Love Object

The clean-cut, hard-working guy from the office who behind closed doors becomes an obsessive monster is the fulcrum of a twisted love triangle in "Love Object." While the premise has possibilities for some creepy fun, writer-director Robert Parigi brings too little style or humor, instead going a route that likely will lead straight to video.

With:
Kenneth - Desmond Harrington Lisa - Melissa Sagemiller Radley - Udo Kier Martin - Robert Bagnell Ramirez - Michael Pena Dotson - Brad Henke Jason - John Cassini Mr. Novak - Rip Torn

The clean-cut, hard-working guy from the office who behind closed doors becomes an obsessive monster is the fulcrum of a twisted love triangle in psychosexual horror movie “Love Object.” While the premise has possibilities for some creepy, pulpy fun, writer-director Robert Parigi brings too little style or humor, instead going a more obvious, overwrought route that likely will lead straight to video.

The object in question is an anatomically correct silicone sex doll, which at first gives a socially challenged technical writer (Desmond Harrington) newfound confidence, but then penetrates his subconscious with increasingly paranoid delusions.

Scenario plays like short film material as tech writer Kenneth, who works for a company that compiles instruction manuals, keeps his attraction to junior colleague Lisa (Melissa Sagemiller) under wraps. When puerile co-workers steer his attention to a Web site offering customized gal pals with washable parts, Kenneth assuages his loneliness by investing $10,000 in lifelike Nikki, supplying Lisa’s specifications for the bedtime Barbie.

A few evenings at home in Nikki’s sultry embrace help loosen up Kenneth and encourage overtures to the real Lisa, beginning with a fruitful collaborative project and soon progressing to romance. But when the bond blossoms, the doll appears to become jealous, with increasingly gruesome results. And when Lisa reveals her own sexual wild side, Kenneth’s confusion between the real and artificial babe spirals out of control.

Unlike, say, the “Child’s Play” movies, or the even more out-there “Bride of Chucky,” Parigi lacks the mischievous wit to make the doll a truly menacing force, a shortcoming aggravated by low-concept effects work. While the climactic action, involving embalming procedures and some splatter and gore excess, is untidily chronicled, the script orchestrates a more resourceful capper in which a combination of police ineptitude and lucky timing conspire to leave evil unpunished and lay tracks for an unlikely sequel.

Cast is low on charisma or psychological depth, with Udo Kier registering as the only enjoyably outre element in a typically loony supporting role as Kenneth’s sleazy landlord-neighbor. D.p. Sidney Sidell gives the modest production a cold, sterile look, particularly in the impersonal office environments, while composer Nicholas Pike contributes a chilly ambient score.

Love Object

Production: A ContentFilms presentation of a Base 12/Catapult Films production in association with Visionbox Pictures. Produced by Lawrence Levy, Kathleen Haase. Executive producers, Edward R. Pressman, John Schmidt, Alessandro Camon. Directed, written by Robert Parigi.

Crew: Camera (color), Sidney Sidell; editor, Troy Takaki; music, Nicholas Pike; production designer, Trae King; art director, Philip Godwin; set decorator, Beth Wooke; costume designer, Victoria Auth; sound (Dolby SRD), James Dehr; line producer, Bruce Wayne Gillies; assistant director, Otto Penzato; casting, Amanda Mackey Johnson, Cathy Sandrich Gelfond. Reviewed at Bryant Park Hotel screening room, New York, April 21, 2003. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- Midnight.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With: Kenneth - Desmond Harrington Lisa - Melissa Sagemiller Radley - Udo Kier Martin - Robert Bagnell Ramirez - Michael Pena Dotson - Brad Henke Jason - John Cassini Mr. Novak - Rip Torn

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