Published Aug 10, 2017Swedish director David F. Sandberg has the kind of career of which most could only dream.
A former freelance animator, the filmmaker — who began releasing work under the online pseudonym ponysmasher — first gained notoriety for his 2013 short Lights Out, an innovative horror that made the most of its limited budget.
That got the attention of The Conjuring director James Wan, who, along with Warner Bros., helped bring Sandberg and his story to the silver screen. A full-length feature was released in 2016 and, much like the original, was praised for its inventiveness.
But like a lot of young directors — James Cameron and David Fincher among them — Sandberg, for his next gig, was tasked with helping breathe life into a floundering film project.
"When they were talking about me doing a sequel to Annabelle," he recalls, "I was like, 'Well, what's that going to be? Haven't you sort of done everything you can do with that?'"
But the up-and-coming director was "pleasantly surprised" when he heard the new story. "It's very much it's own thing," he assures Exclaim! by phone from California. "You don't even have to see the first Annabelle to enjoy this."
Here are three things we learned from Sandberg about the creation of Annabelle: Creation.
1. If the house looks familiar, that's because it's from Westworld.
"The house looks really different in real life [compared to] when we first got there… it's so isolated. It looks like a western movie, you know? It's in the middle of nowhere in this open landscape with no help for miles," Sandberg says.
That's probably why HBO chose it as the location of Dolores' home in the hit surreal sci-fi series Westworld.
Although both projects share one of the same settings, Sandberg's production designer Jennifer Spence gave it a "complete makeover" to make it as creepy as possible. (Its interiors, meanwhile, were created with loads of nooks and crannies on a separate stage.)
"The house was a big inspiration. Just walking around and coming up with new stuff," he says. "Because that's sort of how I made movies in the past. Like with low-budget shorts, and then with Lights Out, you come to a location and go, 'Alright, what can I do here?' And this one was like the most inspiring place ever."
2. Much like his previous film, Annabelle: Creation finds Sandberg playing with light.
Last year's Lights Out made the most of its limited light sources (it's creature could only haunt it characters in total darkness). It's a device Sandberg uses again in Creation, with its characters seeking solace from their tormentors under bed sheets and inside closets, as well as the cozy confines of a dumbwaiter.
"Often times if you just have darkness and you don't know what's hiding in the dark, that's scarier than when you actually get to see what's hiding in there. That's something I try to use as much as possible," he says. "But at the same time, sometimes you have to show a little so the audiences feel they get what they came for."
3. For a cast full of children, tweens and young teens, little seemed to scare them.
"These kids were so into it," Sandberg gushes. "Even our youngest one — Samara [Lee], who plays Bee [Mullins] — she's just this huge horror fan. She's seen everything, from The Exorcist to The Conjuring, and she's, like, eight."
"She wanted to do these creepy things. Like when we were shooting the scene where she gets hit by a car, I was explaining that we were going to cut out right as she gets hit, and she was disappointed, because she wanted people to see her dead body. She's a weird kid."
Annabelle: Creation is in theatres August 11.