The Horror of the Dolls
A corporation plans to develop a residential tower block into luxury city apartments. As the residents galvanise, the corporation sends in someone to 'shake them up'.
The effects of slow motion in your movie, should be used to heighten specific moments, ratchet up the suspense or highlight a particular action scene. By no means, should it be used throughout approximately 80% of your film’s entire running time.
The people behind the psychological thriller, The Horror of the Dolls, did not receive this important memo.
I kid you not. There was such an overload of slow motion – I began to wonder if there was some sort of psychological test I was undergoing or perhaps that I was just having a plain, old-fashioned stroke.
A group of artists live in this architectural apartment community in London. In an attempt by big banks to take over the building/neighborhood, a thug is sent in to frighten the residents, but ends up killing an old man who collects dolls and doll parts. There’s your title. Think of a psychological thriller version of the Broadway hit Rent. No, this is not a musical.
It’s an ensemble cast of unknowns. I didn’t get the sense that these were bad actors per se, but most of the dialogue (there’s actually very little) felt like it could have been a series of improvisations. In the actual talking scenes, I found the actors serviceable, but no one stood out. But that blame falls to the screenplay.
The film is a short 80 minutes or so, but had the slow motion been used sparingly, and the actual dialogue scenes shot without all of their excess baggage – and were the filmmakers to have cut at least half of the outdoor establishing shots – we’d be moving The Horror of the Dolls into short film territory – probably where it belongs. The “excess baggage” just mentioned, refers to the over-used cut-ins while characters are having a conversation. They’ll be talking and then randomly, slow motion (there it is again) shots of them adjusting in their chair, or putting on make-up or looking out the window – all while their dialogue continues as a voice-over – was a true distraction and an inexplicable editing choice.
There were also plenty of other nonsensical scenes. 1) A five-minute long static shot of a train/subway station. Two people are talking (this was at about the halfway point of the film – so I still didn’t know who anyone was, let alone what their voices sounded like) and it’s just a bunch of random people disembarking and moving toward the camera. The entire time you’re wondering, is this them? Is this them? No, that’s them. Finally, a couple who have come from the very background (we didn’t even see them when the conversation began) all the way to directly in front of the camera – are revealed to be the speakers. What was the point of this “trick”? Infuriating and pointless.
To top it off, it’s one of the tenants and she’s randomly hooked up with the killer. So he was planning on this, of course – and oh yes, we do get some additional character information on this tenant – she’s easy.
The second sequence has the killer roaming freely through one of the apartments – looking in on several of the various women who apparently don’t see him skulking about. What? If it’s some sort of additional symbolism, I am not buying what you’re selling. Also, it’s been unclear from the get-go if all of these women are old friends or new acquaintances – the first group scene has one of them saying, “Nice to meet you” as they part ways. But then they’re apparently living in the same apartment? Sigh.
The film had an almost 15 minute prologue, with next to no dialogue. Just a bunch of slow motion (oops, here we go again) sequences where we’re supposedly meant to understand what is going on, where we are and who these people are on the screen. All we know is that this old dude collects dolls and cleans them up. He’s then murdered (not a spoiler, it happens before the credits roll).
I can’t stress enough how painful this movie was to get through. With characters (I use that term loosely) providing us with zero history, sympathy or interest – how are we expected to care? It’s a rag-tag group of people in an artist’s community with no background. Why, one important character is introduced a staggering 30 minutes into the film’s running time – only to perform mostly dialogue-less scenes in slow motion.
And then there’s the symbolic presence of some bombshell brunette woman – brought in to chew the scenery – and meant to represent the big money groups who are trying to take over the neighborhood and establish high-end condos. Awful.
As for the title of the film – what an amazing bit of false advertising. You put a title up with something that powerful and which instills fear in a great majority of the population (creepy dolls from Poltergeist, Annabelle and even the Chucky franchise — certainly cement my case) you would think you could push some buttons – at least a few.
On that note, there is no suspense (even in the extended stairway chase), no scares and since The Horror of the Dolls is basically a crime thriller – you might also expect some thrills. Nope.
On the film’s IMDb page, there’s a notation of “Influences on the project are The Shining, Blue Velvet, The Wild Bunch, Short Cuts and Antichrist.” Not to obtain a title of “bully”, but… Huh?
Events are absurd, characters under-drawn and strange cinematic choices are present which will truly boggle your mind (mainly in editing). This film is an absolute mess of attempted style over substance. I hated The Horror of the Dolls from start to finish.
The film was the winner of the 28-Day Feature Film Challenge (this might explain the need to extend everything with slow motion – they needed a feature-length film) and is currently available on VOD.