12 Oct
"Of Dolls and Murder" documentary narrated by John Waters

At first I was really confused about this documentary, because I couldn’t figure out if the death scenes depicted in these dollhouses were recreations of real murders, or simply the manifestations of someone’s really fucked up imagination. Turns out, it’s both:

“The new documentary film, Of Dolls and Murder, explores our collective fascination with forensics while unearthing the criminal element that lurks in one particularly gruesome collection of dollhouses. Rather than reflecting an idealized version of reality, these surreal dollhouses reveal the darker, disturbing side of domestic life.

Created strictly for adults, these dollhouse dioramas are home to violent murder, prostitution, mental illness, adultery and alcohol abuse. Each dollhouse has tiny corpse dolls, representing an actual murder victim. In one bizarre case, a beautiful woman lays shot to death in her bed, her clean-cut, pajama-clad husband lies next to the bed, also fatally shot. Their sweet little baby was shot as she slept in her crib. Blood is spattered everywhere. And all the doors were locked from the inside, meaning the case is likely a double homicide/suicide. But something isn’t right. The murder weapon is nowhere near the doll corpses – instead the gun was found in another room.”

These “Nutshell Studies” dollhouses as they were called were created by Frances Glessner Lee, aka the “Patron Saint of Forensics”, a grandmother active in the field in the 1930s and 40s. The 20 dollhouse scenes (2 are missing) were built to teach detectives and students about forensics, and only recreated the most curious and unsolved murders. But do they tell a bigger story? From our global obsession with shows like CSI, it’s clear people everywhere are obsessed with murder and death — and the steps taken to either bring the transgressors to justice, or frankly learn how to get away with such an act. Clearly this obsession is the real subtext of the film. Narrated by John Waters, Of Dolls and Murder was made by independent documentary filmmaker Susan Marks, and will be screening nationwide in the upcoming weeks.

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