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Soundtrack review: Annabelle: creation (Benjamin Wallfisch – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Annabelle: creation (Benjamin Wallfisch – 2017)

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“Annabelle: Creation” is a 2017 American supernatural horror film directed by David F. Sandberg and written by Gary Dauberman. It is a prequel to 2014’s Annabelle, and the fourth film in The Conjuring film series. The film stars Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto, and depicts the possessed Annabelle doll’s origin. Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle. The score was written by Benjamin Wallfisch who is often a part of Hans Zimmer’s composing team (he helped on “Dunkirk” and is currently writing on “Blade runner 2049”) but who truly shines as a solo composer, most recently on “A cure to wellness”.

In the last few years the horror and especially possession genre has become quite popular and franchises have come out like mushrooms after the rain. Ben himself isn’t a stranger to the genre, having composed the excellent “Lights out” a few years ago. The first two cues from “Creation” are what I would expect from any horror score: first a misty, slightly frightening opening and then the melodic expression of the good and hopeful life before everything goes wrong. The contrast between “A new house” and the slithering “Bee’s room” shows me that we have a story in this score, not just some trivial scares.

But after the melodic start and the story introduction I expect to be downright scared no matter where I might be listening to this score. The composer chooses though to keep the music quiet even in cues like “Annabelle awakened” which should have been one of the scariest pieces of this score; the cue is scary but more as an atmosphere setter. The entire score is all about the atmosphere, not about specific moments. As the frightening mood builds up I hear cues like “Puppets and mischief” and “Your soul” which creep and crawl and make me want to see if any creature is chasing me or touching me even if I am listening to the score in broad daylight. The moody piano theme that recurs in cues like “Bee’s photo” or “Avatars” is beautiful and ends up as my favourite emotional motif from “Annabelle: Creation”. It comes back even more prominently in “This house is blessed” and “Adoption” at the end of the album.

From “Demon’s fishing” on I get my horror fix with interest. “The possession” especially is a terrific cue that I actually stopped and listened to a couple more times. There are not enough moments like these in “Annabelle: Creation” and this makes the score a bit uneven. This is not an easy score to review out of context and this shows how well it fits the movie. Benjamin Wallfisch doesn’t set a proper scary mood that holds for the duration of the album although the really frightening cues are very good at it. Probably my expectations were a bit different and this hurt the listening experience a bit. A few more listens might make this score sound more coherent because, as I said, I enjoy the separate pieces it’s made of.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minute of excellence: 16 / 46

Album excellence: 34%

Highlights:
Bunkmates
Shadows and Sheets
Puppets and Mischief
Your Soul
Demon Fishing
The Possession
Jannabelle
The House is Blessed

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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