A vast improvement on the first in The Conjuring spin-off franchise, Lights Outdirector David F Sandberg’s sneaky prequel is a conveyor-belt of well-staged glossy ghoulishness. Twelve years after the tragic death of their young daughter, dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his disfigured wife (Miranda Otto) provide refuge for a nun and her orphan wards at their prairie home. Soon crippled Janice (Talitha Bateman) becomes the troubled target of Mullins’s possessed creation, Annabelle. A creaky dumb waiter, rickety stair lift, forbidden locked room and a demonic pact all play their jolting part in this lushly atmospheric serving of momentum-driven American Gothic. Enlivened by the relentlessly darkening supernatural special effects and the quality performances, especially from Bateman and her best friend Lulu Wilson, Sandberg milks the menace from every shadow and distorted angle with impressive style and a haunted house finesse harking back to the glory days of classic Val Lewton.