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The horror short “The Dollmaker”, a “Pet Sematary” inspired tale of grief and the price we’re willing to pay to retrieve what was lost, lands on Alter.

If you’re not already slightly obsessed with ALTER —  the new horror streaming platform from Gunpowder & Sky designed to give voice to emerging, diverse and established filmmakers —then I can only assume it’s because you haven’t yet discovered it. Launching in August of 2018, I must admit to only having recently discovered it myself. Since then, however, I’ve been continually impressed with the quality and diversity of truly stellar, original horror programming available via the platform.

The ALTER curators look for shorts from across the globe that explore the everyday threats, primal fears and modern anxieties of life through the horror lens — while also encouraging conversation on their social platforms.

If you head to their YouTube channel, you can find more than 70 absolutely captivating and exceptionally well-executed horror shorts, in a variety of categories, including explorations of the supernatural, boundary-pushing horror, and films that tap into your inner voyeur. You can also check out their newest three-part horror series, “The Outer Darkness”, which is truly excellent (read my full review here).

As many of you are likely heading out this weekend to see the highly anticipated remake of Pet Sematary that just arrived in theaters, just ahead of the 30th anniversary of the original film later this month, now is also a great time to check out the latest horror short to land on the platform called “The Dollmaker” — a Pet Sematary inspired Faustian tale that cautions against the treachery of desperation and wish fulfillment.

This award-winning short from Director Al Lougher was written by Matias Caruso, who also wrote one of my favorite horror comedies, Joe Lynch’s Mayhem. The short took home the best horror/thriller award at last year’s Comic-Con, and it’s easy to see why.

A grieving couple, reeling from the tragic death of their young son, visits a mysterious dollmaker with a reputation for creating magical dolls that are somehow infused with the spirit of lost loved ones. While the father remains skeptical of the dollmaker’s claims, bemoaning the exorbitant price tag for the doll, the devastated mother is willing to try anything to have some small piece of her son back at any cost.

The dollmaker explains that, while inside the home where the remnants of the boy’s essence still remain, the doll will look and feel just like the once living boy. However, once you step outside, it immediately resorts back to being just a doll. He also gives the couple a sand timer and cautions that the doll must only be played with for one hour each day and no more. After that, he must go back in his box. If not, the illusion will begin to consume them until they forget what’s real and what’s not — and they stop caring about anyone or anything else.

While it’s immediately clear that the mother, overjoyed at the thought of what feels like having her son back, is going to have some very real trouble limiting her exposure to the doll, what’s not clear is how the tragic tale will end — and it’s a highly effective, gut punch of an ending that’s likely to take you quite by surprise.

You can watch “The Dollmaker” below. It’s only 10 minutes with credits. And it’s a very satisfying way to get your horror fix, and your important reminder that “sometimes dead is better”. 

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