DOLL IN THE DARK (2016)
Starring Amy Crowdis, Robin Taylor and Josh Caras
Directed by Alejandro Daniel
Available now from Safecracker pictures – http://www.safecrackerfilmdistribution.com/
“A lonely young woman whose only companion is a creepy life size doll, finds her loose grip on sanity slipping away when she makes a real friend“.
I like to do a bit of research on films I watch before I review them, not for spoilers or anything that might influence the review, but more out of curiosity. What else has the filmmaker done? Where did they start? All that kind of stuff. Sometimes you find stuff much more interesting than that, and in the case of Doll In The Dark, I was a bit shocked.
So here’s what I unearthed.
Doll In The Dark was made in 2009 under the title The Melancholy Fantastic. It did the festival circuit until 2011 and then subsequently vanished into thin air.
That is until co-lead Robin Taylor landed the role of Oswald Cobblepot on hit TV show Gotham, and now it’s being released under the title Doll In The Dark, no doubt to cash in on the casting of a then-unknown Taylor. Now, I don’t mind the title, it seems quite apt to the story, but something else has changed on its way to release and I don’t think it has done it any favours. More in that later though.
Doll In The Dark tells the quaint story of Melanie Crow (Crowdis), a sweet but lonely woman who lives and interacts with a very crude and creepy life size doll. She treats this doll like a real person, even taking it out for a drive with her every now and then. It’s clear that Melanie is lonely, and more than a little mentally unstable. And then she meets emo Dukken (Taylor) a quirky, confident outsider in black eyeliner who is curious about Melanie and gradually spends more and more time with her. As he gets to know Melanie, he also gets to know her doll…
This kind of film is all about the performances, and thankfully our two leads are on the ball, particularly Taylor who really shows a manic and likeable energy. Crowdis is shaky at first, but her naivety all works to make her character both cute and creepy. Together they make these offbeat characters very relatable somehow.
Writer and director Daniel does fine work with what looked like a very low-budget. His direction is pleasant and focuses on the characters rather than showing off, so it’s all quite low key but hey, it’s a low-key film.
But there was something missing from the overall experience, and I think I know why. Doing a bit of sleuthing, I found there is TWO versions of this film on IMDb. One called Doll In The Dark, another under the original title of The Melancholy Fantastic. The listing under the original title has different artwork obviously, but it also has a different runtime. The original runtime, going off IMDb, was 1 hour 40 mins. The version titled Doll In The Dark, that I watched, was 1 hour 13 mins. And six minutes of that were credits!!!
So there’s about 30 mins that has for whatever reason been left on the cutting room floor, and I’m a big fan of tight runtimes but here it feels like half the story is missing, most of the nuance, maybe even a whole subplot, and I think it harms the finished product. I’d be very intrigued to see the 1 hour 40 cut.
As it is, Doll In The Dark is a pleasant and well-acted addition to the creepy loner subgenre. Fans of Excision, Love Object and the mummy of them all, May, will find something to like here. It’s just a shame so much of its missing.