To be perfectly honest, when Paper Dolls started rolling, I was already misjudging the film. Because the opening sequence is of the “police evidence video / found footage” variety, my mind was already going, “not another one.” To be fair, I’ve seen some great “found footage” flicks and some not-so-great ones, so I wasn’t prejudging based on what I thought of the quality to come, but just on the fact that I’ve seen many “found footage” flicks period. It’s like when you’re watching a slow-burning indie drama, and the first twang from an all-acoustic guitar music score happens. The film might be great but, really, all-acoustic guitar score again!?! I’m hitting my saturation point.
That said, co-directors David Blair and Adam Pitman’s film is not just another “found footage” horror flick. The initial sequence is just there for a bit of background, before the film plunges into its true tale of two high school graduates taking a trip together to Canada. As best friends Travis (Adam Pitman) and Nate (Nathaniel Peterson) head for the border, an attempted shortcut late at night down an old logging road turns deadly when the duo come across some Bigfoot-looking creatures holding hands, blocking the road. Had they just stayed there, maybe things would be okay, but the creatures attack the car and Nate is ripped from the vehicle.
The next morning, Travis attempts to make sense of the entire affair and, with the “help” of the same creepy gas station attendant (Kent Harper) who told the two guys about the shortcut in the first place, realizes that Nate has fallen victim to a clan of sasquatch in the neighboring woods. So what’s a man to do when he loses his best friend but head out into the wilderness to get his buddy back.
Paper Dolls is full of familiar horror clichés (the aforementioned gas station attendant that not only needs to know where the guys are going, but also has a shortcut to help them get there, for example), and it uses a number of different, though common, horror styles (flashbacks, found footage, etc), while still staking its claim to originality. For one, it takes the sasquatch mythos and flips it into something vaguely possible and altogether new; we’re talking about more a case of wilderness inbreeding over generations than, you know, ape-like creatures that somehow managed to survive and hide out. In some ways, this could’ve been a spectacular X-Files episode.
And the film does court the gore-friendly with certain sequences, and the initial encounter with the sasquatch clan, while not gorey, is intense and unnerving. I don’t know about you, but being stuck in a car in the middle of nowhere late at night while some humanoid-looking monsters beat the hell out of it, in an attempt to get in, scares the s**t out of me. Then again, I was convinced as a young boy that my Dad was going to be abducted by the Jersey Devil because he pulled over to take a leak one night while we were driving through the Pine Barrens; I’ve still got my own deep-seeded fears to contend with.
While I understand the usage of the police footage at the top of the film, and the way the film tries to connect additional story threads for some added depth, I don’t think the second storyline is needed. Had things stuck strictly to “two guys head to Canada, get attacked by a clan of sasquatch (Sasquatches? Sasquatchum? Sasquatchi?)” and focused on Travis doing his best to rescue Nate, it would’ve worked fine. In my mind, I was even hoping for something along the lines of a First Blood, but with Travis as Rambo and the sasquatch family as everyone Rambo fights. Once the sasquatch element is involved, everything else becomes less interesting than more adventures and scares with sasquatch.
In the end, this is the best horror film about sasquatch that I’ve ever seen. Granted, I can’t remember seeing another film about killer sasquatch, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Paper Dolls is some great, creepy and horrific fun. Worth a look for something that brings a unique spin to the comfortably familiar.
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