Don't Look Away
don't look away | michael bafaro | michael mitton | kelly bastard | colm hill | mannequin | killer doll | canada | rene lai | abu dukuly | brittany pilgrim | sophie thom | jason haney | supernatural | curse | vanessa nostbakken | nathaniel vossen | clint novak
Film: Don’t Look Away
Director: Michael Bafaro
Writers: Michael Bafaro and Michael Mitton
Starring: Kelly Bastard, Michael Mitton and Colm Hill
This was a movie that I got the chance to see thanks to Kim from Level 33 Entertainment. I like to check out independent cinema, especially when it comes to horror. Part of it is to get the word out about the titles, but you also find gems. This sounded intriguing so I was curious as to what we would get. I came in mostly blind, seeing that it was a 2023 release and horror. Part of the premise did come up as I was queuing up to watch.
Synopsis: it doesn’t move, it doesn’t think, it just kills. For one young woman, a chance encounter with this supernatural entity proves devastating. Frankie (Kelly Bastard) learns that once you see the mannequin, there may be no end in sight, except for your own.
We start this off with a hijacking of a semitruck in New Jersey. The men are hoping to make a score. When they get inside, there is just a wooden box. They open it to find a mannequin. The two guys in the truck and trapped. Whatever this is, kills them. The rest of the team on the outside also meet their deaths. The final one being hit by a car, driven by Frankie.
This shakes her to her core. She goes home to her boyfriend, Steve (Colm Hill). He’s a Ph.D. candidate and a bit stiff. Frankie is studying for the LSAT and looking to go to law school. None of that matters as she breaks down, wanting Steve to console her.
She decides then to take the next day to recover. Steve gets someone to tow her car and repair the damage. That night she goes out with friends as it is Lewis’ (Jason Haney) birthday. Also, there is Jonah (Michael Mitton), Lucy (Rene Lai), Drake (Abu Dukuly), Isabelle (Brittany Pilgrim), Madison (Sophie Thom) and Molly (Vanessa Nostbakken). She tells them about what happened and what she saw. No one believes her as it is sounds crazy. She starts to see this mannequin though. Frankie knows it’s true when she sees an image of everyone still in the club dead and Molly covered in blood. She is the next victim of this entity.
Her friends all left and she finds them after. She is covered in blood. They still don’t believe her, but know she is shaken. Jonah sees the mannequin that night as well. It becomes a fight for their sanity as they come to terms with what is happening. Are they sharing a hallucination or is there really a mannequin that is following them?
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start then would be that this is an interesting premise. We have seen it before with things like Pin or The Fear. Not completely the same but dealing with a mannequin of sorts. I believe that are even episodes of The Twilight Zone or Tales from the Darkside that would fall in a similar vein. The mannequin we use here is creepy. I like it when it is kept the shadows and looks like it has sunken eyes. We see it up close in the light where it does lose a bit there. It has a creepy look on its face.
Let me then shift to this to lore behind this monster. It is limited in what we get, but I do think it has interesting aspects there. This is where the title comes in. If you are looking at the mannequin, then it can’t teleport. There is a stretch in this where our characters can hold it at bay by just staring at it. I like this as it is a variation on needing to stay awake when they’re dealing with it. Staring at something for that long would be difficult, especially for me. There is a semi-expert on this thing with Viktor Malick (Michael Bafaro). He shows up early in the movie and then later. I liked what they did with him for the most part. Bafaro is also the co-writer/director here. To end this thought, it feels like our team behind this knows everything or enough about the entity for me to accept what we’re doing here.
Now I do have an issue here. This moves so fast in the beginning that I had trouble settling in. It does once we get to know our group a bit. Seeing how many of them there are, I knew it was a body count or ‘cannon fodder’ situation. That’s fine and I appreciate it. My issue is that we don’t get a baseline for Frankie. She’s dealing with trauma from the moment we meet her. We do learn enough about each of her friends where for the most part, I could differentiate who was who. That was good. I did like their relationship with each other for the most part. This is a double edge sword though hence why I started this section off as I did. This almost comes off as a supernatural slasher now that I’m reflecting on this with the construction of the story.
Let me go to the other issue which is the acting. I’m not going to come down too hard as these are amateurs that I’ve not seen before. I do like Bastard and Mitton as our leads. They were fine there. I liked Hill as this guy that comes off as arrogant. Where his characters ends up was interesting. Lai, Pilgrim and Nostbakken are fine. We don’t get much from them. Bukuly, Thom and Haney all show a bit of personality. The latter is such a ‘frat guy’ that he annoyed me. He did get a reaction and I remember who he is so credit there. I did like Bafaro as this ‘expert’ as well. The acting is fine. It just isn’t great.
All that is left then is filmmaking. I thought the effects we got for the most part were fine. We did get a bit of CGI that I noticed. With the budget it is working with, I’ll let it slide. What I didn’t like though was the cinematography. It felt like they went with greenscreen or just had this almost fuzzy focus. It made it difficult for stretches to stay engaged. I did think that the soundtrack was fine though and fit for what was needed.
In conclusion, I do think that this is a solid indie horror effort. There were pacing issues in the beginning for me, but it did settle in. The acting is amateur, but I’m not going to harp on it. I liked the concept of this supernatural killer mannequin. There were also issues I had with CGI effects and the cinematography wasn’t great unfortunately. Still a solid effort though with the body count. I’d recommend this if you are into lower budget, horror cinema.
My Rating: 6 out of 10