To paraphrase the noted sociologist Jeff Foxworthy, “There are rednecks everywhere.” By this, he meant that while stereotype would tell us that rednecks usually live in the south, the phenomenon of the defiantly trashy knows no geographical bounds. Growing up in a southern small town famed for its prison, its prison riots, and its prison rodeo, Foxworthy’s observation was cold comfort to me. I simply didn’t believe him, and as I aged, found my voice--and learned to hide my accent--my glamorously redneck small town background was among my guarded secrets. Then I saw Dolly Deadly, and for the first time, I realized the universality of redneckness, and immediately fell in love with the film’s perverse aesthetic.
The mad auteur behind Dolly Deadly is Heidi Moore, a California native who’s worked in fetish photography, make up effects, script writing, and producing as well as directing. She helms Wretched Productions, helping writers, actors, and burlesque performers find an outlet for their art. Moore’s diverse talents coalesce beautifully around Dolly Deadly which boasts psychedelic lighting, surrealistic dream sequences, and a cracked sensibility that would rival John Waters. The film tells the story of a young boy named Benji who’s orphaned when his mother dies in a gruesome, freak hair-dying accident. He’s sent to live with his selfish grandmother and her abusive boyfriend. The lonely boy’s only friends are his dead mother’s dolls, and as he becomes more and more isolated, he begins to imagine they tell him to do terrible things. It’s a simple premise elevated to freak-show heights through the bizarre artistry of the crazy dialogue, mordant effects, and viciously photographed scenes of redneck squalor.
Heidi Moore took time from Dolly Deadly 2 to grant Cinedump an interview. Read about her influences and inspiration, but don’t stop there. Seek out Dolly Deadly to reward yourself with a little madness from a fresh, new voice in horror.
Pennie Sublime: There's a lot of reference to and use of "redneck" stereotypes and stereotypes of the American South. Did you draw on any real world experience, or were you just referencing ideas that exist in the popular consciousness?
Heidi Moore: People like that exist everywhere. I live in Northern California and I've been surrounded by them all my life. To be honest, at every screening we've had around the country, at least one person has approached me saying they know those characters... that they hit really close to home... etc. I wasn't necessarily focusing on any type of "redneck" stereotype, it was more of a combination of all the trashy people I have grown up around. It's interesting to hear how other people interpret them.
PF: The movie has a very striking and unique visual style, especially as regards the use of colored light. Can you tell us a bit about how you developed the look, and what your inspiration for it was?
HM: Ha. Is it acceptable to say that the look and the lighting were developed by whatever came out of my mind at the time? While setting up scenes I wouldn't fully have a plan; I would just start setting things up and come up with visuals as I went. I'm the most creative on the spot so scenes just turned out however they turned out... if that makes sense. I have always been a big tv and movie watcher so my brain is full of inspirations that I'm not sure where they came from. I always have visions of bits and pieces of old shows, commercials, life events, etc. I usually can't pinpoint where they're from, but they all inspire me.
PS: Dolly Deadly spends much of its' running time as a character study before it delves into outright horror territory. What was your thought process behind this decision when working on the script?
HM: This movie isn't meant to be any one thing. The main intention is to take a glimpse into the mind of a little boy who uses his imagination to escape his reality... living among shit bags. I've had people complain that there wasn't enough killing or that the killing didn't start soon enough, but that's not what "Dolly Deadly" is about. I think if that's what people want to see, they can pop in a slasher tape and call it a night. There are plenty of full on horror movies out there; I wasn't interested in creating another one. Plus even if I tried, it would just become an artsy and experimental mish mash.
PS: Where do you see women in horror in the next ten years?
HM: Maybe in ten years we won't have to have a "Women in Horror" month to be recognized. There are so many ladies out there doing great things that I think female directors will be the norm, and we'll be seen as just plain 'ol filmmakers.
PF: What was your favorite horror movie of 2016?
HM: To be completely honest, I live in a cave. I don't get to watch many new movies. So if anyone has movie suggestions, send them my way!!