DOLL HOUSE * UK 2020 Dir: Steven M Smith. 85 mins
Most of us lack the determination, effort and balls to make a feature film (and get it released), so it’s a bit rich for us to knock the efforts of Steven M Smith, a chap who has been churning out (and getting released) a considerable amount of features over the last few years – including assorted football hooligan flicks and several horror pics with the word “doll” in their titles (c.f. this, THE DOLL MASTER, DOLL CEMETERY). DOLL HOUSE, in which the central threat is a sour-faced, abysmal child actor in Poundland Halloween make-up, may find a receptive audience with those craving a pedestrian hybrid of THE OMEN and HEREDITARY in which Toyah Willcox plays a shite psychic who wigs out in a Linda Blair / AMITYVILLE HORROR fashion – “Get out!!” – before beating a hasty retreat.
Mute heroine Jennifer Leahey, having overcome a Traumatic Event herself, oversees a halfway house for annoying / traumatised kids and enjoys (in the cinema tradition) more heightened versions of the senses she still possesses. After attending Toyah’s “cold reading” meltdown, she takes in a mute, doll-clutching 11-year-old (Saffia Larter-Green), who begins polishing off the main cast while populating her doll house with models in their likeness. DOLL HOUSE feels longer than it actually is thanks to extensive padding – notably a daylight sequence of Leahey being stalked (set to a ludicrously over-dramatic score) by what turns out to be just an online vlogger fishing for a story. Silly disposable secondary characters abound, including a nose-picking, underwear-sniffing handyman. There are extended periods of unscary torch-lit attic exploration and low-impact death set pieces. The best we can say about the latest part of Mr. Smith’s admirably prolific mission to get movies made is that the heroine’s first words onscreen entirely echo the thoughts of many hapless viewers: “I’m completely fucking sick of this!”
Review by Steven West