Friday, June 1, 2007

Mr. Buttons (2007)

I’ve always been wary of dolls. Dolls have shiny, empty eyes that seem to follow you, whose positions seem to slightly shift if you leave a room and whose sharp plastic hands like to snatch at your clothes. Dolls seem to lie in wait, waiting for all the lights to go out at night so they can pitter-patter over to your bedside and sink a butcher knife in your back.

You can probably tell that as a child, I wasn’t a big fan of dolls.

Clowns are an even worse phobia of mine…

With this out of the way, you can understand the nervous excitement I felt when I received Steel Web Studios’ newest venture, the short film Mr. Buttons, about a killer clown doll!

The film opens with a black robed Goth girl (C.J. Lassiter) performing a revenge spell against a man (Criston Mitchel) who has spurned her. She cuts off her own finger and wishes nothing but woe against this man, who apparently didn’t tell her that he was married with two young kids before starting their affair. The curse manifests itself in Mr. Buttons, a clown doll, whom she sends to the man’s 6-year-old daughter, Kelly (Alicia Randolph). Mr. Buttons arrives just in time for Kelly’s birthday party, and it isn’t long before the curse takes effect. Every time Kelly wishes for something, Mr. Buttons grants her wish, but always in a twisted and perverse way. When she wishes her parents would stop fighting, Mr. Buttons acquiesces and kills them both. After their violent deaths, Kelly is locked away in a mental institution for 30 years with Mr. Buttons always by her side. When the hospital can’t rationalize all the strange deaths in the place, they release the now grown-up Kelly (Vanessa Mitchell), who returns to her long-estranged brother (Grant Price) to see one of her childhood wishes finally fulfilled.

This low-budget short film surprised me with its above-average quality, creepy story and solid performances. The Mr. Buttons doll alone was enough to give me the heebie jeebies, but the story was there to back it up as well.

Writer and director David Quitmeyer fashions a fast-paced, unsettling film. He wisely avoids showing Mr. Buttons in action (which probably would have looked super cheesy), but instead hints at the unseen doll that wreaks doom. The ending was written extremely well, and certainly made me gasp!

Another thing worth mentioning was the terrifically eerie score by composer Peter J. Gorritz, which sounds like carnival music on a really bad acid trip. The playfully ominous score heightens the atmosphere in creating a tense mood.

The special FX are handled quite well, and while there aren’t that many of them, those that are featured do look realistic. For example, the Goth girl cutting her finger off is cringe-worthy and satisfyingly bloody. The after-effects of Mr. Buttons’ attacks are also shown – Kelly’s parents get sliced and diced with plenty of blood and we get to see a hospital orderly OD on a drug cocktail prepared the extra-special Mr. Buttons way.

Fans of Steel Web Studios beware, though. Mr. Buttons is not the splatterpunk effort that Slaughter Disc was and it doesn’t feature excessive bloodletting or nudity.

All in all, Mr. Buttons is a fun way to spend 20 minutes, especially if you’ve already got clown doll phobias working for you (or against you).

Mr. Buttons will be available on Steel Web Studios' Tales from the Carnal Morgue: Vol. 1 DVD.

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