Dont look away cover

It Doesn’t Breathe…It Doesn’t Move…It Just Kills

Don’t Look Away (2023) is the story of Frankie (Kelly Bastard) and her possible descent into madness after she accidentally strikes and kills a truck driver who is fleeing a carjacking on her drive home from campus late at night. After the accident, she sees something unnatural standing by the side of the road. It is humanoid, but its fingers are too long and it exudes malevolence, lurking in the shadows of her peripheral vision. It follows her home, tormenting her without getting close enough for her to figure out exactly what it is, haunting her to the point of paranoia. When she tries to talk to her friends about it, they tell her she is just in shock. They don’t believe her until the “thing” starts picking them off, one at a time. 


Don't Look Away (2023)

After several appearances in the distance, the assailant becomes clearly visible, and it’s totally creepy. Similar to the Nutcracker Massacre (2022), the killer in this dramatic horror is an inanimate, life-sized doll.  Anyone who has worked in a retail clothing store has had nightmares about mannequins coming to life at one point or another, and director Michael Bafaro’s perverted version is sure to stir up those old dreams for many. It’s thinner than retail mannequins, with longer arms, disproportionate fingers, and an honestly scary face. If you hate clowns, don’t watch this film. 

The mannequin is originally revealed in the single cargo box sitting in the back of the truck that is being robbed in the opening sequence, and it achieves its first two kills before the three-minute mark, setting the pace for the rest of the film. Just like in the Nutcracker Massacre, no one can see the mannequin moving, and all of the kills are done off camera. Rather than bashing us in the face with jump scares and over-the-top gore, Bafaro uses minimal conversation and a powerful soundtrack to create a tense atmosphere in his film. While some of the kills come across as ludicrous or intentionally funny, the story and its characters remain serious, which can be somewhat confusing. It’s not supposed to be a comedy, but fans of old-school horror won’t be able to help themselves at several points in this film. 


Don't Look Away (2023)

Production values are high in Don’t Look Away, with a well-fit soundtrack and scoring by Matt Dauncey and Phil Western being one of the highlights. Cinematographer Athan Merrick’s scene transition and blending is cleverly done and well-timed, creating a cohesiveness that feels far superior to most indie films. Muted colours and quiet conversation throughout the film maintain its somber attitude. The writing (by Michael Bafaro and Michael Mitton) is hit and miss, though, with a few memorable lines like Victor Malick’s (Michael Bafaro) “Good coffee. I’d kill for some more.” (trust me, you’ll laugh out loud) thrown in to spice up an otherwise often unnatural, stunted dialogue. 

By the time we learn the backstory of the mannequin, it’s almost a moot point. We know that it can’t move if someone is looking at it, it must kill everyone who has ever seen it, and it needs people to see it to continue its curse. We never find out who made it, though, or why, or how it became a cursed item. There are holes in the story, but it’s still an entertaining watch. Several nods are made to Stephen King’s The Shining; the movie plays on the television at Frankie’s house, and her psychotic boyfriend Steve (Colm Hill) is found typing the word “mannequin” over and over in his thesis paper. While this may have been one of the director’s influences for the film, it is more like a Creepy Pasta or subReddit than a possession story. 


The cast is not given much of a chance to show us what they’ve got; they are all a little too mellow considering what’s going on around them. One exception here is Abu Dukuly who plays “Drake”, one of the last of the group to die and by far the most genuine character in the film. He is not credited with any other acting roles on IMDb, but we will be watching for him to appear in future films. While Don’t Look Away is meant to be eerie and dramatic, it may have packed more of a punch if the rest of the characters were allowed to emote at the same level as Dukuly. 

Don’t Look Away is an eclectic blend of folklore horror and dramatic thriller that dips its toe into arthouse scenes that help to up the creep factor. The initial reveal of the mannequin in the back of the truck is an old-fashioned scare that is genuinely eerie, as is a scene where a cyclist disappears behind a natural gas van (our personal favourite). It’s clear that the team behind Don’t Look Away are seriously skilled filmmakers, they just could have done a little bit more with the script. All in all, it’s an enjoyable watch with a few unintentional laughs, and nightmare fuel for anyone spooked by the idea of a killer doll that pops up out of nowhere, that will kill you the moment you look away. 



Don’t Look Away was released by Level 33 Entertainment. 

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