Horror Short ‘Mannequin’ Review: Vanity Horror

Cursed objects have haunted the horror community for years, unleashing terrifying spirits, opening nightmarish doors to Hell, and summoning the dead. With stories of such objects rumored to be inspired by actual events, such as The Conjuring films and practically anything featuring a Ouija board, this genre angle has a strange appeal, combining mysterious backstories with deadly consequences. French filmmaker David Teixeira (Girls’ Night – Anthology 2018) explores this niche in his latest short horror film, Mannequin, once again starring Lea N’Kaoua (Ouroboros 2018 – read our review here).

Mannequin poster artwork

After a long day, Barbara (Lea N’Kaoua: Ouroboros 2018 – read our review here) stays the night in a hotel before travelling to visit family for her niece’s birthday. Short on time, Barbara’s sister has sent her a doll to serve as a birthday gift. However, something about the object gives Barbara the creeps. Shrugging off the feeling of uneasiness, Barbara prepares for bed, going through a lengthy process of removing her glamorous appearance. Waking in the night, terror and panic strike as she realizes that her vanity obsession is becoming a permanent part of her as she undergoes a painful transformation.

Lea N’Kaoua as Barbara in Mannequin

Despite a micro-budget, Teixeira keeps you engaged while displaying an eye for visual detail within carefully framed, vibrant shots utilizing every second of the short’s 9 minute run time. As Barbara removes her wig, eyelash extensions and makeup, it is clear that this is a women who goes to great lengths to look a certain way. After this is established and she begins undergoing a horrifying transformation, the film cuts back and forth between Barbara and the doll clearly communicating a connection between the two.

While Teixeira’s attention to detail carried a large portion of this short film, it would not have gone far without N’Kaoua’s portrayal of Barbara. A film with one character and little dialogue is a hard sell for any accomplished actor. However, N’Kaoua proves that it can be done. From her materialistic demeanor to her panic stricken struggle, she gives a fearless, captivating performance that screams of a future in film.

The cursed doll in Mannequin

Though Mannequin is a great, visionary horror story that has something to say about vanity and materialism, it falls short with one small detail. As with most stories of cursed objects, I found myself wondering about the backstory of this seemingly normal vintage doll. Utilizing some of the dialogue in the phone conversation between Barbara and her sister, an explanation of where the doll was purchased could have helped illuminate this mystery begging to be revealed.

Regardless of a desire for more from the story, Mannequin plays to its strengths, offering an unexpected level of depth within its message. Teixeira and N’Kaoua make a wonderful team, and I’m excited to see more from this duo of horror! Mannequin will be released on VOD on June 22nd.

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