Monday, March 09, 2015

Playing with Dolls Spends Too Much Time in the Dollhouse: A Movie Review

Director: Rene Perez.

Writers: Barry Massoni and Rene Perez.

Cast: Natasha Blasick, Richard Tyson, Charlie Glackin and Alanna Forte.

Playing with Dolls is director Rene Perez's (The Dead and the Damned) latest horror feature. Partially written by Barry Massoni (Demon Hunter), the film deals with the release of a psychopath, who has a simmering internal conflict with women. His latest crush is great eye candy, but this character offers very little else. Almost a bloodless slasher, Playing with Dolls offers very little hack and slash. Instead, the focus of the film is on cat-and-mouse sequences, housed in the usual cabin-in-the-woods setting. Playing with Dolls brings very little substance to the screen, unfortunately.

The story begins with some horror. A nicely framed woman is stalked in the snow and tortured. Then, the film changes from the antagonist to the protagonist. Cindy (Natasha Blasick) is in dire straits. She has lost her job, her roommate has run out on her and her her creepy landlord is demanding sexual favours. Her life seems to turn around with a phone call. She is invited to stay in a cabin as a maid, for $4000/month. This too-good-to-be-true scenario is more of a bait-and-switch. Soon, Cindy is being chased by a masked killer, while a millionaire scopophilic enjoys the show.

Playing with Dolls is a fairly standard slasher in the woods. Though, much of the bloodletting has been minimized. There are so few characters in the film, that there are few victims for the killer to choose from. So, Prisoner AYO-886 (Charlie Glackin) simply stalks Cindy in a remote cabin. He walks by her as she stares outside. Or, he runs a knife over her tight clothing, while she sleeps. However, there are very few thrills to be found here. More chase sequences and victims were needed to create a more thrilling atmosphere.

Because of the focus on stalking, action elements are minimized. There is the usual action, horror hook in the opening sequence, involving a knife stabbing. But, the film's core is too full of drawn out cat-and-mouse sequences. In the climax, action elements pick up as several minor characters are introduced and outroduced. The killer finally finds some kinetic, murderous energy in these short scenes. As well, a police officer puts a wrinkle in the serial killer's plans. But, this character acts as more of a crutch to the protagonist and not much else. To its detriment, the film relies on too many shadowy images to create terror.

Finally, even the protagonist does not project a well-rounded character. Early scenes with Cindy show some despair and emotion. Yet, the following sequences with this character almost come across as fluff. She offers a titillating wardrobe change, or a splash in the hottub. But, this character has no one to dialogue with through a large portion of the film. And, this viewer grew slightly bored with watching Cindy glide around the cabin. Her positive qualities involve or revolve around beauty and she shows no strength of spirit, nor a consistent ability to defend herself. This character, who is central to the story, is too weakly drawn out.

Playing with Dolls has been released overseas, specifically in Germany. This mild-tempered slasher features does not offer enough hack and slash. Though the interaction between the two villains offered a new layer. Other characters are mostly flat, with most getting very little dialogue. The cat-and-mouse sequences were drawn out for too long. And, the promise of a sequel does not end the film concretely. Any future episodes in this series need more frenetic action sequences, with more gory scenes. Playing with Dolls is a bit of a let down in slasher horror genre.

Overall: 6 out of 10 (very little character interaction, lots of eye candy and some nudity, the climax is over too quickly, the ending is slightly flat too).

A preview of the film is available here:

A Playing with Dolls Preview on 28DLA

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