Directed by: #AlLougher
Written by: #AlLougher
Short Film Review by Huw Buckley
The Dollmaker’s emotional core is heavily reliant upon the notion that family is a universal theme. This may perhaps be valid but for a dramatic filmic exploration of this theme to be impactful or meaningful, the tone employed in the acting, cinematography, editing, and soundtrack needs to carry a similar weight. This isn’t the case with Al Lougher’s short horror film, which attempts to tell a story of familial loss and the unbearable weight of the resulting grief that results from this. The film is fun and can certainly be considered well produced for a short film, with lavish production values providing a cinematic experience. The film oozes light-hearted entertainment and campy pastiche from the first, with its clichéd nineteen-seventies Carpenter-esque soundtrack setting the tone.
The short film’s dialogue is rigidly theatrical and the delivery from the three central actors (Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan and Dan Berkley) feels suitably stunted and robotic. Everything feels deliberate, with no sense of naturalism in the performances given, which means it is difficult to feel emotionally invested in the characters and their respective arcs. This isn’t so much a criticism as it is a point regarding how the short works from the perspective of pastiche – the artificial nature of the whole production may be the point, though it certainly isn’t conducive to horror. It is hard to make a short horror film as an audience’s fear can often derive from the familiarity they have with characters, a by-product of the time-spent together. Without this, narrative abstraction, arresting visuals, and haunting soundtracks may be better suited to providing a verifiably spooky experience in this, a shorter medium.
Lougher’s film is not indicative of this approach, however. It attempts to humanise its characters through a depiction of trauma and relies on the audience’s relationship with the characters for scares. The ambition to tackle such complex, tonally heavy themes is commendable and should be applauded. However the execution is sadly lacking in the substance required to truly grapple with such ideas in a way that is emotionally satisfying and narratively convincing.