A painting I did on commission for a friend…Who’s Laughing Now? Acrylics.
…and a couple of Karloffs. One in watercolour (no, really) and one in pencils.
Psst: fancy a look at the first trailer for Panic Button?
A low budget horror featuring romance, mental disintegration, a dash of putrefaction…and Eartha Kitt? That is indeed what you get from weird gem Living Doll (1990), a film which somehow conflates black comedy elements with some decidedly unsavoury themes and scenes.
Howard Adams – a hospital morgue attendant – really likes Christine, who works in the hospital’s flower stall. Thing is, lovely Christine doesn’t even know Howard exists. Such is life…that is, until Christine is involved in a fatal ‘accident’ and arrives on Howard’s slab.
Howard, already a very unstable man, finds that he just can’t say goodbye to his dream girl – and being asked to witness her autopsy seems to send him spiralling over the edge (although, frankly, this ghoulish turn of events isn’t much weirder for Howard than hanging out with his wise-cracking colleague Jess, or enduring the awkward double-dates he sets up. Plus, his apartment is already decaying around his ears, so falling in love with – and quickly, ahem, moving in with – a dead body is almost the next logical step.)
Christine and Howard set up home, and they both start to go to pieces, in their own ways. Howard, still blissfully infatuated with Christine, can only ever see her as she was; we, on the other hand, get to see the unpalatable truth. However, the truth will eventually out when a man’s career, home and friendships go to the wall – and doubly so when Christine starts making some pretty serious requests…
What starts out as a black comedy with an irreverent script and an almost ‘made for TV’ feel becomes gradually more and more gruesome, and more about mental disintegration than anything else. In fact, this is a film quite unlike any other in tone: there’s a grisly overarching theme, sure, but lots of odd touches of pathos throughout. This is all brought together with some decent performances by Mark Jax as Howard – who can be simultaneously sympathetic and creepy – Eartha Kitt as the prying landlady – and let’s not forget Katie Orgill as Christine, who really earns her stripes in a fairly horizontal but no doubt challenging role in terms of SFX (brought about by the hugely-talented Paul Catling, who does some absolutely sterling work here).
Living Doll is strangely watchable for a film which is such uncomfortable viewing at times, with a sadly-blinkered man going to any lengths to preserve the illusion of a love affair – albeit with plenty of blood-curdling effects along the way. It’s not a pacy film (indeed, when one of the central characters has shuffled off the mortal coil it would be rather difficult to deliver pace) and so may not be for viewers who seek high action – but this is a lesser-known film which deserves to be watched. As an aside, I couldn’t help but be struck on this particular viewing by the similarities between this film and the equally good, equally discomforting Cold Storage (2009) – it seems Howard isn’t on his own in his delusions…
Look out for Living Doll – new release coming soon to DVD and Blu-ray from AP Films…