A collaboration between puppeteer-turned-first-time-feature helmer Hideyuki Kobayashi and cult Nippon comics artist Junji Ito, “Marronnier” is a “doll-horror movie” that’s a whole lot more fun in theory than in painfully amateurish execution. Slipshod on every level, pic shows signs of tongue-in-cheek intent, with a few enterprisingly grotesque ideas. But general ineptitude negates potential, rendering even slim runtime a long slog. Offshore, only diehard pursuers of horror and manga esoterica need apply.
Barely coherent screenplay centers on Marino (Mayu), a young woman who collects dolls. Her favorite was designed by a recluse with a machine that turns real people into wax doll material. His demented assistant Numai (Hiroto Inagaki) kidnaps girls for this nefarious purpose, eventually killing mentor in order to terrorize Marino and her friends full-time. Attenuated climax takes place in the designer’s underground lair, as Numai offs various captives and would-be rescuers. Pic’s jumble of disjointed sequences and primitive gore might be excused as attempted surrealism, but effect is so hapless one can’t be sure just what was intended. Perfs are weak, staging bad, editing worse, vid lensing and production values low-level TV; even puppetry work is unimpressive.