[contains (a few) spoilers]
As a child, my biggest fear was killer dolls. Kind of stupid, given I was a Barbie fanatic; and one Xmas I began the very grown-up hobby of porcelain doll collecting. I loved naming the dolls, admiring their frilly outfits and making up stories about them. I don’t know exactly how my fascination became marred by abject horror, but I’m pretty certain that R.L. Stine’s Night of the Living Dummy was partially to blame – that, and my friends gleefully recounting the plot of Child’s Play. (Also, a movie called Dolly Dearest. Has anyone seen it? I think you can only get it on VHS). I’d turn away from the glassy gaze of my dolls every night in bed and pray I had respected them enough to avoid a gruesome fate.
Now in my thirties (and still a doll collector, against the odds), I retain a healthy apprehension about potential cursed toys, but I’ll devour every cinema cliche that I see. Recently, I enjoyed ‘Annabelle’ well enough, even if rewatches get a little samey. When I read the synopsis of Heidi, I assumed it would be a cheap copycat: the fact that it’s found footage didn’t help.
I WAS SO WRONG.
For such a predictable genre, Heidi is something special. Though it begins with the story of two apparently douchey pranksters being stupid (hence the abundance of filming equipment), it quickly proves it can be more than your average. Ryan and Jack are relatively Youtube famous for playing tricks on people and uploading the results for all to see, but then they accidentally discover a strange old doll in a neighbour’s attic. Everything goes downhill from there (well, I mean, their first mistake was probably laughing at the doll and kicking it across the room. She ain’t gonna like that).
For a found footage horror, Heidi is incredibly well shot, owing to the plot point of Ryan’s semi-professionalism. Each angle seems carefully considered and there’s very little shakycam – you can truly SEE what’s going on in front of each camera. Jumpscares are smartly placed and subtle; the nature of Heidi’s movement is agonizingly slow-burn, allowing each escalation of creepiness to feel realistic. A quiet musical score is utilized to good effect. The switch from cameras to phone cameras to webcams to the occasional real-world media (news reports) doesn’t feel jarring.
The cast are likeable and comfortable in their roles; you actually give a damn about their situation, rather than admonishing them for continually dumb decisions. Heidi’s seeming immortality in her plastic form is endlessly frustrating, but permits an empathy with the characters. It’s a heart-sinking moment to watch the doll spasm on a barbecue and emerge untouched; a vice can’t crack her open like a cold one (with the boys); they can’t tear her apart. Her consistent painted smile is deeply unsettling.
Those are all the spoilers I’m prepared to give on this occasion – you’re better off watching the events unfold on your own time. Have fun!
Network Zero Score: 5/5