Horror-on-Sea Preview Review Bannister Doll House

It seemed to be a Christmas like any other in the Bannister household, when an unexpected gift is found under the tree; an old porcelain doll which was address to the youngest daughter Molly. What seems like an innocent gift suddenly leads to tragedy as it sets off a chain of events which begins to tear the family apart.

Bannister Doll House is a new film from writer-director MJ Dixon which takes elements of a haunted paranormal horror and gives it a unique Mycho twist.  We further explore the story behind Molly Bannister. A character who will no doubt be familiar to fans of the Mycho universe having already made an impact with her appeared in Slasher House 2 (2016).

Molly has already shown herself to be a very different adversary compared to some of the other characters we have become accustomed to. Stripped back of the costumes, masks and larger than life personalities, Molly’s quite subdued personality left her shrouded in uncertainty. Yet armed with a unique ability she proved herself to be a force to be reckoned with. But even those who have seen Slasher House 2 will not be fully prepared for what unfolds, as you soon realise that what we have seen previously is only a glimpse of Molly’s full capabilities.

With a change of pace from what we have come to expect from a Mycho film, Bannister Doll House is an intelligent slow brooding horror, taking time to not only create a haunting atmosphere but really develop the relationship of the family who are slowly torn apart after the arrival of a seemingly innocent doll. It creates a brilliant balance between two elements to gradually accumulate the mounting tension, and thanks to the brilliant performances from the cast it keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout.

Leading the cast is young Tiana Rogers who rightfully retains the role of Molly Bannister, having portrayed the character originally in Slasher House 2. It is an imposing performance from Tiana, who switches seamlessly between a multitude of personalities and emotions throughout the film – creating unpredictably. Her ability to interchange between the quite and withdrawn daughter and a more nefarious character is impressive, if not slightly unnerving.

Susan Lee Burton delivers a brilliantly emotional performance as Mary Bannister, who remains in constant turmoil as she struggles to deal with her daughter erratic behaviour; whilst also questioning her own sanity. There is a susceptibility to Mary who is constantly divided on how best to deal with the situation. As a result of this uncertainty, Mary suffers from an array of emotions for her daughter as she remains in constant torment. Divided between a love, fear; and through frustration anger towards her daughter, which as we see has begun to take its toll.

My favourite performance, however, comes from Emmeline Kellie as Molly’s older sister Dotty, who becomes the voice of reason as she tries to hold the family together. Despite not always the main focus of the film, (which continually shifts between the characters), I thought Dotty remains a pivotal element in holding the film together. Despite the obvious dysfunctionality within the family, it is the defiance of Dolly becomes the main strength of the family, almost reversing the roles in parental responsibilities. Although there does seem to be a vulnerability to her character, but she is forced to maintain a brave facade, continuing to face her fears head-on.

If there are any weaknesses to the film it would be the abilities of the doll, which despite some clever ideas was always going to be difficult to execute fully due to budget. There are some creative moments where the creativity of the camerawork and editing work brilliantly to bring the doll to life in a more suggestive manner. However, with the restricted budget, there are a few scenes where the limitations of the doll become apparent. This was obviously been taken into consideration during the writing and production stages, as there are several surprises which have been incorporated into the story, which create an impact as they are uncovered.

Although the tension is maintained consistently throughout with the film, thanks to the haunting soundtrack and enclosed visual execution, it feels as though the film has been divided into two parts. The first half acts just as much as an emotional drama, concentrating as much on how the family are affected by the murder of their daughter Sherry (Chloe Badham) and the implications of a doll which has torn them apart. In a more indirect execution, it is often during the more mundane routines where the tension is created and, in some cases, cleverly interlinked to later scenes. One of my favourite elements is the use of the whistling kettle, which is brilliantly used on several occasions and becomes a reoccurring element in the film with a rather nervous Mary. Whether it be through the editing or an open shot where we capture a glimpse of events in the background, each time the kettle begins to boil, it seems to develop a feeling of trepidation.

The second half of the film delivers a more visual horror as the film begins to uncover a very different side to Molly and her abilities, with a series of surprise twists and revelations in events it gradually increases the ferocity to create some of the film’s most memorable moments. The change in events occurs during what I believe to be one of MJ’s best horror moments. After falling asleep on the couch, dotty wakes up and captures a glimpse of someone creeping up the stairs and decides to investigate. In a series of events where the various elements of the film seem to work together perfectly – the usual striking colour becoming more submissive to the shadows, and the score building the anticipation as she makes her way upstairs. It seems to unfold with an almost dreamlike feel, which leaves Dotty transfixed and unable to move.

MJ Continues to impress as a filmmaker and the taut intelligent supernatural horror of Bannister Doll House doesn’t disappoint; delivering something completely unexpected, as we find out more about the origins of Molly.  Taking a much darker tone than some of his previous films it incorporates an excellent mixture of drama with both paranormal and psychological horror flowing seamlessly together thought out the film. The pace of the film is slower than some fans may expect, with a lot of the usual blood and violence more retained until later, which horror fans will probably agree, works perfectly for the style of the film. Molly has always been a fascinating character in the Mycho universe and now we have discovered more about her abilities, it does leave you wanting to see it explored more. Whether Molly will be revisited remains to be seen, but when it comes to classic Mycho characters, she is someone that fans are going to remember.

Bannister Doll House will have its World Premiere at Horror-on-Sea on Sunday 20th January at 15:00

You can find out more about the feature films playing at Horror-on-Sea Film Festival and details of tickets on the website.

Horror-on-Sea preview review Bannister Doll House
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Horror-on-Sea Review Bannister Doll House

It seemed to be a Christmas like any other in the Bannister household, when an unexpected gift is found under the tree; an old porcelain doll which was address to the youngest daughter Molly. What seems like an innocent gift suddenly leads to tragedy as it sets off a chain of events which begins to tear the family apart.

Philip Rogers

Philip Rogers

Published in various websites, Philip is a reviewer who is best known for his interviews and media coverage of independent projects including; films, books, theatre and live events. Always on the lookout for something different to cover!