Let me say two things up front. First horror didn’t used to be my go to favorite movie genre and secondly, my kids and I played bit parts in the original Dolly Deadly (my daughter plays the little kid bully).
And third? Director Heidi Moore is a relentless, persisting badass.
What I really loved about the original is that it took the bullying that so many of us face as children and it demonstrated what that bullying and psychological torture could do if pushed to the extreme. The horror focused on what it could truly turn you into. A young boy–Benji–has a fascination with dolls that once belonged to his dead mother–dolls that stand in as his only friends (the only things around him that don’t belittle or hurt him). He breaks with reality and exacts some sweet horrific revenge on those that made his life miserable. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I was cheering for Benji and his murderous rampage because of the horror other people made of his life. When the movie ends but you do kind of wonder how Benji gets to his adulthood and his new identity.
Heidi Moore’s Dolly Deadly 1.5 “What Ever Happened to Benji?” Answers that question in a brilliant little mini sequel that revisits the horror of loneliness and outcast nature of Benji and a new character Simon who is in dire need of friends who ‘get him’–even if he has to ‘make’ them himself. I don’t want to give anything else away here.
I’ve come to appreciate the fairytale color-filled nightmare of Moore’s mind at work. The landscapes always make me feel like I’m seeing a circus the day after the circus has left town.
Life in the Time of Corona Virus 19 means you won’t be seeing this new film at festivals this year but it’s making its world premiere on TROMA Now http://watch.troma.com/!
It also gets us ready for Kill Dolly Kill! –The much anticipated musical sequel to the first Dolly Deadly.
It’s a must see for Dolly Deadly fans and anyone who likes their horror a little more complicated, and complex than marauding zombies or random slashings. DD 1.5 delivers–also one of my personal heebeejeebee moments is watching other people eat disgusting things on film. Thanks to DD 1.5 I had a “lost my appetite” moment.
I’ve not really written about the big story that looms still
over my head. It seems almost too much of a story—so many wrong turns, so many
places that dead ended into hopelessness and incredulity. I’m not even sure if
there’s a place to start. So much is what happens when there’s a person in your
life that needs help and refuses to be helped.
My fiancé and I have bonded as two people who tried in every
way we could think to help two women and each attempt to help did not help,
exasperated the situation, or flat out didn’t work.
It seems so easy. You want to solve something that looks on
the outset like it has an easy answer. Just get them employed. Just get them
social services. A therapist. A class to take. A support group. Drug treatment.
Detox. Friends. Something that isn’t us. Something that doesn’t require it be
us. Something that makes them not our responsibility. Something that makes them
As an artist I’m often baffled at the road map that lies
before others that they refuse to take. How I long for a road map. If you do A,
then B will happen. Artists work in the hopes that there might be a pay off
somewhere but they also feel compelled to be artistic. It’s a way of life and a
lifestyle that I would not have chosen given the choice. And now I just have
learned to create regardless. Create in ashes. Sage the burned out places of
life, make them safe enough if not entirely safe and move forward.
There’s resignation and regret—you wanted one life for them, but you’re stuck with another. I guess that’s the way it has to be. But what if there could be change? We like to think people can and will get better. If only this one element were fixed things could be okay. That’s certainly the way I see my sister who suffers from mental illness (among other issues); and that’s the way my fiancé sees his ex-girlfriend—a woman whose emotional growth stunted by childhood traumas. Both have had psychotic breaks with reality. Both estranged themselves from friends and family until there were very few of us left holding on to memory and hope.
My sister is now estranged from me. Living sometimes in
another county with a man none of us know. Living sometimes in jail when things
get too much and she has an outburst of violence after a binge of drinking. My
sister spent last Christmas in jail for violating a restraining order against
someone who’d witnessed her rage. She is not the person she was 10 years ago. I
have mourned her even as she is still living. She discovered opiates nearly 10
years ago but there was always something even before that. There will be, I
know, always a hole in my heart, every birthday, every Christmas—knowing I gave
up, knowing I couldn’t save her from her. It’s my own arrogance. She didn’t
want to be saved.
Last time I saw her she called me a ‘normie’. As in ‘you
normies wouldn’t understand.’
That’s addiction talking I said to myself. But when there’s nothing left
of the old personality then what have we left?
The last time we spoke things spiraled into circles. Heavy circles.
Accusations. Memories that seemed insignificant to me that she carried with her
for decades. Places to set blame
on the shelves of her mind. I wouldn’t “be this way if it wasn’t for you sort
My fiancé had much of the same. Maybe this treatment. Maybe
this therapist. If she’d only get off all the prescription meds. If she’d only
go outside. If she’d only make friends. She finally tried to kill herself in
his bathtub. 5150’d to a mental hospital. Lied. Got out. Broke into his
house—the house of the last person on the planet who would treat her with any
kindness—and tried to burn down his house the day after Christmas last year.
She was arrested. Jailed for six months and as she’d never been in trouble with
the law and is great at playing the victim, was released into homelessness in
Santa Ana where she now lives in a converted bus terminal with a few
restraining orders over her head.
None of this had to go down this way but you can’t make
someone do what’s best for them.
I miss my sister. The way she was 10 years ago. The way I
mourn her like she’s dead but she’s living in a changeling body somewhere in
the foothills of these mountains. The arsonist was supposed to be in a half way
house that took care of mentally ill patients but refused to go. But the demands of both women were too
high for either of us to live with. If I’d been younger and childless, I’d have
made my life miserable and moved my sister in with me and watched my life burn
away like my fiancé did.
It’s an accident on the roadside that I cannot look away
from. Both of us have those solution problem solving personalities that want to
fix things but in these cases we did not know how. We have had to admit our
faults. Our powerlessness. Our stupidity at not knowing how to handle those who
inhabit many spaces in their minds. We see a glimmer of hope and negate in our
own minds the person before us who wishes to cause us harm. And so the closer
we got the more we got singed. How do you hold someone who is aflame without
going up yourself?
Last week we were in his house demolishing what’s left so it
can be rebuilt. Months ago we went through it and began dumping the burned
debris and molded items from the fire suppression waters. Hardly anything could
be saved. She went after photographs of his daughter, anything that he
cherished, and in the midst of it set her own things afire. He lost things only
of value to him: the few possession of his late father and dear family friends.
In the end there were a couple of boxes of photographs of
her own kids that she was estranged from. She never arranged pick up of them.
On social media she exclaimed to hate them. We have nowhere to send them. They
sit in a corner reminding us of what happens when someone goes a lifetime
without treatment. I want them gone. I want to move on.
I found remnants of spells cast on him. Black magic spells
attempting to bind him to her. My stomach would turn as I’d read the spell
words and feel the ash of the fire the melted candles, the mishaped
accoutrements of spell casting.
I too want to assign blame. To the mental health doctors who kicked her out of the hospital because she’d eaten through insurance. To the social worker who didn’t make sure she went to the half way house instead of squatting in his house. To the cops who let her squat because she’d once lived there and needed to be legally evicted. To the court who let her out when they had the opportunity to treat her. To every friend of hers who silently crept away rather than confront her. And for my sister I wanted to blame every man who ever took advantage of her trusting nature. Her ex-husbands who separated her from us. Friends that didn’t look after her. Myself.
Thankfully I sat down one day with a former friend of my
sister’s who said. “She was a grown ass woman capable of making her own
decisions. This is what she chose to do.” That coffee that day in San Francisco
with that friend is what saves me from despair.
I bought my man sage. We scrubbed through the debris and
broken spells with token salt water. I am probably the most understanding I
have ever been in my life now, with this man, who knew so little of that
before. I have made it my quest—to keep him safe from at least this kind of
And now the house is stripped to the posts and studs and with
any luck by next summer he’ll have a new house—a bright place where family can
thrive and friends can laugh.
May all those in need of help find the road to that help. We
are at crossroads. What will it take California, America, for all those needing
treatment to get treatment again? How many bystanders go up in flames before it
But out of these particular ashes, from this sage scrubbing,
my man and I—we will start our lives together, phoenix rising. Sisterless.
Crazy ex-girlfriend free.
Holding each other tightly—focused on our children, our families and our passions that keep us alive—no longer hoping against all odds for miracles among the embers. Creating out of ashes and sage a new beginning without them.