***There will be light spoilers. I have to mention a few minor plot points for the review's sake, but I am not going to ruin the movie for you, at all.
So you have context: The Conjuring(s) focuses on demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, and their battles with the supernatural. We see how the doll makes it to them in the first Annabelle. The storytelling in this universe - which will include The Nun and The Crooked Man, too - is the best part. The movies aren't forced together; they fit well. There are a few cheap scares, of course, but the lore is genuinely interesting and very, very creepy. I recommend seeing them.
Annabelle: Creation starts off with the Mullins family. Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia), the husband/father, is a dollmaker. He has a wife named Esther (Miranda Otto) and they have a young daughter. Tragedy strikes. Twelve years later, a traveling orphanage (that's what it was) is welcomed into the Mullins' home. The movie actually begins with a bit of misdirection, however the first hour dribbles along. Since it is a prequel, there's more story to tell. It's laid out to you in easy to grasp chunks. It's fine, I guess.
They do over-utilize one of my least favorite tropes, though. That is children in danger. It's...frustrating. It even features a side of "kid with physical limitations." It works for the movie because, yes, you want them to make terrible decisions and be oblivious to obvious danger. I get it. I mentioned Get Out earlier. One of its best qualities is that the protagonist made mostly good decisions. When you center the movie around children, there's a very high likelihood they'll put themselves into the most dangerous scenario available to them. It's science.
The kids and Sister Charlotte (somewhat newbie Stephanie Sigman) soon find out that they've chosen the wrong place to stay. Weird things are happening to the girls - ranging from about 8-10 to 14-16 years old - and it gets a little run-of-the-mill, honestly. "Don't go in there!" "Why'd you go in there?" "See, that's what happens when you go in there..." In that order.
*Sidenote: Variations of those three things were yelled during the movie. If you are seeing a movie in the theater, please shut your face. If you are with someone who is talking during the movie, instead of nodding along you should ask them to shut their face, too. Everybody's a damn comedian. End rant.**
Now, as much as I don't like the method, it was effective. Imagine if you saw a snail, crawling toward you so slowly you think it's never going to make it. All of a sudden, it leaps out at you with, like, claws and fangs. That was this movie. The final act is intense, and it kind of catches you off guard. Like the other movies set in this "universe", it all culminates with a climactic, yet inconclusive, final few scenes. It's like the MCU, but with people who accidentally summon malevolent apparitions with murderous appetites. Kind of.
Annabelle: Creation is not a groundbreaking horror movie. That said, it follows the formula of the movies set around it with success. There's just enough mystery, just enough action, and just enough demonic possession. If I get home and feel like I need to flick my lights a couple times before I go to bed, the job was done. I have been scurred! Speaking of that, though...
My last gripe, although unrelated to the actual movie, is that we were promised a medallion to ward off evil spirits before the screener started. It was a pre-taped thing by the director. The people running the showing told us (after the movie) that they were lost in transit somewhere. Um. What in eternal damnation? Do you want evil spirits? Because that's how you get evil spirits.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
(based on pre-release numbers)
Verdict: Should See That