WonderCon 2017 | David F. Sandberg Says Annabelle Could Take Chucky in a Fight

It’s a good year for creepy dolls, if such a thing could ever be said. Not only do horror fans have the Conjuring spin-off Annabelle: Creation coming up this summer, but in the fall we’re also getting Cult of Chucky, the seventh film in the successful Child’s Play franchise.

But since we’ll still have to wait a while to find out which film, Annabelle: Creation or Cult of Chucky, wins the hearts of horror fans, I was able to sit down with director David F. Sandberg at WonderCon this last weekend to talk about whether his killer doll would be able to take down Chucky in a no holds barred fight. And when David F. Sandberg said, in no uncertain terms, that Annabelle would emerge victorious, we started running down all the other great killer dolls in movie history until we (finally) settled on a horror franchise whose deadly dolls would be a match for his new monster.

While we were at it, I also spoke with David F. Sandberg about some potential new tricks for his Lights Out horror series, where he hopes his career will branch out beyond the horror genre, and how Annabelle: Creation fits in with the previous Annabelle film, which also claimed to show the origin of the killer plaything.

Annabelle: Creation skulks into theaters on August 11, 2017.

David F. Sandberg: This is fun, going to WonderCon!

Crave: Have you done a lot of conventions before?

I did WonderCon last year but because I started shooting Annabelle right after Lights Out, I didn’t get to go to Comic-Con or any other of those. But this time I want to go to Comic-Con as well.

It’s an important facet of the industry now. You have to go out and interact with the fans and meet them en masse. Is that something you were ready for when you became a filmmaker, staring down 20,000 people after they see a trailer for Annabelle?

Yeah, I don’t know if I was ready for it but I’m pretty okay with it. It’s not bad, even though it’s like a thousand people out there or more. It’s pretty cool.

I haven’t seen Annabelle: Creation yet, so there’s only so much I can ask, but this film also takes place before The Conjuring…?


Okay, we just had an Annabelle prequel. How does that work? How does that fit in?

[Laughs.] Well, a lot of people online have been like, “How does that work? We see her get possessed in the first one and then it’s The Conjuring!

Yeah, so where does this fit in? Are we rewriting it?

No. So it does fit in but I can’t really tell you how without it being a spoiler. Like, it is a standalone movie that you can watch on its own, but if you’ve seen the first one there will be moments where you go, “Oh, okay, I see how it ties together.”

By “the first one” you mean the last Annabelle?

Yes. Annabelle 1.

Was that something you were eager to get away from, to find your own voice, your own stamp for Annabelle?

Yeah, just because it wouldn’t have been very fun to just do the first movie again. Like, “Argh! She comes back and John and Mia have to fight her again!” That’s what was enticing to me, that Annabelle: Creation would be its own thing.

There’s also, you just can’t miss the allure of the killer doll movie.

Yeah, absolutely.

Is it just that simple? “Dolls are creepy?” Or do you think there’s more to it than that?

I’m not sure why. I think it has something to do with the uncanny valley effect. Like we’ve created these things that look kind of like us, and you’re almost expecting them to move. Yeah, I think it’s just because they look like us that they creep us out.

There’s a long history of killer doll movies…

Yeah, I grew up with Chucky, from Child’s Play.

Who would win in a fight: Annabelle or Chucky?

Annabelle, I think.

You think?

She’s more powerful. Chucky’s just like a tiny person. Annabelle has this… she can affect things around her in a different way and take many forms, the evil that comes from her.

So do you think she’s the ultimate killer doll? Do you think she could also take out the Zuni Fetish Doll from…

Trilogy of Terror? Yeah, I think so. [Laughs.]

The clown from Poltergeist?

Oh, definitely.

All the Puppet Master puppets, together?

How many were in those movies?

Throughout all the movies? Quite a few, and one of them had a flamethrower.

Oh yeah, that’s true, and the drill-head guy… they might put up a fight.

Warner Bros.

What is your concern, as a filmmaker, in bringing a doll to life? What’s your first approach?

Well, the problem is there are certain rules with Annabelle. Like, you can’t really see her walk around, because she’s not Chucky, she’s something else, which makes it a little hard. Like, okay, how do we make her a threat if she can’t move? So you have to come up with other ways of moving her around. I don’t know if you saw the clip…?

I was not able to see the clip.

Yeah, [we] sort of throw a sheet over her and the sheet moves, and that’s how we sort of get away with it. But also you have to see it as her being a vessel, or a portal for evil, so you can have things happen around her. That’s sort of how you have to approach it.

Annabelle is based on a true story.


Does that still effect you, or are you off on your own tangent now?

So basically the Conjuring stories, the Conjuring movies, are based on actual cases, but then Annabelle and The Nun sort of branch off into more their own stories.

You mean the spin-offs…


Because there was an actual Annabelle doll. It was a Raggedy Ann doll.


Did you ever fight for that? Just, “Can we get the Raggedy Ann doll…?” How cool would that be?

Well… a Raggedy Ann doll does briefly pop up in this film. [Laughs.] But no, I think Raggedy Ann would not have been as creepy. […] Funny story though, right after we wrapped on this, my wife and I we went to a cabin out in Lake Arrowhead, that area.

That’s tempting fate, for a horror filmmaker.

Yeah, so we rented a cabin on Airbnb, and when we got there, on the bed was a Raggedy Ann doll. So that was like, “Well, this is freaky.” I put that in Instagram. What the hell?

They knew!


Warner Bros.

With Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation, you’re “a horror filmmaker.” But we’ve heard lately that you may be in talks to direct Akira. Are you eager to branch out?

Definitely. I want to try different things. Horror will always be my love [laughs], and I don’t think I’ll ever not do horror or step away from it completely, but yeah I want to try different things as well. Just to see what it would be to make, like, sci-fi or action stuff.

You seem to have a pretty good relationship with Warner Bros. right now. They seem rather happy with your work.

I’ve been very lucky in that Lights Out did really well and they’ve been very happy with how Annabelle turned out, so yeah.

Everyone thinks, Warner Bros. [equals] superheroes, Harry Potter, LEGO. Does that appeal to you or do you want to do your own thing?

I’d like to do a superhero movie.

What sort of superhero movie?

Something that would be a little bit more fun.


Yeah, like you know, I think the best Marvel movie for example is Guardians of the Galaxy.

Something that’s kinda wacky…

Yeah, but still grounded in reality.

There’s an absurdity to it and the film is very honest about it. Your Lights Out is a very serious film…

…but still with sort of comedic moments in it. Like the boyfriend using the headlights, stuff like that. I like having comedic stuff in it as well.

Warner Bros.

There’s a bit I realized wasn’t in Lights Out but probably could have been. I don’t know if your parents ever did this but my teachers and my parents did, when there was someone being rowdy, they flicked the lights on an off to stop the kids.

Is that a real thing? I’ve seen that in an episode of The Simpsons, I think.

“Don’t make me flick the lights on and off!”

Yeah! So why do that? What’s that going to do?

It’s disruptive. 

It’s just annoying?

You’re in your own little world. It’s annoying. You need to stop. They’re messing with your reality. But it’s a thing a lot of people do and I can imagine it being the source of a lot of Lights Out scares, because you’ve got to keep playing with different tricks for your sequels, right?

Yeah, that’s the thing we want to do with the sequel, to make sure that it’s not just the same movie again. We want to do something different, so it’s worth seeing that.

Are you close to that? Have you found your approach?

We have, yes, we have discussed approaches for that.

You’ve discussed it, sure, but you’ve found it?

Yeah, I think so. Yeah.

I realize it’s super-super early. Is there anything you can tell us, for people who are excited?

No, I don’t think so. Not at this stage.

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Photo: Dimension Films

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Photo: 20th Century Fox

The first Scream changed the horror genre, possibly forever, and although the second film doesn't have the same impact it's still a very effective slasher, with smart characters, suspenseful set pieces, memorable deaths and a few genuinely shocking surprises.  

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Photo: New Line Cinema

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Photo: Universal Pictures

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Photo: The Cannon Group

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Photo: Universal Pictures

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Photo: New World Pictures

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Photo: Warner Bros.

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Photo: Paramount Pictures

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Photo: United Film Distribution Company

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Photo: New Line Cinema

Sam Raimi's low-low-low budget Evil Dead became a merely low-budget sequel, and the filmmaker's wild imagination makes the most of that added budget by turning the saga of a man trapped in a cabin in the woods with malevolent supernatural forces into one of the most wild and inventive horror movies ever produced. The bravura filmmaking techniques, cartoonish gore and bizarre storytelling in Evil Dead II became a flashpoint for the genre, inspiring and setting a high bar for nearly every filmmaker that followed.  

Photo: Renaissance Pictures

Ridley Scott's influential "haunted house in space" sci-fi classic evolved into a full-fledged Vietnam War allegory in James Cameron's explosive sequel. What was once the story of a normal woman outmatched is now an action-packed saga of gun-toting macho marines dissolving into quivering masses in the face of a superior enemy, with spectacular monster effects and impressive writing, directing, and acting on every front. Aliens isn't just one of the best horror sequels, it's one of the best action movies and one of the best sci-fi movies too.

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Everything people want from sequels can be found in The Bride of Frankenstein, a bold and funny and creepy follow-up to James Whale's original blockbuster horror classic. Innovative visual effects, fascinating characters, bizarre new themes and visual storytelling that was easily decades ahead of its time keep The Bride of Frankenstein feeling as fresh and exciting as ever. It's still one of the very best movies ever made, and it's certainly the best horror sequel.

Photo: Universal Pictures
Top Photo: Warner Bros.

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.