If we’ve discovered anything from the meals preparation Course, it’s that skill is identified not by the substances you use, but how you utilize them. By that strategy, director David F. Sandberg can be an alchemist of the first order, taking the bottom — even leaden — the different parts of horror and whipping them into a shivery chiffon of dread.
The Swedish filmmaker achieved it together with his debut feature, “Lights Away,” which milked a deceptively simple yet sublimely spooky premise — the boogeyman only shows up when the signals go out — for all people it was worthy of.
He did it again — with even cheesier materials — taking the cliche-filled pantry of the devil-doll prequel “Annabelle: Creation” and turning out a dish that, while used collectively from the familiar the several elements of the ghost history, is uncommonly, nerve-wrackingly satisfying.
Mr. Sandberg’s menu mixes equipment from a screenplay by Gary Dauberman, who also composed the considerably less effective “Annabelle,” a 2014 spinoff from the world of “The Conjuring.” The 1950s-place tale, which centers around orphans residing in a remote house with balky electricity, a drafty dumbwaiter and an abundance of secret crawl locations, also features: a locked room, a deceased child, an effective, a reclusive invalid who wears a “Phantom of the Opera”-style half-mask and, for crying out loud, a nightmarish scarecrow.
The house’s proprietor is a retired dollmaker, whose magnum opus is the titular, demented-looking puppet, one you wouldn’t be prepared to see on any sane person’s bookshelf, aside from in the toy aisle.
Twelve years after burning away their girl, Bee (Samara Lee), in a vehicle accident, Sam and Esther Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto) open their home to six orphaned women and a nun (Stephanie Sigman). The youngest of girls are sisters Linda (Lulu Wilson) and Janice (Talitha Bateman), the second option of whom walks with less lower leg brace and crutch as the result of polio. Mr. Sandberg makes good use of her limited versatility, as you may expect.
Promptly, Janice starts to see spooky apparitions, and the aforementioned doll — which she discovers in a locked room lined with pages from the Bible — just won’t stay put.
Nothing of the is new, and in less hands it could easily become boring. But Mr. Sandberg knows how to ratchet up suspense, composing photographs filled up with beautiful shadows in whose edges there always seems to be lurking something intimidating: a ghostly litttle lady, a doll that appears like the spawn of Howdy Doody and Bette Davis in “WHICHEVER Occurred to Baby Jane?” then one far more sinister.
“The Conjuring” is an excellent movie. Its sequel, not really much. “Annabelle,” which required a little part of these videos’ world and widened about it, was an uninspired first split at injecting some life in to the trope of the demon doll. It didn’t work.
On paper, “Annabelle: Creation” shouldn’t work either. But to be sensible, what horror movie doesn’t appear ridiculous when you speak about it? Horror works — or it doesn’t — in the flickering, moving images on the screen, not the web page.
Mr. Sandberg has found that. His artistry, for that’s what it is, is similar to that of the dollmaker Sam Mullins: to adopt inert materials and create a complete time income, inhaling thing.