What is most shocking is that the script gets right, at least about 90 percent of the time, all of the Catholic stuff being tossed around. As regular attendees of Mass, once things with Annabelle start to get out of control, John and Mia immediately head to their priest, Father Perez (Hey it’s that guy, Tony Amendola!) for help. And he gives it to them, not only by aiding the Forms against the demon, but by counseling them on how to keep their marriage strong through the ordeal. In other words, the Catholics in “Annabelle” act like actual Catholics.
Even more shocking is the fact that up until the last ten minutes or so, the movie manages to stay pretty true to Church teachings on demons. You see, Annabelle herself, as hideously evil looking as she is, is just a thing. The doll itself is not the problem.The spirit hanging around the doll is.
The 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia notes that “according to Catholic belief, demons or fallen angels retain their natural power, as intelligent beings, of acting on the material universe, and using material objects and directing material forces for their own wicked ends… Hence places and things as well as persons are naturally liable to diabolical infestation, within limits permitted by God.”
In the film, Father Perez goes out of his way to get this point across to the beleaguered couple. As Christians, we are not at war with things. Along with our own sinful natures, we are in spiritual battle with intelligent evil forces aligned against us. Our main weapon of defense is prayer, of which exorcism is just a highly ritualistic form. Even though things get a little theologically questionable right at the end, it’s nice to see a Hollywood movie get so much right.
Well, nice for people like me anyway. It probably won’t receive as warm a reception from folks like Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, who found “the relentless focus of ‘The Conjuring’ on married life, Christian baptism, and the old-school Latinate mumbo-jumbo of the Catholic Church as essential elements in resisting evil” too much to stomach. Such critics will find no comfort in “Annabelle,” as it contains much the same material. I’m not saying “Annabelle” is perfect, far from it. But it’s got its heart in the right place and it delivers enough jolts to make it a fine start to the Halloween season.
In a world he didn’t create, in a time he didn’t choose, one man looks for signs of God in the world by… watching movies. When he’s not reviewing new releases for Aleteia, David Ives spends his time exploring the intersection of low-budget/cult cinema and Catholicism at The B-Movie Catechism.