Heidi Moore does it all– she writes (along with co-writer Cassandra Sechler), directs, produces and even appears in her film Dolly Deadly. Pretty impressive. However, she takes it further than that: she also contributed to the film’s art department, art direction, production design, make-up, special effects, and served as the film’s cinematographer. In short, she’s a paragon of what independent horror means and should be, living by the mantra of infusing your body and soul into your work and art.
Her film Dolly Deadly, is a dark and grim story, set in a world full of seedy characters, where evil is crafted and molded by the actions of other people. The worst animal of them all, the most destructive monsters, are humans and their actions, which impact a person’s psyche and socialization, like a stone dropped in a lake and its subsequent ripples. Moore‘s story follows the trials and tribulations and the unfortunate life of Benji (Justin Moore), whose mother passes away in the film’s first scene in an unfortunate and gruesome accident. Yet, Benji is incredibly attached to the idea of his mom, despite being too young to remember, carrying around a picture of her and keeping a close connection with her creepy doll collection.
Benji, now living with his loveless grandmother and her boyfriend, lives a life of relative isolation and alienation, his only friends, the inanimate dolls that sometimes come to life in dreamlike sequences speaking to young Benji and urging him to do nefarious deeds to those that have wronged him. And rightfully so, Benji endures ridicule from local kids and his surrogate parents, as well as abuse and hazing that no child should ever experience. Nevertheless, the scenes when Benji’s dolls come to life, are done with stop-motion animation, relying on practical effects for the whole film in fact, to bring to life Benji’s companions in a baroque and invetively bizarre manner. Benji’s young and innocent mind begins to unravel possibly walking down a path of retribution, at the urging of his dreams and companions, to teach his tormentors a lesson in compassion.
Heidi Moore‘s film Dolly Deadly is not for everyone; it is a brutal confrontation of the lengths of humanity and its inability to profess love, and therefore, putting into effect a perpetual cycle of psychological trauma that is passed down from generation to generation. The film is about the destruction of a children’s psyche and how it relates to the child’s function in society as an adult and the adult’s that set those pieces in motion.
Dolly Deadly feels like the low-budget horror movies of the 70s and 80s with traces of Alice, Sweet Aliceand Stuart Gordon’s Dolls. It feels like an eclectic amalgam of styles that are reminiscent of Harmony Korine, Larry Clark, and David Lynch, pessimistic and gritty explorations of psychological trauma and bad deeds. The film’s eeriness will pervade your mind and it’s strangeness will cloud and stab the nerves as it holds you down and compels you to keep watching.