Directed by Shane Davey
Starring Marie Allcorn, Ava Barnett, Richard Brinkmann, Lucy Chalkley, Sarah Datblygu, Jennifer Evans, Hannah Farmer, and Kari Frette
Indie Film Review by Chris Olson
The London tower block is often the setting for a film; most likely for symbolising the cultural makeup of British citizens and the class divide, or for offering numerous sets all within one location. Shane Davey’s indie film, The Horror of the Dolls (2010), utilises both of these benefits, as well as achieving something quite remarkable with an urban structure best known for being grim and grotty - which is style. His film, co-written with Andy Tomlinson, serves up a nuanced, if baggy, Horror/Thriller that works on a number of...ahem...levels.
Given the title of the film, one might be expecting a rather shallow, or even slapstick, outing that would have more in common with a Goosebumps book than a serious, violent film. The Horror of the Dolls, though, deals with the inhabitants of a tower block facing eviction from a nebulous building firm who hope to turn a profit from the building. However, a pocket of resistance to the building firm’s plans has arisen, who hope to petition to prevent the ousting. This becomes mixed up with a bloody murder which occurs to one of the building’s residents, who happened to be a collector of freaky-ass looking dolls. There is also a smorgasbord of totes emosh happenings going on between the tower block’s inhabitants, which trying to explain would be like trying to unpick the last six years of Hollyoaks plotlines.
Like this reviewer mentioned before, the indie film is nuanced and baggy - pretty much in equal measure. There is a lot to like about Davey’s film, especially in terms of the movie’s aesthetics and tone - which transcends the usual guts and glory of a Slasher and instead pursues something more intelligent. A few of the standout sequences are genuinely compelling and the ensemble cast have more than enough screen time to create a consistent cohesion, that the viewer will embrace the atmosphere without much trouble. The film’s most menacing character (Richard Brinkman) is particularly engaging and manages to deliver a worthwhile killer without verging into Scooby-Doo territory.
That said, much of the dialogue is waffley and inconsequential, giving the indie film a soap opera tinge which is totally unwelcome against the visceral imagery and atmosphere which is running parallel. There is also a heavy reliance on slow motion which, whilst a powerful tool in places, becomes a burden to the pacing by the final act and sadly undermines the chilling grip the movie achieved. It felt like a device used simply to stretch the movie to a longer run time (which is already a lean one hour twenty-something), when audiences could have been given a stronger exploration of the characters and perhaps built more of a connection to them.
When a filmmaker tries to be inventive and interesting it is always worth a watch, and The Horror of the Dolls is proof that Davey is artistically both. This is by no means a perfect Horror/Thriller and needs a fair bit of tightening up, but there is a lot to engage with and the overall impact of the film, which is viscerally stunning in places, offers enough for viewers to grab hold of.