The Dummy (Short Film)

The Dummy” is a 1982 student film picked up by HBO, TMC, and Showtime in the early days of cable TV. It received extensive play for almost ten years, more than any other short film. It was often used as a bumper for horror movies and suspense anthologies like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and inspired the “Child’s Play” (Chucky) films. It can viewed here on youtube.com (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-8ocnmE0Ts).

I can say the film was very good at building tension and here is why, the film had dark lighting with ugly colours on the wall, which gives gothic look but in a modern setting (modern for 1982). It took place in an apartment complex, which could give the audience the perception that it could happen in everyday environment and therefore relatable, which would add to the horror element. It was a slow paced film, which builds up tension. It uses what sounds like synthesizer to create foreboding music for suspense and straight jump scares Its like the music is telling you what mood you should be in, This is another common convention of the horror genre like the Thing and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The film uses fast paced editing and POV (Point of view) shots to heighten the mood of scenes, such as when the woman is in the shower we see a POV shot moving down the hall to the shower room which adds suspense because the audience doesn’t know what’s coming. There are many jump scares that rely on the fast editing, such as when the dummy appears all over the house and scares the women. It’s kind of ironic that I believe this short film did a better job at building a sense of suspense and tension than the film inspired, at least in my opinion.

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