Monday, February 26, 2018

A Few Inches To Spare

Another year, another slew of little villain-centric movies covered here at the Doll's House. And if, like me, you STILL thirst for one more bit of killer kid cinema, let us all be thankful that the doctor is in the house.

Over yonder at Senseless Cinema, the probably not medically trained Doctor Pseudonymous puts his expertise to use with a review of the definitive "evil children who hug adults to death with black fingernails" classic, The Children.

Far down under, we have a glorious trio of posts from dear friend of the Doll's House, Chris Hewson. Head on over to Not This Time, Nayland Smith for plenty of shortness, including

Jodie Foster in Candleshoe

And not one, not two, NOT EVEN THREE but FOUR Herbie movies!

And if your eyes are getting tired and your ears need a workout, allow me to say that on episode 99 of The Feminine Critique, we tackled 2016's far better than you think it is The Boy, as well as the classic Canadian oddity that is Pin.

Don't forget! If you have something to contribute, you can always email me at deadlydollshouse (at) gmail (dot) com for an inclusion here. When it comes to Shortening, we're always hungry!

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Girl Who Is a Gift

Does the world need another zombie movie? Well no, but I'm sure there's some heathen out there who thinks we're fine without another Step Up sequel. 

My point is simple: entertainment is rarely about need. Nobody thought we needed Toy Story 2 and 3, but isn't the world a better place with them? 

So hey, you want to give me a zombie movie in 2016? Make it good and I'll take it with joy.

Quick Plot: Preteen Melanie is bright and good-natured, a pleasant, creative individual who's first to raise her hand in class. She's the perfect teacher's pet save for one fatal flaw: her taste for human flesh.

Melanie, you see, is a second generation "hungry," aka evolved zombie who can function as a normal human being so long as she doesn't smell saliva, blood, or other bodily fluids.

In the near-apocalyptic future of The Girl With All the Gifts, the remaining uninfected are putting most of their resources into developing a cure for the virus (in this case, it's fungal-based and can spread through spores). Children like Melanie are treated like lab rats, much to the disapproval of teacher Helen (the always welcome Gemma Arterton) who disgusts her military escorts with her sympathy for the kids. Scientists like Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close! In a zombie movie!) see hungries as a disease to be cured by any means necessary.

When Melanie's facility becomes overrun with activated hungries, a ragtag team of survivors bands together to seek shelter. Helen, Dr. Caldwell, the bitter Sargent Parks, soldier Kieran, and Melanie wander a hungry-swarming world together with very different motives.

Based on a novel by Mike Carey (who also wrote the screenplay), The Girl With All the Gifts presents an intriguingly thought-out system for a zombie horror setup. The science is explained easily, and some of the more fungus-ish tics lend both believability and uniqueness to the setup.

That's all well and good, but a decent pitch for zombie attacks doesn't necessarily a great zombie flick make. Enter Sennia Nanua in her film debut as one of the most lovable characters to ever come out of the very well-trod genre. With her eager-to-please sunniness and wry sense of humor, Melanie is a genuine delight. Your heart immediately goes out to any kid strapped into a wheelchair on a daily basis and treated with such disgust as the soldiers do towards the hungries, but it's Melanie's intelligence and moxie that make her the kind of child you can build a film around.

The Girl With All the Gifts is directed by Colm McCarthy and damnit, it is a delight. I laughed. I jumped. And you know what else? I damn well cried. 

This is a joy.

High Points
There's a lot to admire throughout The Girl With All the Gifts, but its key strength is right there in its title. As Melanie, Nanua is incredibly charming and engaging. I can't remember the last time I rooted so hard for a character in a zombie flick.

Low Points
This is a movie that finds a way to make a cat's death charming. I have none.

Lessons Learned
Velcro is equally as impressive to zombie children of the future as it is and has been to a generation of living kids who couldn't tie their shoes

Don't play with anybody that looks dead

As Arrested Development should have taught us, always leave a note

Obviously, I adored this movie. It moves well, it has a winking sense of humor around its horror and a true affection for its characters. You can find it streaming on Amazon Prime. And you should. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Tiny Living, Big Killing

When future generations look back upon this time, I'm sure they'll find a lot of cultural choices to make them scratch their heads. Sure, electing a sociopath buffoon and enjoying entertainment scored with laugh tracks will undoubtedly make the cut, but let's not forget one of the stranger trends of the aughts: tiny houses.

Leave it to the Lifetime Network to make the first horror movie out of it.

Quick Plot: Samantha is a landscape artist happily married to Kyle, a builder who runs his business with best friend Mark. Their relationship becomes strained by a miscarriage and some fertility issues, leading Kyle to storm out the door and clear his head via the one thing he finds relaxing: coast climbing.

In a world where people drool over the cuteness of 300 square feet, coast climbing is apparently a common stress-relieving activity.

Kyle disappears, presumably down the coast that he was, you know, climbing. A mournful Samantha retreats to Kyle's last project, a tiny home development isolated deep in the mountains. Before long, Samantha senses sinister forces at play. Poisonous spiders show up in her bedroom, knives fly past her head to the magnetic space-saving pot holder gifted by her supportive sister, and a creepy baby doll shows up with an ominous message. 

The suspect list mounts in that very paranoid Lifetime way. Could it be the friendly, bearded hipster who lives down the mountain? Mark and/or his wife? Samantha's caring sister? Or, considering Samantha has dramatically thrown her depression medication away, are all of these seemingly hostile acts merely figments of her lonely imagination?

Tiny House of Terror is directed by TV veteran Paul Shapiro with all of the Instagram filtered lighting you need to make it feel of its time. Samantha is sympathetic enough for a millennial widow, and the film's mystery is rewardingly solved with a bonkers climax. 

Hight Points
I won't get into spoiler territory, but the reveal is pretty kooky in that ridiculous way that only Lifetime can deliver

Low Points
The film's treatment of anxiety and depression is, to put it mildly, a pile of crap

Lessons Learned
Surviving a series of life-threatening acts will do wonders for your fertility

A true sign of the times: never delete texts from your loved one. In an age where voicemail is on its way out, that last emoji-filled message might just be the closest you'll come to hearing your late partner's "voice" again

When a soul-crushing darkness overcomes you, it's probably not the best idea to toss out your anxiety pills 

Tiny House of Terror is probably airing on your local Lifetime or LMN network during the next Trendy Home Killer marathons. It's not particularly worth seeking out, but if it shows up on your TV screen, it's certainly not the worst way to kill 90 minutes of your time. The twist is rewardingly wacky, and some of the random spurts of horror have that just over-the-top enough feel to make this one stick.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Let's Get Ready To Evil

We couldn't have a Shortening without at least one evil child flick, right?

Quick Plot: Fearing the youth of America is falling too far behind their more ambitious peers, a private tech country sets up a learning academy for the most gifted pre-teens in the near future. The school itself is buried deep in the bottom floors of a sprawling facility and run primarily via computerized educational tools, with no need for fallible humans in the teacher roles. Instead, three twentysomethings (eager Jenny, groovy Tiggs, and bad boy/self-proclaimed genius Darby) take on the new role as caretakers, merely supervising the kids to ensure they stay in bed and move from one class to the next.

This fancy new school is so elite that its occupants can only see with the help of souped up glasses that connect them to the technological workings of their surroundings. Also on board is ARIAL (it stands for some kind of Siri-esque function), a chipper virtual assistant designed to help the intellectually outmatched aides in their daily activities. 

You don't have to be as smart as the subjects to guess that locking super genius children in a sealed underground ward just might lead to some murderous chaos. As our three young adults try to evade their violent charges, we the audience watch it all unfold via their enhanced goggle vision.

Directed by Martin Owen (with a script by Owen, Jonathan Willis, and Elizabeth Morris, who also plays Jenny), Let's Be Evil follows the welcome format of IFC Midnight produced films with a brief 80ish minute run time. Since this is such a small, focused tale, it makes sense.

It also helps because one can only take eyeglass camera vision so long before it becomes a tad annoying.

As anyone who's ever stopped by this site knows, I'm an easy mark for a killer kid film. Maybe that's why Let's Be Evil worked for me. The visual style keeps things fresh enough, and the fact that we're literally in the dark on what's going on with the children works well. The leads don't get enough time to be interesting or overly compelling, but in their brief screentime, the story keeps everything engaging enough.

High Points
You have to give credit to a film that tells an age old tale with a new style

Low Points
I like to think I'm smart enough to get most of the plotting in modern horror, but it's been several days of thinking and I still can't figure out the exact significance of the opening and closing frame

Lessons Learned
Perhaps any school that's willing to hire caretakers with criminal records isn't going to be the safest work environment

Strong sensible people don’t put sugar in their coffee

In the near future, young men will be fashioning themselves akin to Max's jerky stepbrother in Stranger Things

This is the sort of case where I know I enjoyed a film more than the average viewer. Let's Be Evil has plenty of problems from a production and storytelling point of view, but it comes with a fresh approach and doesn't waste time turning into a hunt. It's not for everyone, but if evil children in a high-tech (but low budget) sounds intriguing, give it a go via Instant Watch.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Welcome to the Shortening!

It's February! 

Which is hardly exciting for anyone.

Unless you're a dog who really likes brushing his teeth. Or, more likely, you dig short things.

That's right: it's the 8th Annual Shortening, a monthly celebration covering films that deal with vertically challenged villains. 

Kids, dolls, houses (go with it), bugs. You get the drift. Any questions?

Yes, all are more than welcome to participate. If you have a blog or podcast and cover anything short-centric this month, simply shoot an email over to deadlydollshouse at with your link. Be sure to include a link to this here site and we're partners in crime.

See you soon!