Dolls are creepy. Ventriloquist dummies add on the extra creep factor. Finley takes advantage of all the established history of the evil dummy tropes that came before it and flips all expectations in the most amusing and satisfying way.
Directed by J. Zachary Thurman
Three college kids, Jenna (Alexa Leigh Fletcher), Alex (Brooke Wallace), and Chris (Keith Dowsett) discover a nailed-shut musty wooden crate in the attic amongst a bunch of left-behind relics in the house they just moved into. Inside the old box is a ventriloquist dummy, which creeps out Alex, but amuses Chris. After a bit of horsing around with the dummy, who is found gagged and chained, with the name tag Finley, they leave Finley in his box.
All horror fans know what this mean. This dummy is going to be trouble. And indeed, Finley manages to work his way down from the attic and mysteriously pop-up into the rooms below. Finley has murder on his mind, and he tries all sorts of shenanigans to try and off the roommates. But he is awful at this, and despite his repeated half-baked attempts to kill off the students, they put up with him like a naughty pet.
Finley begins to get frustrated down on himself for failing to pull off his exploits, and you empathize with the little fella but revel in his pratfalls. Awwww, Finley! But fear not (or fear more) because after so many botched attempts, the dummy finds some sweet violent redemption.
This horror-comedy short was a crowd favorite at the Portland Horror Film Festival, as it plays on the echoes of Magic, The Boy, Poltergeist, Dolls, and particularly Child’s Play, In order to fully appreciate this film, you have to know your evil toy tropes. The fact that the trio put up with an animated puppet with a kitchen cleaver with the roll-their-eyes frustration is part of the brilliance of this satire.
Fantastic editing and a snappy script by Thurman suggest a promising future for him. Finley picked up five best short awards (including Portland Horror Film Festival) in its run, and now you can check it out below, courtesy of Alter, which has quickly become the best source for horror shorts on YouTube.