liberal use of Kensington Gore. The story and the characters are strong and make this film look and feel authentic. And scary as hell.
My only criticism is of the ending. I'm giving nothing away but, for me, it was the only part of the film that I found hard to believe. That said, I thoroughly recommend it - along with Annabelle - for horror fans who prize a great story, with lots of scares, rather than simply a bloody gore fest.
See for yourself. Here are the trailers:
Oh, and if you reaally have to see those creepy dolls I mentioned earlier, here is a link. Don't say I didn't warn you... The Bradford Exchange Baby Dolls