THE DUMMY: BLOODY ANNIVERSARY
Director: Dante Falconi
Year of release: 1995
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 90 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Taglines: "He's gonna kill you" and "An anniversary turned into a nightmare".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: At around the time of their first wedding anniversary couple Chris and Laura visit a fortune teller as a lark. Starting off innocently enough things turn sour when Chris becomes agitated when the pair are told their marriage will not last. The scene breaks down into an argument with Chris and Laura eventually storming out in temper. Feeling besmirched the fortune teller whom also has a background in voodoo performs a spell which places a demon spirit inside a ventriloquist style dummy. She then charges the dummy with killing anyone who comes into verbal or physical contact with the departed couple before the execution of Laura and Chris themselves. The dummy finds its way into the home of its targets under the guise of an anniversary gift and soon begins carrying out its task.
Good points: *I’m not too sure why as the script surrounding them wasn’t very good particularly when it came to Laura but I actually ended up really liking the married couple. They had a sweetness and a charm to them of a sort and as a result I found I cared about their chances of survival during their ordeal.
*When it comes to the murders of Chris and Laura’s friends there are some stylish moments where the editing and cinematography combine to present some creepy and eerie shots. The way Woody was silhouetted in a window at night for example was effective and disconcerting. There are a solid amount of murders included as well so the action in this regard comes thick and fast. This is an extremely low budget production so the effects aren’t up to much but they make an effort with limited resources. They’re not going to win any awards that’s for sure but the deaths are passable and entertaining enough.
*There are some references to other slasher films included with Evil Night coming up in conversation at one point plus Lots of Friday the 13th and Child’s Play posters on the walls of Chris and Laura’s bedroom. Speaking of Child’s Play there is a nice nod to that as well with the condition of woody at the very end. Cropsy pops up as a character name as well.
*Woody the dummy looks the part, very much your typical ventriloquist dummy really so creepy and unsettling by definition. The filmmakers have shown restraint and been fairly subtle with it though and not gone too over the top or tried to make Woody overly intimidating or demonic. This was a good thing I thought as with the dummy being given as an anniversary gift it made sense for it to be more standard looking and not overly odd or freaky.
Bad Points: *The script is too lightweight and amateurish with not enough going on story-wise. The dialogue between the characters comes across as basic and stilted much of the time and doesn’t feel very natural. Regarding the story it starts off on the backfoot as I didn’t feel the scene with the fortune teller was dramatic enough. For her to go to the lengths she did and be motivated to kill not only the couple but their friends as well I thought there needed to be a bigger disagreement and shouting match. From there the film becomes a series of phone calls or in person meetings where friends of Chris and Laura either call or drop by to wish them a happy anniversary. Soon after Woody kills them, rinse and repeat. I felt like it needed more thought going into it as to how all these characters happened to come into contact with each other. A wedding anniversary party would have been the obvious alternative and this would have offered some of these fringe cannon fodder type characters more time to establish themselves.
*Unfortunately this movie suffers from absolutely horrible picture quality throughout and in particular near the beginning. On top of being very dark and grainy the picture also often descends into a strange red tint or super washed out colours. Maybe to some degree it was down to the budget but I can’t fathom that alone making it so bad so some of it must be a deliberate attempt to be stylish. For me though it looked awful and was way too distracting and annoying.
*The puppetry is poor and as such it does take something away from Woody’s air of menace. Whenever he is seen to move around (which is infrequently) he’s only ever shown from the waist up or just the legs so it’s not very convincing. There’s not much help for it with a small budget and to be fair they do introduce a teleporting ability to eliminate the need for him to be shown as much actually in motion. Normally I wouldn’t like something like this but in this case it does tie in with the supernatural origins of the doll being possessed by a demon.
*Spoiler: Towards the end after Chris’ demise Laura who doesn’t yet know he’s dead has a dream about him which involves him walking around the house possibly being stalked by Woody. It’s too slow and goes on too long however and as we the viewer already know he’s dead outside the dream in reality anyway there’s no tension.
*It was weird how they showed the time at one point to be 2:00am in the morning but despite the late hour too much happened in the middle of the night to be believable. Firstly after a friend leaves Chris and Laura then make it appear as if they’re about to do something else like watch TV instead of going to bed. Then despite it being well past midnight a couple of their friends decide to call to wish them as “Happy Anniversary”. These guys are supposed to be a day or two late with the well wishes anyway so taking that into account couldn’t they be a bit later still and put the call off to a more reasonable hour? Finally a policeman then shows up to ask the couple some questions, they’re not suspects however but rather he just wants to ask them some routine questions. You mean to say that couldn’t wait until morning? It all seemed so unrealistic and it all could have been avoided by having the clock face show an earlier time such as 8:00pm for example instead of 2:00am.
*Another weird thing was that Chris and Laura didn’t have a double bed with Laura instead having a single bed and then Chris having to make do with what looked to be a mattress on the floor! The rest of their home appeared to be quite affluent so this bed situation stuck out like a sore thumb.
Verdict: Not a good film whatever way you slice it The dummy is rotten in almost every regard yet at the same time it did prove to be a bit better than I’d anticipated. The flaws are obvious with the poor bare bones script and the horrible picture quality being the chief offenders. Some creepy moments though and a likeable duo in Chris and Laura go some way to balance the scales. As bad as it is it did have a strange sort of charm.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Brian: Stabbed in the eye.
2)Rachel: Slashed on the face and then stabbed in the mouth.
3)Guy with long hair (Jeff?): Throat cut.
4)Chris’ hungry friend (Jack?): Wasn’t completely sure what happened to him but most likely bludgeoned around the head with a length of thick chain.
5)Marcy: Stabbed in the chest between the breasts.
6)Marcy’s boyfriend (Anthony?): Can’t recall exactly but I think stabbed in the chest or neck area.
7)Lt. Cropsy: Shot in the forehead with handgun.
8)Chris: Run through with fireplace poker.
9)Laura: Slashed in the leg and then hacked in the neck with large blade.
10)Fortune teller: Not actually seen to die but is about to be attacked just as the film finishes.
Note: I’m not counting Cindy and Jim as their deaths were later revealed to be someone’s dream and not actual events.