As a punk-infused journey of existential dread, writer-director Avan Jogia’s Door Mouse exists as a uniquely singular experience — leaning on fantastic editing and production design to tell a neo-noir story centered around murder and mayhem. Oh, and there are body-snatching secret societies, too. Because why the heck not?
We follow Mouse (Hayley Law), an angsty burlesque dancer and horror porn comic creator who perpetually wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Dancing at a bar called “Mama’s,” owned by, you guessed it, Mama (Famke Janssen), Mouse discovers that two of her coworkers, Doe-Eyes (Nhi Do) and Riz (Michela Cannon), have gone missing. She vows to find them, and on the way, Mouse fights for her friends deals with an empathetic pimp, and uncovers an elitist sex cult.
Mouse tracks Doe-Eyes back to an old drug-dealing flame of hers, Mooney (Avan Jogia), and discovers that he happened to be dealing to Doe-Eyes before she went missing. Mouse finds another potential lead, Craw Daddy (Gabriel Carter), the pimp. Look, I’ll go on record to say that I don’t condone pimpin’, but if you’re headed into that line of work, Craw Daddy is a great name for it. Full stop.
There’s a true attention to detail in Door Mouse that refuses to be ignored. And a focus on light and color that seems particularly inspired. More than that, though, the film does quite a bit to pull its audience into Mouse’s world. Jogia depicts certain scenes through 2D animated sequences, swapping between mediums and scrambling brains to match.
“…Mouse discovers that two of her coworkers…have gone missing…”
There’s a vibrant world here that never takes itself too seriously; kudos all around. The mystery-thriller does tease a pseudo romance/friendship between Mouse and her male counterpart, Ugly (Keith Powers). Yet, that relationship remains at arm’s length long enough for us to stop caring about it early on. This is a shame, as far as satisfying pay-offs go, but fine in the grand scheme of a film that doesn’t seem to really care in the first place.
Then, the names. Mouse. Doe-Eyes. Craw Daddy. Mama. Mooney. Is there anyone in this town named like, I don’t know, John or something? Eccentricity is an art form, and where Door Mouse soars, it also tends to stall. The director leans heavily into characters and dialogue that, although entertaining, can come off a bit too smug to be believable. There’s a level of monologuing and quippy-ness here that never fully works and winds up having the folks on-screen talking at each other much more often than they’re ever talking with each other. This becomes one of the film’s most significant blind spots.
Writing and illustrating her experiences through an indie comic she creates called “Mouse Trap,” Mouse is also able to chronicle her life while unknowingly giving the audience an added dimension of texture in the process. This especially comes in handy when the filmmakers need a chance scene or action sequence, saving time and money by animating it instead of blowing someone’s head off. It’s kinetic. It’s alive. It’s badass.
In the end, it’s that overall spirit of ingenuity that keeps Door Mouse so compelling. At least this is trying something different. It’s having fun, and that’s more than anyone can say for a lot of its contemporaries. Stay safe out there, friends.
"…this is trying something different."