Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

[Automatonophobia] Short Film: The Dummy (1982)

The Dummy - 1982 Short Film
The Blood-Spattered Dummy

There's not a lot of story in this short film, and clocking in at only about 7.5 minutes, there's not much room for any, either. After arguing with her husband about an impending visit from her in-laws, a woman is left alone in the apartment with the creepy ventriloquist dummy that the man has owned since he was a kid. Upon getting out of the shower, she finds the dummy poised on the toilet, watching her. She is understandably unsettled for a moment, and then quickly laughs it off, assuming her husband is playing a practical joke on her. The laughter stops when the dummy continues to move around the apartment on its own and begins to terrorize her, going so far as to attack her with a knife.

There's not a lot of technology or inventive special effects here, as it is all done practically. The dummy is obviously manipulated by human hands just outside of view—but at least they are outside of view, which is better than can be said for some films. This is obviously the work of someone who is still learning their trade, but it is equally obvious that they know more than most. The filmmaker makes the best of what he had, and there are a number of creepy close-ups of the dummy's shadowy face. It is quite unnerving to see his mouth chattering mechanically while he is covered in human blood.

It has been said that this was the inspiration for CHILD'S PLAY (1988), but that could well be said for a number of films that came before this one. Still, it does make good use of a number of slasher film tropes that we would see in that series of movies, including an unyielding antagonist who attempts to slash their victim through the cracks of a closed door, and the fact that it isn't over...even when you're sure it should be. Here, the dummy literally loses his head in the battle, and as the woman lets loose a sigh of relief, the headless dummy sits up and we fade to black.

The musical score works suitably with the tension onscreen, but I must make mention of a single cartoonish sound effect—a zippy sort of Looney Tunes whistle when the dummy darts off camera—that seems completely out of place with the straight sense of horror that the rest of the short appears to be striving for. It was an unusual choice, to say the least.

THE DUMMY was a student film written and directed by Louis LaVolpe. During the burgeoning days of cable television, networks were hungry for content and the short was purchased to help fill out gaps in running time. It ran for nearly ten years on HBO, Showtime, The Movie Channel, and even on the USA Network in between full-length features. It has since been circulating on the Internet, and more recently has landed in rotation on FEARNET.

LaVolpe only has one other film on his resume—the 2010 short feature SARAH—but he has managed to turn a passion for movies into a living, regardless. He has been the NYU Film School's production supervisor for more than two decades, and is the founder of the online education portal

I contacted Louis LaVolpe regarding this film, and he was kind enough to answer all of my questions—the complete interview will be included in the first FREE issue of the 'Phobia zine, available to download here on the first of next month.  In the meantime, click HERE to view it yourself at the FilmSchoolOnline official Youtube channel.


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