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Review: DOLL CEMETERY (2019)

An author with writer’s block heads out to an isolated house to complete their next book, only to have strange events start happening. We’ve all seen a film like this before, and probably more than just one. In Doll Cemetery, director Steven M. Smith (Doll House, The Howling) and frequent co-writer Christopher Jolley (Borstal, Virus Of The Living Dead) combine it with several other clichés. The result is a film that can’t quite live up to its potential.

Brendan (Jon-Paul Gates, Dragon Kingdom, Invasion Earth) is having trouble writing a follow-up to his breakthrough novel. So, he ends up in a cottage out in the English countryside. A cottage the taxi driver won’t go near, dropping him off at the end of a long dirt road. As he walks down that road, he meets Sarah (Jennifer Leahey). Since she’s wearing a red dress and seems ready to have a go right there, that should be his hint to turn and run. These kinds of things never end well in a film like this.

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Of course, he doesn’t turn back and soon finds himself sharing a house with a creepy child-size doll named Alfred (Kaden Durso). He doesn’t know it, (though we do), but Alfred has some bad habits, like killing people. Brendan becomes a little obsessed with Alfred and uses him as the subject of his novel. Between the doll and the unfriendly and downright weird locals, I’d be out of there. But that wouldn’t make for much of a movie, would it?

To its credit, Doll Cemetery has some genuinely creepy elements. The doll itself looks less like a doll than a kid wearing a mask. The result is strangely unnerving. Visually it brings to mind the killer from Alice, Sweet Alice or the titular creatures from The Brood. There’s also some nicely done low light scenes of the doll, though they do tend to overuse the blue filter for these scenes.

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Unfortunately, what we often get are scenes like an early kill in which we follow a hiker (Jimmy ‘The Bee” Bennett, Scareycrows, Alien Outbreak) for several minutes as he wanders aimlessly around the countryside before being killed. Doll Cemetery drags scenes out to the point of tedium in order to stretch the film’s running time. Add that to situations so familiar you can frequently guess what’s going to happen, and it makes for some rough going.

For a film made for about $18,000, Doll Cemetery looks better than it has a right to. But the lack of ideas and resources hobbles it. Maybe Smith should slow his prolific pace, (he’s already directed 24 films), and put a bit more money into fewer films. The results would probably be a lot better. As it stands, this is watchable if you’re in a generous mood.

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Doll Cemetery is available on digital platforms in the UK. A DVD and US release will follow shortly. Check the film’s Facebook page for updates.

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