Have you ever found yourself inside a department store, when suddenly a chilling, ominous figure catches your attention from the corner of your eye? Your steps freeze, and you cautiously turn to confront the eerie sight. As your gaze meets the figure, a startled gasp escapes you. Right before you stands a mannequin, its expression frozen in a grin that feels unsettlingly alive, its eyes devoid of life yet mocking and tormenting. A shiver runs down your spine as you quickly turn away, but even as you continue to browse through the discounted clothes, you can’t shake off the feeling of those empty eyes penetrating your soul. Leaving the store, you reassure yourself that you won’t dwell on that unearthly mannequin and its unnatural pose, yet you know all too well that it will haunt your dreams, invading your sleep with its otherworldly nightmare.
Now imagine if that same mannequin refused to remain confined to the store, instead following you wherever you go, observing your every move. “Don’t Look Away,” a creation by Miceal Bafaro and Micheal Mitton, unfolds the tale of a group of friends ensnared by a malevolent mannequin, with no chance of escape.
The film kicks off with a trucker cruising along a New Jersey highway. He’s confronted by a gang of thieves who discover, to their shock, that the lone cargo in the truck is a coffin-sized box. Opening it, they come face-to-face with a haunting, human-like silhouette. The figure violently dispatches the thieves, while the trucker meets his end in a collision with another car. The driver of that car, Frankie (played by Kelly Bastard), catches a fleeting glimpse of the murderous entity. This moment marks a turning point that forever alters her life and the lives of her companions.
It later emerges that the mannequin latches onto its victims the moment they lay eyes on it. From that point on, it relentlessly pursues them, ceasing only when they meet a brutal and untimely demise. With its hollow eyes and an unnaturally wide grin showcasing slightly elongated teeth, the mannequin evokes horror through its unsettling resemblance to a human. Possessing supernatural speed that allows it to vanish in the blink of an eye when not under observation, the mannequin leaves Frankie and her friends to discover that as long as they maintain eye contact, it can’t close in on them for a fatal attack.
While “Don’t Look Away” has its share of impactful moments, a series of gory scenes contributes to its quality horror. However, the movie’s primary drawback lies in its plot. Throughout the narrative, the origins of the mannequin remain shrouded in mystery. This lack of backstory diminishes its fear factor and skews more toward the absurd. Toward the film’s conclusion, a character surfaces, appearing responsible for the mannequin’s appearance in the opening scene. This setup tantalizingly hints at a potential revelation, but the character—an old, blind man—receives no exploration either, leaving us with a mere utterance: “Only the devil himself knows.” The plot’s substantial gap, combined with the less-than-stellar acting, renders the movie less captivating and more clumsy than truly frightening. However, the film does manage to build ample tension, compensating to some extent for its plot shortcomings. If you seek a contemporary horror flick that leans toward cheesy, offers decent gore, and harbors a somewhat ludicrous story, then “Don’t Look Away” might just manage to hold your attention.