Dolly Deadly (2015)
Starring Justin Moore, Kimberley West-Caroll, Jay Sosnicki and Dana Nelson.
Written by Heidi Moore and Cassandra Sechler.
Directed by Heidi Moore.
Out now on Vimeo Demand and on DVD/Blu combo in North America from LC Films
“A young boy from the trailer park can’t take another moment of ridicule from his family and peers. With support from his beloved dollies, he sets out for blood.”
The word ‘sad’ used to be a buzzword insult in the UK that was so overused it lost its meaning. Back in the 80s, rather than meaning ‘unhappy’, ‘sad’ was used as a synonym for ‘pathetic’. And yet, without intending the word to be an insult here, ‘sad’ seems the right word to describe Dolly Deadly. Sadness seems to be the prevailing theme in the movie.
I say this because Benji’s home life in the opening credits is sad to the point of being bleak. Benji is a pre-toddler with a chain-smoking mother, Tina Lyn, played by the superb Dana Nelson (Soul Doubt). Benji and Tina Lyn live in a trailer home filled with grimly-loved dollies. They exist on a diet of nicotine and Doritos. When his mother’s head explodes due to an accident with a home hair-colour kit, (that is a sentence I never thought I would type) Benji is taken into the custody of an uncaring grandmother. The bleak prospects of his future become even bleaker.
All Benji has, as a reminder of his mother’s love, is her collection of tattered dolls. Grandma Mitzi, played by Kimberly West-Caroll, is neglectful. Grandma’s boyfriend, Donald, Jay Sosnicki (Ride the Lightning, Interior. Leather Bar and Slaves of Hollywood), is unpleasant and psychologically abusive. The children in the neighbourhood are brats. They are both psychologically and physically abusive. There are other people who have an influence on Benji but the influences are seldom positive. And all of this neglect and abuse is very grim and difficult to watch. The concept of Benji’s need for vengeance is painfully sad.
Despite some of the comedic notions that are mooted, such as exploding hair products and talking dollies with their murderous suggestions, the idea of neglect is disturbing because the presentation here is horribly real. Obviously, as is suggested by the teaser, Benji’s relationship with his late mother’s dolls becomes a motivation for him to go on a killing spree and acquire vengeance. However, the main question you have to ask when you come away from this film is: why did it take him so long? Given the horrible people he’s associating with in this movie, any sane serial killer (if that’s not an oxymoron) would have started on a vengeance spree much earlier.
There are some clever things going on in the background here. Benji’s mother dies because of faulty cosmetics. This motif of the treachery that comes from cosmetics recurs throughout the film. Grandma sells dodgy beauty products to parents in the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood children force Benji to wear cosmetics as part of their persecution of him. Benji then makes diabolical use of one of the dubiously strong anti-aging/acid peel products that Grandma sells.
All of which suggests the horror here could be seen as a reflection of the relationship between our aspirations for doll-like perfection and the grim realities of our unmade-up lives. Heidi Moore is a director with a strong history of producing respected short films (Mommy, Showgirl Style, Wurms, Soul Doubt, etc). Along with Cassandra Sechler, she is the co-writer of Dolly Deadly which is a story that is an original and entertaining example of indie horror.
The strength of this film is that the viewer doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. There are no Hollywood plot constructions or cookie-cutter characters. This is innovative writing with unconventional approaches that might leave some cold but it will shock and horrify others.
That said, because of its bleak subject matter, this is not a movie I’m likely to revisit. The sadness was close to being a little too heartbreaking for my delicate sensibilities. However, for anyone who enjoys the thrill of a slasher, the inexplicable eeriness of dolls or the heady schadenfreude that comes from enjoying the sadness of others then Dolly Deadly is a film that needs to be experienced.