(On Cable TV, March 2018) With Annabelle: Creation, we’re now up to a sequel to a spinoff (Anabelle) to an adaptation (The Conjuring). That’s not quite a record (Scorpion King 4 has an antecedent chain that’s seven movies long over eighty years and three series) but it shows how much of a derived product we’re dealing with here. As such, my expectations for the film were low—Annabelle was deathly dull to begin with, so I expected the worst from this sequel. But if Annabelle: Creation isn’t a particularly good movie, it’s still quite a bit better than you’d expect. Much of this credit goes to writer Gary Dauberman and director David F. Sandberg, who spend much of the film’s first half-hour setting up an unusual setting for a horror film: An ersatz orphanage moving into a vast country house stained by a terrible tragedy. The sunny rural setting, coupled with the nature of the house, blends with the personalities of the six young girls, caretaker couple and a nun to create an extended familial atmosphere not unlike that of the original The Conjuring. It works fine until the standard horror shenanigans begin, with your usual demonic possessions, unspeakable death sequences and setups for later instalments of the series. Atmosphere counts for a lot in horror movies, and it’s what makes Annabelle: Creation stand out even when it had everything run against it. Still, let’s not pretend that “better than expected” is anywhere close to objective enjoyment—In most ways, it’s a completely average horror film that will work best on fans of the genre and few others. This being said, it doesn’t quite give a convincing answer to why they’ve felt it necessary to stretch out a good horror movie over a four-film franchise so far.