Posted on August 11, 2020

The Christian Worldview of Annabelle: Creation

Guest Post

At the start of Annabelle: Creation (David F. Sandberg, 2017), the Mullins family is introduced as a typical, Christian American family in the early 20th Century. They live happily together, play games together, and, most notably for the film’s plot, attend church together. Their faith forms the backbone of the movie’s backstory, as the parents, Samuel (Anthony LaPaglia) and Esther (Miranda Otto), pray to see Annabelle again after her untimely death, beginning the hauntings revolving around the Annabelle doll. Ultimately, the Mullins are not the focus of the film, however; rather, it is the two orphans, Linda (Lulu Wilson) and Janice (Talitha Eliana Bateman). In being shifted to the periphery, however, the Mullins become representative of the average person in the film’s setting—one who does not have plot armor to carry them through; instead, they are caught in the cosmic struggle between Good and Evil, God and Satan.

Check out the trailer for Annabelle: Creation:

In his essay “Why Are So Many Horror Films Christian Propaganda,” Josiah Hesse argues that horror—especially religious horror—conveys fundamentally the same message as a regular church sermon: that God and Satan are at war for one’s soul. This is especially poignant in that the writer of Annabelle: Creation, Gary Dauberman, identifies as a Christian, and touts the film as “faith-based” precisely due to its portrayal of the spiritual battle between Good and Evil. In an interview, Dauberman declared, “I’m a believer, so I believe evil and demonic entities are out there—but so is God, and so is good” (in Klett). This contrast between good and evil is present throughout the film: the orphans, like the Mullins, practice Catholicism, putting them at odds with the demonic spirit. As expected, however, combining faith with appealing to a wider audience affects how the message is played out.


The appeal of the Annabelle films—much like other films such as Child’s Play (1988) and Dead Silence (2007)—is the idea of something as innocuous as a doll or dummy becoming a vessel for evil. Dauberman comments that the plot device is a subversion of innocence, taking something perceived as harmless and making it harmful—in this case, a doll (in Asay). This perceived innocence is due to the reduction of images into mere toys instead of objects used for ceremonies as they may have been in the past. As shown in the Mullins’s backstory, the Mullins are guilty of breaking two of the Commandments laid out by God—the ones concerning idolatry.

In Exodus Chapter 20, God speaks to the Israelites and lays out the Ten Commandments, the first one being “You must not have any other god but me.” The second goes into more detail on the matter: “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.” The most prominent example of this sin in the Bible is the tale of the Golden Calf, where the Israelites were punished for worshipping the titular idol (New Living Translation).

Worshipping the Golden Calf

In their despair and desire to see their daughter again, the Mullins turn their back on God, putting their faith in whatever could fulfill their wishes. Something (their daughter, they assume) begins making noise around the house, though they cannot fully see or hold her. Eventually the entity asks to be allowed to move into one of Samuel Mullins’s dolls, one of many that the toymaker sells to help support his family. Originally just one of many similar toys, this particular doll becomes an object of veneration, set apart and taken care of by the family. It is after this possession that the entity reveals itself to not be Annabelle, but a demon intent on getting a soul for itself.

The relationship between idols and dolls is a lot closer than one might initially think. “A quest for light on the use and meaning of the doll,” writes Emily C. Davis in 1927, “quickly leads back and away from childish toys into the dark world of cult and religion.” In this worldview, “dolls were idols” and associated with things such as magic and spirits, as well as witchcraft (93). Graven images such as small effigies were used in practices concerning the use of spirits; for healing, spirits would be moved into an object for safekeeping or exorcising. The change from something revered into a simple object has its roots in one religion overtaking/overshadowing the other (Davis 94, 97). There is also the concept of Euhemerism—the idea that gods were just deified humans, an idea the early church jumped at to discredit pagan rivals (Cooke 398-99). The apocryphal “Wisdom of Solomon” also describes a story wherein a grieving parent recreates his deceased son as an image, which then becomes an object of veneration, thus beginning a “hidden trap for humankind” (Wisdom).

It is when the Mullins let the demon into the doll, turning it into a representation of their dead daughter, that the image becomes blasphemous. The rest of the film recounts the consequences of their actions: Esther is attacked and has her eye gouged out, forcing the Church to seal the doll away in Annabelle’s room. The Mullins’s act of opening their home as an orphanage is revealed to be their attempt at penance for sinning. So how does that work out for them? Not very well; despite their regret, they meet grisly ends in order to serve the audience’s quota of scares and horrors. Taken on itself, this is standard horror movie fare; but if horror films indeed spread Christian ideas, then what are the implications of the Mullins’s fates?

Samuel meets his end when the demon lunges at him one day, the crucifix (itself arguably a graven image) proving to be ineffective; later on, at the film’s climax, Esther meets her end with her body horizontally bisected, the top half crucified to her wall. Both deaths mock their faith, as if they have been abandoned. The protagonists are similarly religious and able to repel the demon, but not the Mullins. The implied message seems to be that Good and Evil are at war, but if you commit a grave sin, there’s no hope for forgiveness in life, only death. For a story featuring God as an implied force, but still trying to entertain a wider audience, the message becomes somewhat muddied. And as the epilogue shows, evil will always be able to harm the innocent…

Annabelle: Creation does echo Dauberman’s beliefs in its presentation of good and evil, as well as portraying the actions of Annabelle’s parents in a Christian context. But in having to balance Dauberman’s Christian beliefs with the demands of a modern horror film, the movie indirectly makes a rather ominous statement regarding the sins of its side characters and their fate. While the screenwriter professes to portray the Christian conflict of good and evil, in having to deliver on the expected kill count of the film, it portrays the Mullins as expendable due to their actions. As in most cases of faith and pop culture, the spiritual war between good and evil succumbs to the logic of horror.


Annabelle: Creation. Directed by David F. Sandberg. Warner Bros. / New Line, 2017.

Asay, Paul. “’There’s Something Greater Than All of Us’: A Conversation with Annabelle: Creation Writer Gary Dauberman.” Patheos, August 10, 2017.

Cooke, John Daniel. “Euhemerism: A Mediaeval Interpretation of Classical Paganism.” Speculum 2.4 (1927): 396-410.

Davis, Emily C. “Doll Family Traced to Stone Age ‘Adam.’” The Science News-Letter 11.305 (1927): 93-98. You can read the pdf here: Davis, Stone Age Adam article

Hesse, J.M. “Why Are So Many Horror Films Christian Propaganda?”  Vice, October 19, 2016.

Klett, Leah Marieann. “Christian ‘Annabelle: Creation’ Writer on Why Horror Flick is ‘Faith-Based Film’ (Exclusive Interview).” Gospel Herald, August 9, 2017.

The Bible. New Living Translation, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2015.

Wisdom of Solomon” 14:12-14:21. Oremus Bible Browser.

You can stream Annabelle: Creation on Amazon:


Neil Gravino was born in Southern California and has spent most of his life there. He recently received his Master’s in Literature at Cal Poly Pomona, and contributed an essay to House of Leaves Publishing’s book Scared Sacred: Idolatry, Religion and Worship in the Horror Film. In addition, he has also written for the gothic horror magazine The Ghastling, as well as contributed to The Daily Fandom. Despite (or because of) growing up in SoCal, he longs for the cooler weather of the Pacific Northwest. His Twitter is found at Neil has written previously for Horror Homeroom on Nicholas McCarthy’s “Easter” segment for the horror anthology Holidays (2016).


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