Feeling somewhat between a state of self-pity and that of a salmon who couldn’t find his way upstream, I turned to horror. The weekend before Thanksgiving has traditionally been AAR/SBL weekend for me. I missed the Annual Meeting a few times due to unemployment, but for the most part I have been there every year since 1991. As the representative of a publisher it is an endurance-testing event. I had half-hour meetings scheduled all day on Saturday, Sunday, and today, and even a couple for the much neglected Tuesday morning. Then I found myself home, awaiting a suitcase delivery. United Airlines couldn’t say where the bag would be, and it only arrived Saturday night. My wife had to work all that day, and so I turned to my boyhood. Saturday afternoon was monster movie time.
For my current book project I’m discussing the components of The Conjuring diegesis. I’m also trying to do some traditional research on the films. Airport-lagged (I hadn’t been on a jet, but at my age being awake so late and sleeping so poorly has its own consequences), I pulled out Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation. I wondered what it would be like to see them in the order of their plots rather than their actual chronological order. Would the story hold together? Would I find anything new? The films discussed in my books are those I’ve watched many times—what I like to call “guilty pleasure research.” Or just a boyhood Saturday afternoon revisited. I couldn’t leave the house since I was told my bag couldn’t just be dropped on the porch.
From the beginning the story of Annabelle, the “possessed doll,” takes many twists and turns. The demon is invited into the spooky toy by distraught parents after the tragic death of their child. It then takes over an orphan who is adopted by a couple that she murders, as their natural daughter, in the earlier installment. The doll is possessed in that telling because the girl Annabelle had joined a Satanic cult, like Charles Manson’s, and her blood dripped into the doll as she lay dying. After claiming another female victim, the doll is sent to a couple of nurses as a present, where she appears at the opening of The Conjuring. The story shifts with each sequential telling, leaving the binge viewer dissatisfied. I haven’t had time for a double-feature since moving this summer. Thick snow still covered the ground and the sky held that solemn haze of late November. My colleagues were discussing erudite topics in Denver, and I was home using horror as therapy. If you’re curious for further results, the book will be out in a couple of years. Be sure to look for it at AAR/SBL.