Christian screenwriter Gary Dauberman has said that in many ways, he views the upcoming supernatural horror flick "Annabelle: Creation" as a faith-based film because it highlights the reality of spiritual warfare and the ongoing battle between good and evil.
Opening in theaters on August 11, "Annabelle: Creation" explains how the creepy doll Annabelle - loosely inspired by the doll encountered by real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren - became haunted in the first place. It stands as a prequel to both the first "Annabelle" movie that was released in 2014 as well as the 2013 horror flick, "The Conjuring."
Set in the 1950s, the film is about a couple who loses their daughter in a terrible accident on the way home from church one Sunday. Distraught over the death, dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his bedridden wife Esther (Miranda Otto) take in a nun, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and a group of girls from a shut-down orphanage. Before long, strange things start to happen, revolving around the doll - which is clearly inhabited by an evil presence - and their deceased daughter Annabelle's old room.
Dauberman, who also penned the script for the first "Annabelle" movie, told The Gospel Herald that while writing "Creation", he constantly came back to the question: What do these characters believe?
"All the way through, we're thinking about faith and how it works into the story," he explained. "The evil is so external and so dark, while the good comes from inside these characters. It's kind of something that's a constant conversation. What these characters believe is really the first thing we're talking about when writing the script."
As a Christian, Dauberman - who admitted he's "always been fascinated" by the supernatural - said he believes his faith gives him a unique perspective on the horror films he writes.
"In many ways, these are faith-based films for me," he said. "I'm a believer, so I believe evil and demonic entities are out there - but so is God, and so is good. Even as dark and scary as these movies can get, there's always that safety net. If evil is true, the opposite must also be true."
As in previous films set in "The Conjuring" universe, religious imagery and spiritual themes are sprinkled throughout "Annabelle: Creation". There are positive mentions of Jesus, prayer, Scripture references, and repeated statements that the Gospel has the power to overcome even the deepest evil. According to production notes, a Catholic priest was even brought in to bless the set and the prop Annabelle dolls, much as they did before cameras rolled on "The Conjuring 2".
Dauberman told GH: "These things are real; there is magic out in the world, whether it's dark or good. You can't deny that there's something higher out there - there's a higher power and there's a darker power. Because I believe these things are real, it makes it easier for me to write these scripts."
In the first "Annabelle" film, the Warrens, a devout Christian couple, reveal that "Annabelle" isn't a child, but rather a demonic entity that used the guise of a child to prey on the sympathy of unsuspecting humans.
At the conclusion of "The Conjuring," the doll is locked in the Warren's office where it's unable to harm anyone, where it remains today. In real life, the doll, an antique Raggedy Ann model, is said to have been exorcised several times by a priest, and to this day, a priest visits the doll twice a month to bless it.
Because "Annabelle: Creation" is rated R for horror violence and terror, it may not necessarily resound with everyone in the faith community. Still, Dauberman believes the film sparks an important - and largely ignored - conversation.
"I like people to think that maybe this stuff can happen," he said. "Annabelle is a real doll, and there were real events surrounding her, the Warrens, and all they did. It's all based on true events. The Warrens were true believers and they were strong of faith. I think if people can come away thinking there is this energy out there or someone greater than us out there and we need to hold on to our faith, I'd be happy with that."
"Annabelle: Creation" is directed by James Wan and David F. Sandberg and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. You can watch the trailer below.