The Dollmaker (2017) | Directed by Al Lougher
Written by Matias Caruso | Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Daniel Martin Berkey
2017 horror short The Dollmaker packs a lot of creepiness into a short runtime. It starts in the opening shot, which depicts a casket containing a child’s corpse. The image lingers uncomfortably long on the screen as we listen to a conversation possibly even more ominous than the visual. A bereaved mother is speaking with a man who requests something the dead child wore, a lock of hair, and one of his prized possessions. In any horror story, nothing good ever comes of messing with a dead person’s stuff. This is confirmed in the next scene where you see the characters who were speaking previously.
The mother, played with palpable grief by Perri Lauren, is anxious for the dollmaker’s plan to take effect, which involves bringing partial life to a grotesquely misshapen doll replica of the child in the casket. The dollmaker assures her that “no one has ever asked for their money back.” Daniel Martin Berkey plays the doll maker as two parts Christopher Lloyd mad scientist and one part Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. He’s a genial fellow with a strange, off-center malice underlying everything he says.
The dead child’s father, played by Sean Meehan, expresses doubt that this is a good idea. His wife, overwhelmed by her grief, begins treating the doll as if it were truly her son brought back to life. She violates the dollmaker’s instruction to play with the doll only as long as the sand runs in an hourglass he gives her.
The consequences of this action are ultimately devastating and genuinely shocking. The sense of dread that pervades this movie is heightened by the choices in the cinematography, which uses a palette of moody blues, deep shadows, and sharpened contrasts to give the short’s suburban milieu the sense of evil lurking in every corner. The Tales from the Darkside-like plot of this film has a modern and stylish look combined with an executed story that leaves the viewer jarred, and wanting more.