[Interview] Screenwriter Gary Dauberman – Annabelle: Creation

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Annabelle: Creation takes place approximately a decade before 2014’s Annabelle, which makes AnnabelleCreation a prequel to a prequel. Set in 1957, Annabelle: Creation explores the origin of the cursed Annabelle doll. The film tells the story of a doll-maker and his wife who welcome a nun and her six orphans into their California farmhouse. In May, I had the chance to interview Annabelle: Creation screenwriter Gary Dauberman, whose upcoming credits include IT, the feature film adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel, and The Nun, which is a spin-off of The Conjuring.

DG: How was the decision made to do a prequel to Annabelle, and how did you come up with a storyline for this second film?

GD:  It was a true collaborative effort between me and the producers. James [Wan] had a very specific idea on the location and a few of the characters he thought would be fun to play around with when making the second movie. As usual, he was right. And we all knew we wanted to dig into the origin of the Annabelle doll. It just felt like a natural way into the story. Where’d she come from? Who made her? How did the evil that’s attached to her come to be? Once we had those answers, I started to hammer out a basic structure we could all look at. And then from there I set out writing the script. It all came together pretty quickly.

DG: How does Annabelle’s spirit attack in this film, and how would you describe the doll’s appearance in the film?

GD: The entity attached to the doll uses many forms to attack those unfortunate enough to draw its attention. I see the Annabelle Doll as like the master of ceremonies of the chaos she conducts around her. This evil attached to her wants a soul and is determined to get what it wants and uses these attacks as a way to achieve its goal.

DG: How would you describe the dynamic that exists in the story between the doll-maker and his wife, the nun and the girls, and Annabelle?

GD:  At the beginning of our movie, the Annabelle doll represents a future for the doll-maker and his wife and young daughter. But when we catch up to them many years later, we see that this Doll now represents a terrible past that he and his wife have been trying to forget. And they have. Or at least they’ve learned to live with it in their own quiet way. So much so that they open their house to those in need. But like that old saying goes ‘No good deed goes unpunished’ and the Mullins — and those they take in — are certainly put through the wringer by the end of the movie.

DG: How would you describe the “creation” of Annabelle, Annabelle’s true origin?

GD: Oh man. I’d rather not give too many details here but her creation is borne out of an act of desperation. Oftentimes desperation tends to cloud reason and that is something we take great advantage of in the movie.

DG: What time period does is this film set in, and how does this time period affect the characters and the story?

GD: The story takes place in the late 1950s. It was a time period when a lot of orphanages run by the Catholic Church were being closed down and the majority of orphans were put into foster care. This became one of the leaping off points for the story. We come into it with Sister Charlotte desperately wanting to keep the orphans under her care together. So with the help of Father Massey, she finds the Mullins — a couple still reeling from the death of their young daughter many years earlier.

DG: How would you describe Sister Charlotte’s role and presence in the film?

GD: Sister Charlotte is the maternal figure of the movie and she understands the orphans have like sisters in their time together. They might not be blood but all they have is each other. And rather than seeing the girls split up, she worked hard to find a home for all of them, which is how they end up at the Mullins Farmhouse. It’s another act of desperation, and it ultimately puts her and the girls at risk.

DG: What do you think sets this film apart from Annabelle and the Conjuring films, and what do you think audiences will find most compelling and frightening about this film?

GD: Well, look, we’re in The Conjuring universe, so we work hard to stay true to the high quality James established in the first and second Conjuring. No easy feat but I think David more than rose to the occasion. The desolate setting of the farmhouse with its dust bowl-like landscape gives this movie a very cool and classic feel to it and it really allowed us to be as imaginative as we wanted with the scares. I mean, sure, go ahead and scream for help but who is going to hear you all the way out here? So in this one — as opposed to the first Annabelle — we were able to go bigger, bolder and wilder with the scares.

DG: What did David F. Sandberg bring to this film that surprised you, that’s unique from other directors who might’ve been hired to direct this film?

GD: I’ve been a fan of David’s before he came onto the movie. I’ve learned so much about filmmaking just by being an early follower of his shorts, and I knew this guy had an insane amount of talent already. When he came on board, I can’t tell you how excited I was and he exceeded my expectations. He just makes everything better, y’know? “Hey David, what about this scare?” “That’s cool but what about if you did this to it?” “Uh, yeah. That’s way better. Let’s go with that.” But I don’t know if that was surprising given what I knew of his talent. Definitely inspiring though. Maybe the most surprising thing was the amount of Coke Zeroes that guy drinks.

DG: Do you see any room for more Annabelle films, another Annabelle prequel or maybe a sequel, and what is the connection between your upcoming film The Nun and the Annabelle films?

GD: I think this movie will prove by the end of it that there is more to the Annabelle story that needs to be told. I mean, the mere fact that she’s a doll kind of allows that. How many kids out there have the same doll? Visually, I mean. Same packaging, same hair, same eyes, same whatever. But it’s unique to them, right? Same doll but each kid creates a different back-story, a different history, a different story which makes their doll their very own even though it might look like a million others out there. It’s kind of the opposite for Annabelle. She remains the same but the people she encounters all have different stories and different fears and she’s going to use those for her own purposes until you discover — much too late — that she isn’t the toy… you are. And she’s playing you.

Annabelle: Creation arrives in theaters on August 11.