Monday, February 13, 2017

But Don't All Dolls Trace Back to the Devil?


Here at February's Shortening, we tend to have a few requirements when it comes to filling a full (albeit, short) month with horror movies that center on the wee. Key among them? Dolls. This ain't the Deadly Doll's House for nothing!

Quick Plot: Detective Matt Something has been obsessed with catching a ritualistic serial killer named Henry who brands his victims with a satanic mark. Matt finally gets his guy (after he drills a fellow police officer straight through the head moments earlier) but causes a minor stir with Henry’s mysterious neighbor/guardian Della when he refuses to give her Henry’s box of worry dolls. Evidence, after all, has to be handled professionally.


...Or left in your backseat so that when your crafty daughter jumps in the car, she immediately takes said box and starts to sell said worry dolls to the unsuspecting public.


Let’s talk about the main issue I had with the pretty decent The Devil’s Dolls: Detective Matt Something performs some of the absolute worst police work I’ve ever seen in a movie. The keystone cops of Last House On the Left look like Agent Clarice Starling in comparison. 


After Chloe begins distributing these dolls, bad things happen. Mostly, fairly easily preventable bad things. Sure, the innocent college kids who become possessed and slaughter a convenience store clerk were off the radar, but when Matt is called to his ex-wife’s friend’s house as her husband roams the halls with garden shears, it shouldn’t have been THAT hard to shoot the guy before he appeared from nowhere to get stabby. 


Similarly, just a few hours later, Matt holds his gun on ANOTHER doll-possessed man holding a weapon on an unarmed woman. You would think he might have learned that, I don’t know, shooting the guy in the arm could at least buy the potential victim some safety, but why bother when it’s much easier to let his guard down for the doll-possessed weapon-wielder to inevitably stab his capturee so that Matt can scream --


Details aside, I had a fair amount of fun with The Devil’s Dolls. The violence is handled decently, and most of the characters are drawn clearly enough (and acted better than you often find in the realms of straight-to-streaming) to give you valuable context to care about the danger. There’s a heaviness to the idea of worry dolls being designed to help protect children of abuse, although perhaps it would have been better if that was introduced earlier on. Directed by Rites of Spring’s Padraig Reynolds, this is nowhere near the upper echelon of horror filmmaking, but it’s a fun and grisly enough way to kill 90 minutes.


High Points
There’s a nice hint of a possible (though disappointingly not executed) twist at the very end that lends some weight and moral questioning to the story’s possibilities. While it’s unfortunately not explored, it does elevate the material from your standard “worry dolls possessed my daughter” flick

Low Points
Seriously, how bad a detective can one man a movie wants us to think is a good detective be? Let’s count the bodies that could have easily been saved to find out.


Lessons Learned
When you sell something, that makes you a professional

Yes child. Yes it does
Inventory clerks who hit on you for five years are handy in a cursed worry doll disaster

It’s great to be smart enough to find a way to cut yourself free from a crazed worry doll worshipping murderer, but it’s even better if you’re a tad smarter to hold onto the sharp device you used to free yourself to, I don’t know, maybe defend that same yourself if said crazed worry doll worshipping murderer is nearby


Credits Curiosity
I appreciate any movie that includes a "Doll Design" and "Doll Effects" notation in the opening credits, until I finish the movie and try to figure out what the effects actually were

Rent/Bury/Buy

As an under 90-minute Netflix Instant Watch, one could do far worse than The Devil’s Dolls. It’s better shot and acted than anything Charles Band ever made by himself, which is obviously as grand a statement as saying “the police work in The Devil’s Dolls is worse than that in The Last House On the Left.” So make of THAT what you will. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Thank Heaven For Evil Little Girls


Obviously, we're not about to have a Shortening with AT LEAST one evil child flick. Take it away, Lifetime!

Quick Plot: Eight-year-old Sadie lives with her overly strict grandmother following the death of her father and addiction troubles of her mother, Theresa. Now clean, successful, and about to be married to an even cleaner and more successful man, Theresa takes Sadie back in to complete their sunny suburban dream family.

Despite her cheery disposition, Sadie isn't the little angel her golden locks suggest. Part of this comes from the fact that her cruel grandmother was verbally abusive, and the rest seems to stem from the fact that all the new people around her are generally horrible.


I know bullying is a problem, but do kids really take such an instant dislike to the nice young new girl that doesn't know slang because she was homeschooled? Before she can ask what a candy crush is, the poor kid is being ridiculed by crappy kids Dylan and Alliree.


Yes, that's apparently a girl's name in 2017. The apocalypse is already here.

At first, poor little Sadie really does try her darndest to fit in. Heck, even pushing her creepy grandmother to her death is somewhat justified in her point of view. Continuing on to steal Dylan's toys, mangle them and glue their burnt corpses to his locker, and poison her teacher with nut-containing marzipan while she teases her with an epi pen is, I suppose, more out of line.


You can be pretty sure you're watching the right kind of evil child flick when it includes said evil child doodling extremely detailed crayon illustrations of violent acts against the people who have wronged her. Directed by Curtis Crawford (whose stunning filmography includes The Husband She Met Online, The Wife He Met Online, The Boy She Met Online, The Girl He Met Online, The Guest She Met Online, Cyberstalker, and many, many more), Mommy's Little Girl comes from the upper levels of the Lifetime stable. While all the beats are hit and you can map out the major plot points blindfolded after the very first film, there's also far more skill on display than your average made-for-TV murder romp.

High Points
Lead actress Emily Hentschel is genuinely something special. It's easy enough to find a child actor that can pull off the bad seed vibe, but Hentschel lends Sadie true depth, nailing the full range of a troubled child play-acting at normalcy to the extreme. It's rare that you ever find true sympathy for the token evil child, but Hentschel earns it



Low Points
I realize I'm asking an awful lot from a Lifetime killer kid film, but I guess my only real quibble is that there seems to be a lot of missed opportunities surrounding Sadie's upbringing. We get hints that Grandpa and Grandma were tough guardians who may have tortured poor Sadie with dungeons and discipline, but it just seems like there's a missed opportunity there


Lessons Learned
One of the perks of being VP of a toy company is that you can populate your stepdaughter's room with an arsenal of teddy bears

Successful hairdressers don't just have great hair: they have the bounciest, shiniest locks you ever did see when waking up in the middle of night


Word travels realllllllllly slowly in the suburbs

Samantha is no longer a popular girl's name


Chekhov's Law of a Nut Allergy holds true, particularly on Lifetime


Rent/Bury/Buy
Lifetime movies can sometimes be hard to find if they're not airing during a themed marathon, but the truly devoted little rascals horror fans should put Mommy's Little Girl on their radar. It's rare to find such a nicely layered evil child at the center of your "let's watch an evil child do terrible things" films, let alone one made for a channel whose standards are lower than mine. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mama's Little Baby Loves the SHORTENING (and also, bread)

The calendar says February, and loyal Doll's House guests know what that means!


That's right: Welcome to the 7th Annual Shortening!

What, you might be asking, is a 7th Annual Shortening?


It's quite simple: February is a short month.


I'm a short lady.


Dolls are typically short things.


SO.

Come the second month of the year, we simply put a focus here on all things little: dolls, evil kids, bugs, cats, gnomes, Tom Cruises, whatever it may be. Other bloggers are welcome to join by emailing me (deadlydollshouse at gmail.com) or posting their links in the comments section of these reviews. So turn in those heels and let's get short!