Heidi
R0 - America - Wild Eye Releasing
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (9th May 2017).
The Film

Ryan Davis (Samuel Brian) and Jack Jenkins (Betrothed's Joey Bell) are the two wolf-crying suburban youths who make their family and friends the butt of their pranks for their Jackass-ish web series "Boo Ya". With his divorced mother Lorraine (Diem Bell) out of work and looking for a new husband, and his older sister Rachael (Eva Falana) moving into her own apartment for college, Ryan decides that he should get a job for the summer. Rachael helps him out with an introduction to "crazy bird lady" neighbor Dottie Porter (Marilyn Weinmann) who is going on vacation and need someone to feed and water her bird. What Ryan does not know until he agrees to take the job is that he must also keep the house and long-unused swimming pool clean. When Jack accompanies him on one of his trips to Dottie's house, he decides to take a peak into the attic and they discover a treasure trove of sealed vintage comics, artwork, and jewelry as well as eBay receipts from a former tenant. Reasoning that Dottie too old and weak to climb into the attic herself obviously does not know of the attics contents, Jack suggests that they could make money selling the items themselves. Among the inventory, they discover a creepy, eyeless antique doll with a 24-carat gold locket that designates her name as Heidi. Jack carelessly tosses the doll aside only for Ryan to notice it sitting up against the wall moments later. Jack thinks nothing of it, but Ryan looks at Jack's video footage later but it is too unclear. When Heidi turns up in Ryan's house, however, he believes Jack is pranking him and pranks him right back. Upon learning that Dottie has been gruesomely murdered (along with her bird), Jack and Ryan believe that their pranks make them likely suspects and start to get paranoid. The subsequent surprise appearances of Heidi in their homes leads to a fight between the two who stop hanging around with one another just as Detective Harris (Michael Monteiro) starts coming around asking questions. Ryan confides in cute new neighbor girl Amanda (Joei Fulco) who is just as intrigued as Ryan is frightened, helping him set up video surveillance to see if the doll indeed has a life of its own. When Ryan actually captures the doll's movement on video, his mother believes it is a clever special effect, and even Amanda is hard-pressed to acknowledge the supernatural. When his dog (like all horror movie animals, fearful of a haunted object long before anyone else) disappears and a horrible tragedy befalls Jack's family, Ryan believes that the doll is responsible and that he and his family will be next. Coming up short on research about Heidi which Amanda notes appears to be handmade rather than mass-produced Ryan and Amanda consult a theatrical gypsy psychic (Nicoleta Radu) who reveals that ghosts are unable to possess inanimate objects but they can be inhabited by demons before suddenly demanding that they remove the doll from her premises. When attempts to contain and dispose of the doll fail, Ryan and Amanda must find a way to definitively destroy Heidi before they are its next victims.

Creepy dolls are nothing new in the horror genre, but the "found footage" pic Heidi eschews the likes of Child's Play, Dolly Dearest, or even Dead Silence or the execrable Annabelle (who does get namechecked along with fellow "real" haunted doll Robert) in favor of knowing nods to The Twilight Zone's The Living Doll episode with Talky Tina including Ryan's unsuccessful attempts to burn the doll or crush it with a vice grip minus its psychological ambiguity, along with possible references to either The Changeling with a bouncing ball that announces Heidi's presence. A few of the jumps scares work, but what is much more effective all around is the sense of dread the film builds after we have seen the doll move as we anticipate its appearance its inevitable appearance (within the finite space of a suburban house) in subsequent scenes in which we wait for the mundane to tip over into the creepy, most notably in a sequence in which Ryan's young cousin is dragging the nannycam around the house while her disengaged babysitter is glued to his phone). The film also builds a more convincing portrait of modern teenage suburban malaise in the age of social media and reality TV with its camera-ready teenagers tossing out such original ideas for moviemaking as "a zombie apocalypse" as well as meeting the cinematic challenges of working with both animals and children. Performances by the young leads are engaging and show promise while the largely non-professional adults give non-distracting naturalistic performances. Although the film is more successful at suggestive horrors (especially for "found footage" in which nothing happening onscreen can either chill or bore the viewer), Heidi does feature some quick glimpses of graphic violence from which the POV camera turns away in revulsion and fear. The film's ambition stretches to staging a drunken teenage party sequence as the setting for one of the more horrific reveals, as well as a bravura sequence intercutting a character's videotaped ballet performance with the reveals of two more deaths. The finale is a bit of a letdown as usual for "found footage" but Heidi does a better job than most with the journey (and I'm very interested to see what happens when writer/director/editor Daniel Ray tackles the bogeyman in his upcoming Bogyphobia).
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Video

In keeping with the found footage aesthetic, the quality of Wild Eye Releasing's anamorphic, progressive encode is variable with generally clean video, some noise in underexposed sequences (some scenes possibly darkened in post), and some added video defects.
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Audio

The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio's primary emphasis is dialogue, live effects, and a couple foley scares, with the only deployments of scoring music mixed effectively low to enhance tension without calling attention to itself. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided.
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Extras

Extras are sparse, including deleted scenes (9:06) - including a couple pranks from the "Boo Ya" show, a scene in which Ryan and Jack first notice Amanda, as well as some additional attempts by Ryan to destroy the doll - a behind-the-scenes photo gallery (3:26) and the film's trailer (1:19) as well as additional trailers for Wild Eye releases.
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Overall

The finale is a bit of a letdown as usual for "found footage" but Heidi does a better job than most with the journey (and I'm very interested to see what happens when writer/director/editor Daniel Ray tackles the bogeyman in his upcoming Bogyphobia).

 


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