A contender for the worst horror movie of 2017, The Doll Master is an intensely boring experience. What begins as an intriguing idea regarding mental health quickly descends into the most laughable & lacklustre story imaginable.
Norman (Tony Fadil) is a reclusive shut-in that has given his best friend, Hugo a life of his own. Hugo is a doll & he is alive as far as Norman is concerned. He talks to him, he feeds him & makes him tea. In an eerie opening we see Norman interacting with the doll as if it’s a human being. Here the film manages to actually create atmosphere & tension as through the use of jump cuts it appears as though Toby is eating, drinking & talking.
However, it’s not made explicitly clear so you’re left with some lingering doubts especially as its voice sounds a lot like Normans but more gruff. This sequence fills you with such hope but it’s not long before all is dashed.
Norman is visited by a new care-visitor, Johnny (Rorie Stockton) who takes an interest in Toby. He offers to take the doll & sell it but Norman refuses telling him to leave. Later that night Johnny returns, breaks in & steals Toby leaving a ransom note for Norman.
From this point onwards the film goes off the rails completely. Switching to a group of ghost-hunters/documentary makers investigating a supposed haunted work site. The shift is such a lurch that it almost feels like you’re watching a different movie. One that has decided that snippets of found-footage style filming will help. Spoilers…it doesn’t.
It turns out that Johnny is part of this group & he took Toby to get Norman to come here as he believes he is linked to the ghostly goings-on somehow. He is but in the stupidest way possible. He arrives scared out of his mind & of all people it’s Johnny who tries to comfort him. The dude tricked his way into Norman’s house, lied, broke in later, stole from him & then left a threatening ransom note! Why would we like this guy?
In fact all of the characters baring Norman are incredibly unlikable. I’d say watch out for the obnoxious security guard but he’s impossible to ignore seeing as he won’t shut up. Incredibly poorly written characters made worse by the rubbish acting.
When the remaining characters finally get lost in the bowels of the location it’s a relief as finally answers might be given. Unfortunately it’s not the kind you want. Even at this late stage there is hope that Toby isn’t actually alive & it’s all just a delusion of the mentally ill Norman but that is sadly not the case.
Instead the film goes down the Goosebumps route as Toby literally becomes Slappy & Norman’s true past is revealed.
It couldn’t end quick enough.
Credit has to be given to Tony Fadil though who plays Norman, especially when you consider the weakness of the story.
Stills photography credit: Gaz de Vere. Find out more about his excellent photography work here.
The Doll Master