Project Dorothy (2024) Review
Project Dorothy opens with 1990s vintage footage of a huge factory with robotic machinery, smiling faces in the offices, and lots of forklifts. But something went wrong in this industrial paradise, we hear a voice talking about evacuation, followed by the sound of unseen people running and screaming. Then a final “I love you” as the lights go out.
Then “Many Years Later” two men James (Tim DeZarn, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Wrong Turn) and his younger accomplice Blake (Adam Budron, High on the Hog, Night, Night) are on the run after a bank robbery gone wrong. They were hired to get a laptop in the safe deposit box, and they got that. But James also got a bullet in the leg. Needing a place to hide, they break into a familiar looking building.
Just as the cop (George Henry Horton, Useless Humans, Lost in the City) looking for them is about to go in and have a look around he gets a call from dispatch (Emily Rafala, She Came From the Woods, Katy Keene) that the building is a restricted area and to leave immediately. His departure isn’t the lucky break the fugitives think it is, however.
By this point, it should be obvious that Project Dorothy is an extremely low budget film. So low budget, they couldn’t afford to have a few extras run screaming through the building’s halls to help sell the opening scenes. That also means director George Henry Horton and co-writer Blaine Morris, who also collaborated on Dark Obsession, have to try and build suspense with lots of footage of the two own wandering around the dark building as someone or something observes them and tries to connect with ARPANET via a dial-up modem.
Unfortunately, that quickly grows stale, even with the occasional shot of a glowing red face or seeing things from the point of view of a self-driving forklift. We’re halfway through Project Dorothy before they find some video recorded by Dr. Jillian (Olivia Scott, Welcome to the Men’s Group, Mixed Martial Hearts) giving them, and us, some backstory and the AI known as Dorothy, voiced by Danielle Harris (The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Roadkill) makes her presence, and her desire to use their laptop and Wi-Fi dongle, to escape the factory, known.
Once it becomes a game of cat and mouse between the humans and Dorthy’s army of forklifts, Project Dorothy does get interesting. The script and Harris’ voice acting makes Dorothy a suitably nasty antagonist, quite gleefully evil rather than the usual misguided or badly programmed nemesis. The script does a nice job with her taunting of James and Blake as they try to escape, or as she keeps turning the lights back on so they can sleep. The script just needed to have gotten there sooner, and maybe with a third person for the forklifts to kill.
Because, apart from adding some gore to Project Dorothy, it might have made them more intimidating. If you’ve ever operated, or worked around forklifts, then you know how big, heavy and potentially dangerous they are. Unfortunately, even with growling noises added to the soundtrack when they’re around, they aren’t inherently scary.
The script also leaves way too many questions left unanswered. Since the building is off limits even to the police, the government must know what’s in there. So why isn’t it fenced off and guarded? And why is there power to the building at all? No electricity means nobody can do like these two and accidentally revive her. Hell, why not do what Dr. Jillian tried and burn the place down, ending the threat Project Dorothy poses once and for all?
Horton and Morris have come up with the basis for a good film, the factory and the access tunnels underneath it make an effective location. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the budget to make proper use of it or the creativity to come up with a workaround to that lack of cash. If you’re a fan of microbudget films, the final act might make Project Dorothy worth a watch once it makes its way to Tubi, but there are too many better films about malevolent AI to make it a priority.