The film, based in part on the stories of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, stars Annabelle Wallis as Mia, an expecting mother and doll collector, and Ward Horton as her husband John, a doctor in residency. On the same night that John gives a Mia a gift of a rare doll that she has long been searching for, the couple’s Santa Monica home is intruded by cult members, who perform an occult ritual that leaves the already creepy looking doll ever so slightly creepier.
Wan, whose work as a director includes the “Saw” franchise and the “Insidious” films in addition to “The Conjuring,” talked about how this film franchise interests him in comparison to his other movies.
“For me the biggest difference with this particular franchise is the fact that it’s based on the Ed and Lorraine Warren stories,” Wan said. “That was the reason why I actually wanted to make ‘The Conjuring’ in the first place, I’d never made a movie that’s based on a true story before. So this was actually really cool to make a movie that basically played like a drama instead of straight-out horror film.”
And with “Fast & Furious 7” next on his directorial plate, Wan was happy to pass the helming reins on to “Conjuring” cinematographer John Leonetti for “Annabelle.”
“It’s actually kind of refreshing to relinquish the directing duties to someone else,” Wan said. “To kind of take a back seat but still have my input on it, it was actually really nice.”
Wallis, whose character sees the most interaction with Annabelle throughout the film, commented on how the doll’s appearance adds to the movie.
“She isn’t the best looking doll in the doll shop, no,” Wallis said. “She serves her purpose. She’s very stoic and still and has those big eyes. There’s a definite eerie quality that I think works very well.”
Horton, whose character brings the doll into his family’s house as a gift for his wife, saw the good intentions behind John’s decision, even if it turned out poorly.
“(John) brings home a doll for his wife as a present, because she is expecting her first child, and it might not have been the best move I made,” Horton said. “But I was going to do whatever it took to make my wife happy. Happy wife, happy life.”
With the film featuring a classically bad gift from husband to wife, cast and crew members recalled the worst presents they’d ever given. Though none quite matched up to demon-doll-baby, there were some particularly questionable gifts.
“I gave my grandpa … oh, this is inappropriate,” began Wallis. “I gave him what I thought was a back scratcher.” But, you know, it wasn’t.
“I think I gave my mom, back when I was like in high school, a really ugly Christmas sweater,” Horton said. “And it had like dolls and bells and whistles on it and stuff, I think that was probably the worst present I ever gave.”
Alfre Woodard didn’t have any that applied, as she explained her foolproof system for giving gifts prevents her from giving a bad one.
“I only give people what I really want,” Woodard said. “A lot of people buy it and keep it, but I buy it and I actually give it to them.”
Tony Amendola found some inspiration from the film itself for a future gift sure to terrify family members.
“I’m keeping one of these dolls to put it (under the Christmas tree),” Amendola said. “I’ve got to wait a couple years though, because they’ll be expecting it this year.”
After the screening, which merited some genuine shrieks from the audience, the party continued at the Emerson Theatre in Hollywood. The cast and crew relaxed with food and drinks, and guests including Pooch Hall (“Ray Donovan”), Peter O’Meara (“Love/Hate”), P.J. Byrne (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), and Andy Dick.
(Pictured: Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis at the “Annabelle” screening)