“Beware the stare of Mary Shaw
She had no children, only dolls
And if you see her in your dreams
Be sure to never ever scream.” - Traditional rhyme from Raven's Fair
There’s nothing much that really unnerves me to my core, but I freely admit to an aversion to clowns and midgets. I don’t know what it is about them, but there you go. Fear is unreasoning – that’s why it’s called fear, I guess.
Now, having said that – there’s one other thing that I prefer to avoid because basically, they’re just creepy. Ventriloquist dummies. Maybe it’s because they’re an amalgamation of clowns with their unnatural painted faces and their unnatural lack of height. It’s like if a clown and a midget had a baby (shudder).
Ventriloquism, to me has always seemed to be a completely useless talent (and I use the word talent very loosely). I remember as a child, there would be ventriloquist acts on TV variety shows, and I remember they’d even be on the radio – which makes the whole thing even more pointless. But those eerie little dummies with their painter smiles, dead eyes and someone’s hand up their ass, tugging at their insides, making them talk – were perfect horror movie fodder. But in reality, I can think of only a couple of films where they appeared. There’s Magic with Anthony Hopkins, which I’ve never seen and Dead of Night, the Ealing Studios anthology movie. (Actually, here’s a confession – I was going to include Dead of Night in this year’s Shocktober, but ultimately I thought it was too mild and slow to be make the list when I rewatched it.)
To be honest, I bought this film purely on impulse in a supermarket a few years ago, not really knowing anything much about it and to be fair, it made for an uneasy viewing on its first time. This is surprising, seeing that it was directed by James Wan, who although great at action movies, really, REALLY sucks at horror. I offer Insidious 1&2 and The Conjuring 1&2 in evidence. No more need be said.
The film grabs you with a cold hand on the spine from its opening sequence, which sees a young couple about to enjoy an evening in when a mysterious parcel arrives. It’s a ventriloquist dummy (ugh) named Billy. As the husband goes to pick up some takeout food, his wife stays at the apartment and plays with the doll, but is approached by an unseen figure. By the time husband Jamie comes home with their Chinese food, he’s a widower. His wife is on the bed, with her mouth stretched open and he tongue cut out. He’s also the chief suspect in the eyes of the police – as the only witness to the crime was Billy, but is released due to lack of evidence. He decides to visit his home town of Raven’s Fair where, coincidentally, the dummy originated.
And here’s where the plot really kicks in. The small town has a deep, dark, disturbing and nasty secret. Mary Shaw was a local celebrity. She was an expert ventriloquist who collected and made her own dolls, including Billy. One night, at a show, she was heckled by one of the town kids, who claimed he could see her lips move. She was humiliated by the audience.
The following day, the kid went missing and Mary was blamed and executed by a local mob. Her last wish was to be turned into a doll herself and buried with all her collection – some 100 of them. The local mortician’s son (how himself the town mortician) actually saw Mary Shaw rise up. But he was too terrified to even scream, and this is what saved his life. Mary’s vengeful spirit will only kill you if you scream.
As the story unfolds, Jamie discovers that the town kid who heckled WAS actually his great uncle. And further, Mary turned the kid’s body into a hideous doll. Through another doll, Mary tells Jamie that she killed his wife because she was pregnant and basically she’s out to wipe out his entire family’s bloodline for what they did to her.
Mary has already transformed Jamie’s estranged old father in to a ventriloquist’s dummy by hollowing out his body and inserting the rods and mechanisms needed to move his head, eyes and mouth. She has also possessed Jamie’s much younger stepmother and is channelling her skills as a ventriloquist through her victim – and now she’s after Jamie himself, the last of the line.
I’ve seen plenty of horror films with, but trust me – a vengeful old lady in this instance is one of the most unnerving things I’ve seen. Her demented face and the sheer evil insanity in her eyes remains with you long after the film has run its course.
Buy a copy here - if you dare.
Copyright © 2010 - 2016 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.