“Annabelle” and Modern Horror’s Empty Scares

Annabelle is a new horror movie

I haven’t yet seen “Annabelle,” so I hope what I saw in a trailer last night was an aberration rather than the rule”: a character was frightened by a curtain.

Yes, a burst of air blew a curtain and this passed for a horror film scare.

It’s something that happens frequently in modern scary movies, where special effects make it easy to show something creepy without making the characters do more than startle. Overly-loud music cue and, boom, instant scare.

The movie “Mama” came out a year or so ago, and it got high marks from many moviegoers. I wasn’t one of them. Nothing happens in the movie at all. There’s not a single real scare to be had, and the majority of “scary moments” consisted of the audience reacting to something in the background that the characters may or may not have even noticed. Scares in mirrors, a ghostly presence in the corner or around a door, ominous black vapor creeping through the room.

The trend has been observable in PG-13 horror films, of which there have been many in recent years, and only 2 I can think of that I’d consider good: Gore Verbinski’s “The Ring” and Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell.” Those two created real terror and a sense of dread, while most of the rest used cheap tricks and “boo!” cues that immediately go away.

“The Conjuring” was a likewise well-received movie, and as its spinoff/prequel/whatever, “Annabelle” is a movie many horror fans are looking forward to seeing. I just hope the studio stays away from the cheap stuff.


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