I’ve been keeping an eye on director/writer MJ Dixon’s films for a while and have already covered a bunch of them:
So I was thrilled to find two new ones on Prime, as well as one of his short films! So let’s get right into them.
ROUGH PATCH (2017)
I’m always happy to start a marathon off with a short film as a warmup, especially a Halloween story, and Dixon delivers with this 9-minute film drenched in his trademark orange and green light palette.
A guy brings two girls to steal pumpkins, where he tells a story of the scarecrow in the field once being alive.
Guess who comes to life? This one gets right to the point with some quick kills and eerie atmosphere.
THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY BANNISTER (2019)
The original title of this film was Bannister DollHouse. Yes, it’s a killer doll movie! The title change doesn’t signal that there’s a doll…and it’s also a rip-off of the movie title The Haunting of Molly Hartley. This is the kind of thing distribution companies make indie director’s go through with their titles for cheap marketability, so I imagine that might be what happened here.
Molly gets a doll for Christmas even though neither of her parents bought it. She says Santa got it for her. Molly seems a little old for dolls and Santa, but you just have to go with it.
One sister is convinced the doll is watching her and following her around the house. And when someone is murdered in the house, a second sister and the father believe so, too. But the mom loses her shit, separates from the father, and won’t let him see his daughters.
Then Molly really starts acting weird, bonding with the doll and talking to it like it’s human.
This is familiar doll horror territory. There’s movement in shadows and under doorways, and plenty of effective jump scares and creepy lighting and camera angles. If you’re looking for cheap scares, that’s exactly what this film is going for, and if you like scary doll movies, that’s also what this film is going for.
If that all seems too cliché for you, I can attest that there are some surprises at the end that make this one a little different. Not to mention, there are some harsh death scenes.
This is a perfect example of why I keep up on the works of directors that show potential from the start—as in this case, where the films I’ve seen by MJ Dixon make it clear he studied the best of bunch from my favorite eras of horror.
Pandamonium is my favorite MJ Dixon flick yet. Not only did it fill the void I’ve been feeling during this drought of fun, simple slashers lately, he has also created a film that I knew I needed in my DVD collection before I was finished streaming it.
The film wastes no time in getting to the point. Douche bag guys hire strippers to party at their office…and everyone starts getting slashed.
This is not your ordinary masked killer. This prim and proper looking dude wears a business suite and panda mask (Pandamonium—get it?), and casually speaks one-liners in a British accent as he kills his victims in a variety of ways.
A camera angle like this never works out for a dude…
There are plenty of funny parts, one of the douche bags is adorable and goofy, the camera angles, setup shots, and lighting are classic horror perfect, the meta moments are fresh and smart instead of cliché, and when our final girl at last accepts her fate as the final girl…she steals the show.
If I remember correctly, this is MJ Dixon’s first attempt at horror comedy, and I think he found his niche, because it’s a blast.