IAB’S NIGHT TERRORS: “Annabelle” (2014) & “Maggie” (2015) IAB’S NIGHT TERRORS: “Annabelle” (2014) & “Maggie” (2015)
IAB takes a look at demon puppet-horror "Annabelle" and the Schwarzenegger zombie-drama "Maggie". IAB’S NIGHT TERRORS: “Annabelle” (2014) & “Maggie” (2015)

Hello, Horror fans.

Time for another episode of “Night Terrors”. I’ve held it off a while, as I did two consecutive ones during our “Avco/Embassy”-week. This time the theme is as simple as “two movies that have female first names as titles”. I know – it’s an ambitious one. Took me months to come up with it.

1

Annabelle (2014)
Director: John R. Leonetti
Writer: Gary Dauberman

“Annabelle” is a prequel/spin-off to James Wan’s massive horror hit of 2013, “The Conjuring” – which was based on the “true stories” of the lives of Ed and Lorraine Warren. The “Annabelle”-story – a tale of a doll that may or may not have been possessed by demonic forces (and is placed in the Warren’s Room of Evil Objects and as the legend says “a priest visits the doll twice a month to bless it“) was just a little pre-credits set up-scene in that film but, as this is Hollywood, of course that story of that doll had to be told as a stand-alone film. Director James Wan had decided to give horror genre a rest and was already deep in the middle of the tragic and exhausting production of “Furious 7”, so John R. Leonetti – the cinematographer of “The Conjuring” – took the director’s chair this time around. Well – did they manage to bring anything fresh and new to the genre of “Creepy Evil Doll”-movies (such as Richard Attenborough’s “Magic“, Stuart Gordon’s “Dolls“, Full Moon Pictures’ “Puppet Master“-series, the “Child’s Play“-series and of course Wan’s “Dead Silence“), or did they just fall flat on their face? Let’s see….

annabelle_1

The story begins with a recap to the prologue of “The Conjuring“, as we are reminded of the doll and then we quickly cut back to one year earlier and meet a young couple, John (Ward Horton) and Mia Form (Annabelle Wallis), who are living in Santa Monica and expecting their first child. Mia, a doll collector, gets a rare doll as a present from her husband. It’s 1969 and evil is afoot, as we see in the television news reports of the Manson Family. One night, the Form’s neighbors are murdered in a ritualistic killing by the neighbor’s daughter Annabelle Higgins and her boyfriend. As John and Mia investigate, the couple attack them. The police arrive in a nick of time and gun down the boyfriend. Annabelle, locked in a room with the doll, slices her own throat and bleeds to death spilling some blood on it. After the attack, Mia orders John to throw the doll away. As John is out of town on a medical conference, their house catches fire. Mia is barely saved, but the shock launches her birth. As they move into a new apartment building in Pasadena, the doll is discovered to be in their packed things. Strange things begin to occur – only witnessed by Mia and her baby: noises, objects moving, scary appearances and the increasingly creepier looking doll seeming to be linked to it all. Making some investigations of her own, with the help of her neighbor, a bookstore keeper named Evelyn (Alfre Woodard) and their church’s priest Father Perez (Tony Amendola), Mia discovers that the Higgins girl and her boyfriend were attempting to conjure up some evil demonic entity known as “The Ram” – which may now be possessing the doll and is after her newborn child’s soul.

Okay – first things first; how does cinematographer John R. Leonetti fare as the director? After all, his previous directing credits include such a gem as “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation“. Having photographed five of James Wan’s previous films (“Dead Silence“, “Death Sentence“, “Insidious 1-2” and “The Conjuring“), he certainly is able to mimic Wan’s style of filming horror – which is usually comprised of long, wandering takes that suddenly explode into horror beats. But sadly, Leonetti does not possess Wan’s very natural sense of pacing. Outside of a couple of effective sequences (especially the ritual murder of the first neighbors, which for the majority of time is played as a long one-shot), it mostly plays as a “cover band”-version of James Wan. And that matter is not helped by the script basically compiling every possible trope of the more known “demonic possession”-films; there are bits of “The Exorcist“, a spoonful or two of “Amityville Horror” and some drippings of “Rosemary’s Baby” thrown around there. It plays like “look, were trying to tell a true story, but look at all the cool movies we’re riffing on here!“. He even throws a few visual nods to John Carpenter’s “Halloween” in there. Yes, John – we saw that movie too…

This is not helped with the fact that the lead couple is inexcusably bland. Horton and Wallis look like a couple of soap opera-actors (Horton actually HAS acted in “One Life To Live“, so I wasn’t terribly off the mark there!), who have accidentally stumbled onto a horror movie-set. Not in any point of the movie do you care about these two or about what happens to them. The only two actors who manage to do anything with their parts are Alfre Woodard as the neighbor who has some knowledge of things beyond our world and Amendola, who makes the most of his “Trope Priest in a demonic possession-movie“-role. One could say, that the one really cool re-used thing from the “Stable of James Wan” in this movie is the film’s composer Joseph Bishara – who once again plays the dual role of composer as well as donning on the prosthetics as the main demon character, “Ram”. Bishara is plenty scary looking in real life and always brings an extra creepy factor into his creature performances – not to mention that his score is “nails on a chalkboard”-effective once again. As a conclusion: this film is definitely of DTV-quality, but for some reason it was shipped to theaters.

And of course it made $255 million on a $6.5 million budget, so what the hell do I know…?

Maggie-movie-poster

Maggie (2015)
Director: Henry Hobson
Writer: John Scott III

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to movies after his stint as the “Governator” has been patchy to say the least. His little cameos in the “Expendables“-films were mainly just winks at the genre audience, and he was definitely showing his age as his movements and “acting” were clunky at best (especially in “EX2”). “The Last Stand” was actually a pretty fun ride, and he was definitely the best thing in “Escape Plan“-actually giving what I’d call an “acting” performance. In “Sabotage” he was pretty smartly cast a bit against his usual “type”, but the movie in itself was something(or moreofathing) of a mess. So everybody was a bit surprised, when the first information of “Maggie” came out. Arnold, playing a farmer whose daughter is infected by a zombie virus? Well that’s definitely different. And an independent film, no less – with a $1.4 million budget, that probably wouldn’t cover even half of the catering on a movie like “Terminator: Genisys“? One could say that the Arnold today is pretty much where Clint Eastwood was back in the early 90’s, just before he made “Unforgiven“: an ageing action star, coming off a string of flops and finally deciding to show his age and do a true character piece and putting all of his tools to play – both behind the camera and in front of it. The only problem with Arnold in that though is that he’s not a director. But the word started to spread that this was a real bona fide acting part for him. So – to put it bluntly: is “Maggie” Arnold’s “Unforgiven“? Let’s find out.

a-still-from-the-movie-maggie-with-arnold-schwarzenegger-and-abigail-breslin

The story begins in the aftermath of a worldwide zombie pandemic, caused by something called the “Necroambulist” virus. A radio newsreader informs us, that in the last 3 months, the amount of new infections has decreased rapidly, but the remaining society is in a disarray – with a large part of the population either dead, missing or quaranteed. Farmer Wade Vogel (Arnold) drives to the city to pick up his daughter, Maggie (Abigail Breslin) from a hospital’s isolation ward. She’s been bit by a carrier and has between “6-8” weeks before she will turn. The government has ordered families to deliver their infected family members into Quarantine after they begin to show certain symptoms, but we learn that these places are basically Hells On Earth, where all the infected are thrown together, regardless of their stage of the disease, so it’s basically “people eating people“. Wade does not want this for Maggie, so he wants to say goodbye to his daughter in his own way. The children of Wade and his second wife Caroline (Joely Richardson), Bobby and Molly, are sent to stay with Caroline’s sister while Maggie spends her last few weeks at home. Maggie’s condition starts to slowly deteriorate as the infection spreads, causing her to lose her appetite for regular food and instead begin to crave living flesh. After an infected neighbor’s boy, Trent (Bryce Romero), is taken away after his disease has progressed to this point, the local lawmen insist that Wade let Maggie be taken away too, he angrily drives them off and gets the options from his friend, the town’s doctor Vern (Jodie Moore); give her to quarantine, administer a medical cocktail that will kill her (but causes serious pain right until the end) or “make it quick“. The question now remains; can Wade do what has to be done before it’s too late?

Labeling “Maggie” as a zombie film is kinda selling it short, honestly. It’s much more an analogy of a loved one falling ill with a terminal disease, and the life-long question of euthanasia; “what would you do?” It’s a character piece, of a father and a daughter making do with the little time they have left together and the tough choices that have to be made, as the illness progresses. Hobson – who comes from the world of title designing – films this with a hand-held, free floating camera that – and I’m trying my best to sound like a completely anal film snob here – actually brings in mind some shades of Terrence Malick’s work. But without any explanatory voice-over narrations. It’s a film of not that much dialogue, but of just the silent moments of life. Not counting a few select moments of color, the film’s color palette is mostly on the grey side – kind of like on John Hillcoat’s “The Road“, just a few shades up from being a black & white. And the post-apocalyptic angle is well played, as we only see the aftermath of a zombie outbreak but are really never given any info on how it started and what caused it.

So, how does Arnold do with all of this? I’d have to say – pretty damn well. There has been a tendency in his recent films of him kind of over-selling the fact that he’s getting old. I mean, REALLY over-selling it. There’s none of that here. He just…is. It’s probably the most subdued performance he has ever given in his 40+ years in the motion picture-business. There is none of his larger than life-personality at display here. And Abigail Breslin? Let’s face it – she’s been a pro ever since she first appeared in “Little Miss Sunshine” and she just seems to get better as she grows older. Seeing her body and mind slowly deteriorating as the story progresses is a “body horror”-performance right up there with the great ones, like Jeff Goldblum’s in Cronenberg’s “The Fly“. It’s also an interesting side-piece to her work as a zombie-killer in the movie “Zombieland“.

And let’s face it – this is mostly a film of those two; sure – Joely Richardson makes what she can of the part of Wade’s second wife and Maggie’s stepmother Caroline, and there’s a haunting scene where Wade confronts Bonnie – the wife of his zombified neighbor that he killed, as well as some encounters with the town’s sheriff’s and the town’s doctor, but this is Schwarzenegger’s and Breslin’s film – 100%. It’s a truly haunting piece and I have a feeling that it’s gonna be something that people will revisit in the future.There’s also an interesting little echo in the beginning of the film, as Arnold is driving alone through the abandoned cityscapes, of that unfilmed adaptation of “I Am Legend” that he was at one time gonna do with Ridley Scott before the project fell apart and Scott’s attention turned to “Gladiator” instead. I don’t know why, but those scenes sort of reminded me of that which could have been.

Is it his “Unforgiven“? Well, I gotta say it’s pretty goddamn close.

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I Am Better

Coming from the frozen wastelands of Finnish tundra. Mr. Better seeks warmth from his television & home theater and all the wonders they provide. He occasionally dabbles in the arts of drawing and photography.

  • Bop

    I still have to see The Conjuring? Should I watch it, IAB?

  • Yes.

  • Bop

    Ok.

  • Stalkeye

    Excellent, Kim!!!

    “And of course it made $255 million on a $6.5 million budget, so what the hell do I know…?” LMMFAO I know, right?

    “Labeling “Maggie” as a zombie film is kinda selling it short, honestly. It’s much more an analogy of a loved one falling ill with a terminal disease, and the life-long question of euthanasia; “what would you do?” It’s a character piece, of a father and a daughter making do with the little time they have left together and the tough choices that have to be made, as the illness progresses.”

    Well said! It was exactly that, a metaphoric drama but instead of terminal illnesses such as AIDS, Cancer, ALS, etc, Zombies have been thrown in. Maggie was mis marketed as a Zombie pic and it’s a cheesy way to lure the Moviegoing public into seeing this Film .

    My Wife and I thought the ending was a cheap Cop out but otherwise, it was Arnie at his most “Humanistic” role. Good effort that fell a tad bit short.

    I have yet to see Annabelle as i have been putting it off for some time, but may give this a look.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    Nice job. I would like to see more of these, since horror is my thang. My opinion, Annabelle sucked, no matter how much money it made, and Maggie was good, not great, as was Arnolds performance. Arnold has never been a good actor; he is a great action hero, period. I found his acting in this ok, on par for Arnold. He has never had the acting chops of fellow action star Stallone, but he does ok in rolls written for him. Look forward to seeing more of these.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    To me, the Conjuring is just ok, it seems there has been a rash lately of horror films that are fairly interchangeable (Conjuring, Sinister, Insidious, Annabelle, etc).

  • Abe

    I’m on outside here. I’ve never seen either of these flicks.

  • I would recommend the latter.

  • Abe

    I won’t say your reputation is on the line because I say that too much.

  • Abe

    But your reputation is on the line.

  • You say that EVERY time
    XD

  • House Password Zissou

    Is there any interesting exorcism movie that isn’t just using things that worked in The Exorcist? The Conjuring was okay but didn’t really feel like it had anything different on its agenda.

  • Probably not. Annabelle does not have an exorcism per se, but recycles a lot of ideas nevertheless

  • Tarmac492.1

    Conjuring was great until the Exorcism part. I liked the first Last Exorcism.

  • House Password Zissou

    Never saw that one. I will admit Constantine is kind of a guilty pleasure.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I think a big yes. Until the Exorcism.

  • House Password Zissou

    I had a friend who had a creepy doll in college and he and his dorm-mates would move it around and try to creep each other out with it so the first 10 minutes of The Conjuring hit too close to home to make me not laugh.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I actually really enjoyed The Conjuring(save the Exorcism scene). I liked the first Insidious as well. I thought Sinister was fairly bland, but well made. Yet to see Annabelle, I think Wan and Co need to move away from Creepy Dolls. Your thoughts on Rob Zombie?

  • Tarmac492.1

    Well done IAB. I like the Arnie/Clint comparison. Although, Clint has the upper hand as he can direct. Maybe Arnie can, as well? We sometimes forget Stallone has chops in the writing/directing areas, as well.

  • House Password Zissou

    Saturday Night Fever 2?

  • Tarmac492.1

    It was good because the guy is an Evangelist and a charlatan and he thinks he is playing a hoax and then maybe he might be wrong. It is a mockumentary, but entertaining.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Whoops.

  • House Password Zissou

    I enjoyed The Exorcism of Jonah Hill

  • House Password Zissou

    That first Sinister was nicely done I thought but I hate seeing Jesse not discussing love with Celine.

  • There’s something so off in that sentence “the first Last Exorcism” XD

  • House Password Zissou

    I bet Fukunaga’s IT adaptation would’ve been good.

  • House Password Zissou

    Fukunaga our lord and savior

  • House Password Zissou

    Although I don’t remember Jane Eyre that well.

  • House Password Zissou

  • House Password Zissou

    I’m going to listen to this on repeat for a while. Anyone interested is welcome to join.

  • Tarmac492.1

    People ask IAB if he believes in demons and exorcisms. He says have you ever heard of me battling it out with my fucking possessed computer????

  • Tarmac492.1

    Have you seen Sin Nombre? I think I should watch.

  • House Password Zissou

    I haven’t but I have no excuse why not. I’ve just rewatched TD season one over and over.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I have no excuse either. I still would like another proper I AM LEGEND movie, something along the lines of Last Man on Earth. He could get the moody, isolation, foreboding dread thing going.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    …and Clint has the upper hand because he can act!

  • House Password Zissou

    Something that sticks to the actual book would be fantastic. Doesn’t need a big budget either.

  • House Password Zissou

    And sing!

  • Tarmac492.1

    Agreed. I think a big budget is a nail in the coffin actually. While we are at it, it needs to be black and white. It must have the stopped watch scene, as well.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    A big fat meh! I enjoyed his first film, really liked his second, slightly enjoyed Halloween, and the rest have been disappointing.

  • House Password Zissou

    *investors stop listening*

  • Tarmac492.1

    I think with a good script, he could actually direct a masterpiece one day. he relies too much on halloween haunted house imagery.

  • House Password Zissou

    I really don’t get why black and white is such a turnoff. It has baffled me through the ages.

  • Tarmac492.1

    No one has any balls anymore. Black and white is just surreal beauty.

  • Tarmac492.1

    I love, love black and white.

  • Hahahah. Ain’t that the truth

  • Tarmac492.1

    The power of Christ compels you you fucking Dell piece of shit.!!!!!

  • House Password Zissou

    It’s great. Recent black and white releases have been some of my favorites of the past few years.

  • Hard to say. The man is clearly talented, but some of Stephen King’s books are just impossible to film.

  • Tarmac492.1

    The beauty of Frances Ha, obviously. It takes nothing away from the story. NYC looks amazing in black and white. My favorite Woody Allen movie is Broadway Danny Rose(Mia;s 2nd good performance after Rosemary’s Baby). So obviously comedies work in Black and White.

  • That would be the ultimate Twist; make the next “Midnight”-film into a horror movie 😀

  • House Password Zissou

    Woody’s secret weapon was Gordon Willis.

  • House Password Zissou

    Before Midnight was totally a horror film.

  • Mine too

  • Tarmac492.1

    That is a great point.

  • House Password Zissou

    I can’t remember if he shot Stardust Memories but all Woody’s movies in that period looked stunning.

  • House Password Zissou

    Totally agree about Mia’s performance in Danny Rose. Who knew she had that in her?

  • Tarmac492.1

    I am going to start picturing Vegetable Lasagna in black and white.

  • House Password Zissou

    Yeah, realistically we’ll see just how much Fukunaga can accomplish in the next few years but True Detective gives me full trust in his abilities.

  • House Password Zissou

    I thought Nebraska looked great too but it’s really hard to tell how biased I am with it because I know some of those locations/types of people.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Payne is a savior for adult type entertainment that can still be umm you know entertaining.

  • House Password Zissou

    I met him last fall when he was location scouting and he’s really nice as well. He ignored all my drool and everything.

  • Tarmac492.1

    That is cool. You hear that so many people are such dicks in real life.

  • CoolHandJuke

    I need to see Maggie. I owe Arnold that much at least…

  • Definitely gonna check out Maggie, but fuck that creepy doll shit.

  • I wrote that “creepy evil doll movie”-Tag with especially you in mind, lol.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Arnie directed a good episode of Tales from the Crypt back in the nineties.

  • A “creepy doll commanding an army of wasps” movie would be my kryptonite.

  • ponyboy_360

    “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night”.
    One of the best B&W films
    I’ve seen as of late.

  • Jack Randomm

    Great reviews! I feel justified in plugging it on the show.

  • Nice write-up! I was correct with skipping “Annabelle”. I’d still like to see “I am Legend” with Arnie by Scott. It’s not too late!
    PS: For a second I thought the old dude in the first pic was Hector Elizondo.

  • Thanks, Jack. It’s too rarely I actually get to critically bash a movie. For some reason most of those tend to be of the horror genre.

  • It’s a pic just aching to get a caption contest

  • Jack Randomm

    I know the reason! A lot of those movies are terrible!

  • And yet they make hundreds of millions

  • Dr. Geiszler, Kaijuologist

    Damn, I knew I shoulda caught Maggie.