When James Wan's "The Conjuring" became a hit with critics and audiences upon release in July 2013, the film's handsome '70s-throwback style brought unnerving suspense and pleasing attention to character to its true-life account of demonic infestation. One of the haunted artifacts that sat encased in glass in the home of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren was the malevolent Annabelle doll, said to be possessed by a deranged woman who committed suicide named Annabelle Higgins. When a spin-off prequel entitled, naturally, "Annabelle" was announced, there was the fear that it might be a cheap, slapdash knock-off in existence for no other reason than to capitalize on the success of its predecessor. While this latter point is likely accurate, the stupendously effective finished product dispels all viewer doubts within minutes. "Annabelle" not only withholds the dignity of "The Conjuring," but actually surpasses that film's fiendish parade of frights.
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