Review: Mannequins (2020)

Screenshot from “Mannequins” by the Russian director Maksim Noginov

There is something that feels quite stock and ordinary about Mannequins, a short horror film by Maksim Noginov shown at Little Nightmares sidebar of HÖFF. As the title suggests, it takes place in a boutique, but the viewer should not expect some “haute couture”. At best, it leaves the impression of a visit to a hipster emporium. At worst, it is an example of a genre movie confection.

The employee of the boutique just finishes her late shift and, while waiting for her boyfriend to arrive for a romantic date with candle light and wine, she unpacks the new batch of mannequins. Those are not the ordinary dummies, but those of the kind that wake up at night and start moving around in a slightly more dexterous zombie fashion, looking for a human presence to hurt it. The trick is that they are able to do so only when the lights are off, and, since the electrical installations are far from perfect in the shop, our shopkeeper gets in trouble.

No matter how stock the premise is, the script written by Maksim Mushenko is detailed enough for it to breathe and come to life. Some of the details are placed perfectly, like the textual card stating the time and the physical card that ended up in trash announcing the time the dummy show is about to begin. Others are here just for kicks, like the shopkeeper’s decision to dress them up an apply make-up in somewhat horror fashion, but it adds a bit to the stylistic appeal of the film. It is worth noting that Mannequins is largely a dialogue-free movie, so it quite depends on those subtle hints.

On his part as the director, the editor and the producer, Noginov does a decent job and shows significant capability when it comes to the sense of topography, the idea how to build tension and at least try to plant several jump-scare moments (it is hard when the premise is ridiculous and the financial means are too modest to involve some effect-heavy magic). At least the shots feel more controlled than in a standard no-budget short, thanks to Yuriy Bekhterev’s camerawork, while the editing is sure-handed.

In the end, it is closer to an emporium than to bog standard confection. But it is a new emporium on the market, opened by a newbie who still has la ot to learn about the clothes and how the business works.

Original title: Mанекены
Year: 2020
Runtime: 7′ 35”
Country: Russia
Language: Russian
Directed by: Maksim Noginov
Written by: Maksim Mushenko
Cast: Evgeniya Kozyreva, Prochor Chekhovskoy, Nataliya Efremova, Pavel Garbuzov
Cinematography by: Yuriy Bekhterev
Editing by: Maksim Noginov
Music by: Alena Eremicheva
Sound by: Andrey Tomashevsky
Costumes by: Evangelina Leon-Reyes
Visual effects by: Tim Sial
Colourist: Yuriy Vorokhin
Produced by: Maksim Noginov