Director: Zeda Müller
Cast: Hanika Nankervis, Monique Boyd, Alysha Casey
Production Company: Medallion Films Australia
Runtime: 75 minutes
There’s something magical about movies from the silent film era. The dreamy black and white images, and the lack of speech make them seem like they came from another reality. It certainly wouldn’t be easy to recapture that alchemy today, but Zeda Müller has done so with her first film.
In 13 Dolls in Darkness (2017), a young woman returns to her family’s mansion for the first time in thirteen years to visit her sick mother. The locals believe that the house is haunted, and they may be right. The house is shrouded in darkness, even before the murders begin…
The movie’s black and white images are often overexposed, which gives everything on screen a soft and beautiful glow. The atmospheric lighting is also masterfully executed. The overall effect is very eerie, and provides a perfect tribute to a bygone age.
The film is silent, but it does have music, and even sound effects that add to the creepiness. I was thrilled to hear elements of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in the soundtrack. I always associate that ballet with Todd Browning’s Dracula (1931). It was also used quite well in this modern period piece.
13 Dolls in Darkness has the pacing of a silent film as well. Everything is revealed in a consciously slow and deliberate manner. It just feels right that way. The focus is on unravelling the complex plot, and developing a sombre mood. It’s low on dialogue and high on imagery.
Modern elements creep into the film from time to time, but don’t interfere with the overall tone of the movie. It’s a silent film, but not one necessarily set in the 1920s. The film appears to be timeless, with its nightmarish events reflecting more than one age.
The movie isn’t solely a homage to silent films. It has elements that are commonly used in ghost stories, giallo thrillers, and even slasher movies. There were moments when I was reminded of Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Psycho (1960), Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972), and The Burning (1981).
There are scenes of violence, gore, and nudity that likely wouldn’t have made the cut back in the day. The movie is made for modern audiences, using a classic style. 13 Dolls in Darkness is a neo-silent film, and worthy of this new category.
– John Migliore
For more information on the film, check out the links below…