Doll House is a 2020 British horror feature film about a young girl, her doll and the titular dollhouse.
Written, co-produced and directed by Steven M. Smith (Doll Cemetery; The Howling; The Doll Master; Haunted) the Rellik Films-Greenway Entertainment-Champdog Films production stars Mark Wingett, Toyah Willcox (Invasion Planet Earth; Quadrophenia), co-producer Louisa Warren (director of Vikings vs. Krampus; Tooth Fairy; Curse of the Scarecrow; et al) and Paul Danan (Are We Dead Yet?).
A care home for child runaways takes in an eleven-year-old girl whose only belongings are a doll and mysterious dollhouse. She refuses to speak and won’t ever let go of her doll. The other children tease her.
People start to disappear and seem to appear as tiny dolls inside the dollhouse. It transpires that an evil entity haunts the doll and dollhouse and is collecting the souls of the children for its ultimate cause, to be alive…
Steven M. Smith obviously has a thing about dolls. Or rather the easy sell that doll-themed movies are to distributors and potential punters as he previously gave us The Doll Master and Doll Cemetery.
Sadly, Smith’s latest, Doll House, is ploddingly painful. An early seance scene in a community hall with Toyah Willcox thrashing around as a psychic promises to elevate proceedings but ends up simply being laughable.
Once things settle down, it becomes obvious that most of the leads emote as if they are reading (poorly) from the script rather than acting. Care worker Emma (Jennifer Leahey) is mute, so whole scenes are conducted via Post-It notes. Yes, Post-It notes. This obviously sets up an intentional disconnect but when the eleven-year-old runaway is also mute things really begin to drag (the fact that young Jude is also mute in Brahms: The Boy II, is obviously no mere coincidence). The use of brief drone shots that last just seconds long are presumably intended to make the feature seem more expansive and yet do the opposite, simply distancing the viewer further.
Steven M. Smith has churned out a vast number of films in a short time since 2005, either of the hooligan exploitation type or low-rent horror variety. He’s prolific and clearly has some nascent talent so if he slowed down and took his time he might create something worthwhile. His Doll Cemetery at least had a few creepy moments.
Here, the titular dollhouse is obviously a knock-off from elevated horror classic Hereditary and yet the whole suburban set-up is so thoroughly mundane it takes away any attempts at suspense or tension, despite a couple of brief gory moments to liven things up. Sure, there are some Poltergeist-inspired histrionics at the climax but the editing employed is so miss-matched it ruins any sense of finality that might have been gained from this wholly cynical exercise.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES & MANIA
“You need to be a very patient person to get through Doll House. There’s little happening on screen to keep you hooked for the opening 50 minutes (the film is 85 mins long). In time the movie finally improves and the pacing picks up slightly towards the end.” Back to the Movies
“Doll House is very silly and parts of it stretch the patience, but it’s quite good to see a ‘moppet-from-hell’ flick which harks back to demonic kiddie movies of the 1970s for its reference point, and it is a step up production wise from Smith’s previous offerings, particularly in the final scenes of mayhem.” Dark Eyes of London
“An overly familiar story can still be entertaining if told well enough, or with enough energy to keep the viewer caught up in it. But Doll House just plods along with way too much padding between poorly staged killings. Right down to the expected final scene.” Voices from the Balcony
Doll House was released by 101 Films on 23rd March 2020 and will be released on DVD in UK retailers and on Digital download.
Cast and characters:
- Mark Wingett … James
- Toyah Willcox … Layla
- Louisa Warren … Heather
- Paul Danan … Andy
- Jake Taviner … Byron
- Kate Lush … Chloe
- Sarah Dorsett … Lady in Audience
- Luke Stevenson … Liam
- Jim Ruel … Jim
- Jennifer Leahey … Emma
- Gaz de Vere … Photographer in audience
- Will Cutmore … Will
- Susan Cutmore … Susan
- Connor Starling … Noah
- Saskia Sheridan … Stephanie