Finley (Crimson Screen Horror Film Festival): Devilish Dummy Stalks College Students in Terrific Short

When you find a ventriloquist dummy chained, gagged, and sealed in a crate in the attic of a house into which you just moved, common sense dictates that you either leave the dummy alone, get rid of it, or better yet, break the lease and get out tout de suite. Luckily for viewers of the short Finley, the film’s three protagonists do none of the above, which leads to loads of laughter and a good deal of suspense, as well.

Alexandra (Brooke Wallace), her boyfriend Chris (Keith Dowsett), and her friend Jennifer (Alexa Staudt) are three college students who move in together. After finding the titular dummy, they learn to coexist with it as it tries unsuccessfully to off them, one by one. Humiliated by his lack of prowess in the killer doll department, Finley exiles himself back into his attic crate. When violent intruders target the house, though, Finley gets a chance at redemption.

Director J. Zachary Thurman, who cowrote the screenplay with Maddison Stroud, has crafted a fun new entry in the killer dummy/doll horror subgenre. The Finley design looks super, and it’s great to see the short’s practical effects approach to bringing him to cinematic life. Another refreshing angle is that Finley is silent, rather than cracking wise at every opportunity. The director’s balance between horror and humor is highly effective, and when it is time to get serious with the horror, Thurman knows his stuff. He is aided by a game cast. The three leads feel natural in their roles when joking with each other and Finley, and their fear is believable.

Though Thurman and company tell the story of Finley marvelously in about 25 minutes, I would love to see a full-length feature version. Finley has more personality in his sideways glances at nearby potential weapons than most other recent cinematic attempts at creepy dummies and dolls have in entire movies.

Finley has been nominated for Best Short Film at the 2019 edition of the Crimson Screen Horror Film Festival, which runs at the S. of Broadway Theater in North Charleston, South Carolina from May 24–26.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.