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In Association with
Dorothy (2008)
Director: Agn�s Merlet

review by A.E. Grace

Dorothy embarrasses the horror industry. That's a harsh statement to make when I've previously been so generous towards indie films, even when, frankly, they've been rubbish. However, once I've explained myself, I'm sure you - the reader - will be depositing your baton and giving me an empathetic nod instead of whacking my overly merciful self in the head the way I deserve. I would have given this movie a rating of one or two, were it not for my fatal kindness to films I've reviewed before. Being a shamefully lenient film critic is a spit in the face of the profession, and for that, I am deeply apologetic.

Now I shall repent, by rightly justifying the low rating I've given this movie, instead of glossing over its faults with my usual 'bad-but-passable' rating. The most prominent issue I found with this film was the many fatal inconsistencies and loose ends it expected me to believe in, and after watching the bonus features - which I'll get to later - I realise that those were only the icing on the cake. This film is even worse inside its naive, high school media studies shell, and it had me feeling sorry for all involved.

Dorothy follows the suspiciously Dana Scully-esque psychologist Jane Van Dopp as she investigates a ghost-faced girl called Dorothy, who is suspected to have multiple personality disorder. Why they've decided that multi-personality disorder has an exact resemblance to possession by a demon I don't know, but apparently that's the only conclusion the medical team in Northern Ireland could come to; which fits perfectly, of course, given that she is being possessed. Thank goodness the illness and the paranormal occurrences were so similar, because otherwise I wouldn't have been convinced. Not even remotely.

The teenagers Dorothy has been possessed by apparently come equipped with clothes and a wig for our first-film actress, who dutifully donned the appropriate costumes despite the fact that it was a completely unrealistic and lazy way of getting the switch in personalities across. Jenn Murrary's acting was competent, but I felt the terrible script, dialogue - hell - especially the story let her down entirely, forcing her to portray a puddle-deep character in her important movie debut.

There was a constant inconclusiveness throughout. There seems to be a theme of white going on - white food, Dorothy's white skin and hair, etc - which comes to absolutely nothing. Then there's the random scary blind woman, who is apparently completely self-serving. She appears for the sake of a jump effect, and somehow manages to trick the landlady into thinking she's non-existent, because when Jane enquires about the electric guitar being played at all hours, she insists there is nobody up there.

Lo and behold, later on, there's a mourning grandmother rocking out on her dead grandson's guitar. If this wasn't just a terribly fruitless and poorly developed idea, you might think this was a scene from Sandler's Little Nicky for all the laughs it gave me. Sadly, the director was deadly serious, and that's the issue here; the people responsible are hopelessly oblivious. How do I know that? Ah, the bonus features, of course. The budget of 500,000 was spent, I believe, on their DVD cover - which is misleadingly cool - a couple of widely known actors, and a wasted stunt seen. The rest of it was probably spent on creating the creepy small-town atmosphere, which admittedly, was done very well indeed. The problem is that this story had potential, but fell at every single hurdle; this was revealed in the commentary.

Agn�s Merlet takes the viewer through the films many - absent - psychological layers, leaving me in an uncomfortable limbo between sympathy, disbelief and amusement. We hear from Jenn Murray, who gives some good insight into her first experiences in the movie industry. We hear from Carice van Houten, and Gary ("Friggin' ballet, Billeh?!") Lewis, who both knew absolutely nothing about horror, and were wistfully fascinated by a movie which failed to deliver on all counts. Watching their captivated faces was reminiscent of the first time my grandmother encountered the Internet.

Dorothy is a film which contains ingredients from many different horror subgenres, but doesn't follow through on any of them. What you get in the end is an uneven concoction of pointless horror conventions. Metaphorically speaking, this film got dressed in the dark.


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