THE DOLLMAKER **** USA 2017 Dir: Alan Lougher. 9 mins
“No one ever asked for their money back…” With the aid of an ageing, devious dollmaker (Daniel Martin Berkey), a lock of hair and a favourite possession, desperately grieving mother Perri Lauren attempts to take the agony away from losing her son. The boy’s father (Sean Meehan) disapproves intensely for what he dismisses as “an over-priced stupid doll”.
Outside of the family house it is indeed a doll; but in their arms, the custom-made creation comes to life and it’s almost like having him back again. Inevitably, it comes with a warning (and an instruction manual) …spend no longer than one turn of the hourglass or face unspecified consequences. Here’s a chilling portrait of denial and the extremes of grief that ultimately takes its cue from “The Monkey’s Paw” and follows a long sequence of horror novels and films constructed around the same theme: WAKE WOOD, DEATHDREAM and PET SEMATARY to name but three. The “doll” itself is among the genre’s most disturbing- particularly when Lauren’s credibly fractured mother feeds it with distracted glee despite (from our point of view) its apparently lifeless state. The visuals are often striking, notably a stunning montage conveyed through the all-important hourglass. Berkey is disquieting as a hybrid of salesman and necromancer with the subtly soulless qualities of both and an unsettling toothy grin and the grim story he oversees bows out with a suitably haunting and harrowing twist.
Review by Steven West