Dec 14, 2023
Thomas Elliott Griffiths
James M. McCann
Pamela Mayoss, Paul Woodward, Karly Maguire
I have to say, it is refreshing for an ‘evil doll’ movie to get straight to the ‘evil doll’ part. It’s an evil doll movie after all – do we really need to spend half an hour with a family wondering why creepy happenings start occurring right after purchasing a 19th century porcelain monstrosity (FOR SOME REASON). You’re probably sick of the word ‘doll’ already, but you’ll have to withstand it a little longer – as The Doll is a dark comic short that horror fans will appreciate.
We meet protagonist Lisa (Pamela Mayos) mid-murder, having recently killed her partner (Daniel Saint Roberts) under the instruction of a haunted girl doll (Sarah-Louise Chadwick). Lisa has born a lot of resentment to her partner for neglectful behaviour and infidelity, but the doll’s whisperings has led her to doing the unthinkable. Not knowing what to do, she takes further advice from the condemned toy – but death seems to follow the doll wherever it goes, and whoever it comes into contact with.
The Doll follows in the long footsteps of Chucky, M3gan, and at least two Simpsons Halloween episodes in bringing a murderous, haunted doll to screen which catches the ear of a vulnerable herald who does its horrifying bidding. The doll in this short never takes up the butchers knife itself, but instead gets into the head of Lisa, played subversively by Pamela Mayos. Having already done something truly terrible, the film employs black comedy by making clear that Lisa does not truly appreciate the magnitude of what she has done. Her discussions with the doll are quite surreal, and the main source of the humour as she protests at some of the more meagre requests asked of her whilst quite happily taking on the more brutal ones.
The script is hit and miss – flipping conventional horror dialogue and storytelling at its best and presenting as confusing and expository at its worst. It really is quite refreshing to be placed at the ‘mid-point’ of events – with Lisa having already bought the doll and killed her partner at the film’s beginning. Jarring moments of humour add a quirkiness and originality to the film as well, with some intriguing moments that subvert expectations. But elsewhere the dialogue is ropey and unoriginal, and Pamela Mayos never really sounds like she is speaking in an original, authentic or defined voice as Lisa. We are led to believe that her and the doll have a formed relationship where they can talk openly – but the recounting of prior events feels for the audience’s benefit alone.
The pacing could have done with some extra work as well – with a coda to the film featuring a couple (Karly Maguire and Paul Woodward) considering buying the doll at some point in the future. This section takes up a significant amount of the film’s short runtime, yet feels tacked on and separate. Clearly the intention is to say that the doll’s evil persists, but this time would have been better served elaborating and adding more to Lisa’s story.
Horror fans will appreciate the more experimental instincts of The Doll, which at least tries – and largely succeeds – to do something different with a story outline that really always follows the same path. It stands up as a respectable short film, though doesn’t change my opinion that scary dolls really need to be left on the toy shop shelf.