Doll in the Dark Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Silversheaf Media
Written and Directed by Alejandro Daniel
2011, 100 minutes, Rated RATING
Released on 24th January 2017
Amy Crowdis as Melanie Crow
Robin Lord Taylor as Dukken
Josh Caras as Kenny Wiley
Geneva Carr as Mrs. Wiley
Sadly renamed from the comically serious (and accurate) sounding The Melancholy Fantastic, and starring a pre-Penguin Robin Lord Taylor, of Gotham fame. As its better but less marketable original title might suggest, we’re deep in Indie territory here, as a young woman builds a life-size doll to fill the void left in her life by her dead mother. This being a feminine slant on a slightly familiar horror trope (see Love Object etc) we can be assured that she won’t try to rut with the thing, but it’s guaranteed that at some point it’s going to start talking to her.
That point has already passed when the film starts, with Melanie already in what appears to be a state of deep loneliness, the doll whispering away maliciously in her ear. During a trip to the library, she meets fellow misfit Dukken, and they bond over Nietzsche in the philosophy aisle. And so a tentative friendship is borne amidst awkward trips to chilly fields and dusty garages, both of them clearly angling for something more. The Doll, of course, has plenty to say about this.
Female protagonist aside, it’s your typical template for a creepy ‘my doll is talking to me’ movie, and with mother issues which go all the way back to Psycho too. It’s refreshing that wanting to bone the thing isn’t on the agenda, and it’s also relatively rare that female mental health should be the focus of this kind of story (while not exactly being the best representation of it) but that doesn’t stop Dukken’s intrusion into their life from feeling predictable and played out before it even starts.
The ace up the film’s sleeve is Robin Lord Taylor, whose peculiar brand of nervous energy is well utilised here, and has been serving him well on Gotham in the years since Doll in the Dark was filmed (and first released, in the US). As Melanie, the less accomplished Amy Crowdis has a quiet intensity to her which serves the film well in place of any more overt horror or thriller trappings. Doll in the Dark is chilly and distant, much like Melanie herself, and not always the most likeable. The pair match up well, making the obvious story and lack of humour or scares a little more tolerable. Doll in the Dark is a film which begins with lonely, damaged people flirting over Nietzsche, and it plays in exactly that manner all the way through: it’s essentially an overly serious student film which accidentally hit big with a Before They Were Famous star. We should have known this already: a title like The Melancholy Fantastic is about as student film as it gets.
Gotham fanboys and girls should get a kick from Doll in the Dark, which is well-acted and gets good mileage out of its talented young stars. Beyond that, however, it’s pretty and thoughtful, but ultimately lifeless and inert, building up to a climax which anyone with half a head for genre cinema will see coming from the start. Well, at least they got the melancholy part down pat.