A serial killer is purposely released from an asylum for the criminally insane so that he can continue his rampage.
It can be a daunting task to watch a film when word of mouth has been less than stellar. You tend to pre-judge it even before having seen it yourself. It’s unfair to the filmmaker and possibly rob yourself from having a good time. When I sat down to watch Rene Perez’s PLAYING WITH DOLLS, I did my best to wipe out any negativity towards the project I may have had so I could give it a fair shake.
In doing so, I discovered a film many may have trouble connecting with. For me, it was an interesting take on the slasher genre, it changes things up a bit, and doesn’t try to do anything other than have a voice of its own. It’s more of a cat and mouse thriller than slasher so the body count is quite low but I found the game to be quite interesting and the unpredictable nature of the picture is refreshing.
Cindy (Natasha Blasick) has just fallen into a bad place. Her roommate abandons her, she’s wrongfully terminated from her job, and she has no money to pay for rent. It almost seems as if her world is about to cave in when she receives a phone call. The woman on the phone offers her a dream job, to housesit for a rich man who is out of the country for several months.
The pay is amazing so there’s no way she can turn it down. It all seems too good to be true but she follows all the instructions and ends up in an amazing home in the middle of the woods. There’s no neighbors, no traffic, no cell signal, just the wilderness. Everything she needs is already there and she couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity. What she doesn’t notice is the masked killer (Charlie Glackin) stalking her in and around the home, lurking in the shadows. Cindy also fails to notice she’s under surveillance 24/7 by a mysterious watcher (Richard Tyson) who seems to be enjoying the show. How long Cindy can last is anyone’s guess and her only chance of survival is Burnett (David A. Lockhart), a strong-willed cop who will stop at nothing to put an end to the horrifying scenario.
Aside from the opening and the final ten to fifteen minutes, there’s essentially no action in the film. This could have been a huge mistake, instead it’s a refreshing change-up in the genre. The focus ends up being the chase, how the killer stalks the victim. He makes his way into the house with ease, always just one step behind Cindy waiting to strike. The relationship with the killer and the watcher is a nice touch, his need to kill and the watcher’s need to watch are always in conflict. The character of Cindy isn’t fully fleshed out but her child-like innocence keeps you rooting for her. I was hoping there would be a progression to her as a person, to shed herself of the innocence and turn into a fighter. This never happens though it could since the end leaves it open for a sequel.
Rene Perez co-wrote the script with Barry Massoni and they keep it pretty loose. Once the story sends Cindy to the cabin in the woods, the second act of the film offers very little to no dialogue for long periods of time. When the story finally leads a group of characters into the woods to fall victim to our masked killer, the result is ultra-violent, bloody, and very much welcome. The finale wasn’t what I was expecting and as I mentioned before, a sequel is a possibility.
If you’re expecting a non-stop slaughter fest you will be let down. If you have the patience, you may find the cat and mouse shenanigans a frightening prospect. If a sequel does happen, Perez will need to pick up the pace, it works for this one film, next time he will have to take it to the next level. ***1/2 (out of 5)