Last year when David Sandberg’s full-length feature “Lights Out” hit theaters, I bemoaned the fact that he took the genius premise of his short film of the same name and neutered it by explaining away the supernatural elements, giving a backstory to evil that allowed the spookiness to seem mundane and downright ordinary. Fortunately, he’s been giving a second chance of sorts with “Annabelle: Creation,” the sequel to a prequel (“Annabelle”) spun off from a throwback horror franchise (“The Conjuring”) shepherded by James Wan. We’re in the midst here of learning a bit more about the ominous doll imprisoned in that glass case and Sandberg employs some of his signature tricks – in particular, movement as lights flash on and off – to get inside our heads. It’s fun and, when seen with an audience in a crowded theater, quite effective, proving that you don’t need excessive blood and gore or too much explanation to scare most of us.




It is hard to gauge just how effect Destin Daniel Cretton new film is if you haven’t read the Jeannette Walls memoir that it’s based on. Walls’s bestseller examined her childhood, what I can only assume was a stark nightmare of poverty and negligence on the part of her parents (Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts). Her father drank away any hope of food and warmth, while her mother retreated into her paintings, leaving Walls and her three siblings to fend for themselves. The film, with Brie Larson handling the primary task of embodying Walls as an older teen and a young adult, doesn’t shy away from the harsher moments, but it does, somehow, present glimpse of fleeting good times that speak to an affection that she had for her father that took root. “The Glass Castle” cannot simply be rated as a good or bad film; it is a sobering and complex experience that is not for all audiences. Less of a reflection (hopefully) than a wide and clear view of a family suffering through a crisis that lingers.