Project Dorothy Review

Project Dorothy debuts on Cable and Digital VOD January 16, 2024, including Prime Video, Vudu, Vubiquity, Cox, and Comcast. Project Dorothy was directed by George Henry Horton (Dreadspace, Dark Obsession), from a script by Ryan Scaringe (Useless Humans, Eradication) and Horton. Horton produced for Liberty Atlantic Studios and Scaringe under his Kinogo Pictures shingle. Project Dorothy stars genre icon Danielle Harris (the Halloween franchise, the Hatchet franchise, “The Conners”) as the titular AI, alongside Tim DeZarn (The Cabin in the Woods), Adam Budron, Emily Rafala (“Katy Keene”), Olivia Scott, and Horton.

Project Dorothy starts off with a montage of events going on inside of a factory of sorts. Just a bunch of quick flashes that don’t really give you much information, but don’t worry… it gets doled out later on in the flick who is happening here. It then moves on to two criminals, James and Blake, on the run after a successful heist that nonetheless saw James escape with a gunshot wound to the leg.

In an effort to elude the police, the duo sneak into an abandoned facility. A cop is hot on their tail, but as he pursues them, he is called off as the facility is considered a restricted area. So without much of a look-around, he heads off to, I guess, search for them elsewhere.

James and Blake power the facility back up to get the lights on, and in doing so, they wake up an artificial intelligence program that had been dormant since the 1980’s. While the two criminals regain their composure and try to figure out how to get the computer they stole to their buyer, they start finding clues as to why the building had been shut down and abandoned.

When the A.I.–known as Dorothy–figures out the device the two have is her key to being released into the world, she begins taunting them and pursuing them about the factory, demanding they give her what she needs to spread her influence.

TWO UPS AND TWO DOWNS

+The movie looks and sounds great for what appears to have been a lower budget effort. The film takes place almost entirely inside an old factory / office building, and if it was all sets, they looked phenomenal and highly realistic. But if they weren’t–if the movie was filmed on an actual location of a factory–then the sound editing is equally excellent because there are no echoes or quality issues.

Director George Henry Horton really did the absolute best with his budget that he could have, and he produced a movie of truly top caliber quality, which can be incredibly hard to achieve if you aren’t extremely competent at what you do.

+When the story starts and we get James and Blake into the factory after having been on the run early on, Project Dorothy moves with a deliberate pace. For a flick that clocks in at less than eighty minutes, nothing here is rushed or forced along. We don’t really get any presence from Dorothy until about the forty minute mark, but that allows us to spend more time with James and Blake as the factory sets up Dorothy’s silent, creeping presence. She is spying on the protagonists and gathering information, but we don’t hear from her, building a malevolent atmosphere and keeping us on our toes.

Equally as important: as I said, the movie is less than eighty minutes. So nothing gets dragged out, either. The pacing is incredibly precise on this effort to build tension but not feel like it’s stretched beyond its natural limits.

-Unfortunately, I have to say that Adam Budron is a weak link here. With Tim DeZarn carrying his weight as James and Danielle Harris seeming to be having an absolute blast as Dorothy, Adam Budron’s Blake is never on their level. His dialogue doesn’t feel entirely genuine, and a lot of his lines sound like what they are: lines. He just doesn’t have any presence on screen.

-There was something about Dorothy’s teasing voice and her use of forklifts as robot minions that reminded me a bit of Chopping Mall. And that shouldn’t be a bad thing; I get a kick out of Chopping Mall. But that 80’s horror outing has a charming tongue-in-cheek atmosphere that allows the viewer to settle in for a good time. Here, everything is played too seriously.

It feels like Danielle Harris got the assignment that an evil A.I. sending forklifts after people should be goofy and funny, so she does her best to add some light attempts at levity to the proceedings. But the rest of the movie is too heavy to really make use of it. It wants to have this tragic surrogate father-son relationship story in the face of overwhelming odds, but… it’s a snarky artificial intelligence sending forklifts of doom after people. You have to accept people are going to want a lighter proceeding than what this offers.

OVERALL

Tonally, Project Dorothy never sits right after it gets going. The opening act with Blake and James scouring the creepy factory all works, but then you get to the threat, and… Forklifts Of Doom. They just aren’t scary. If there is an evil A.I. that control a whole building, I expect something more menacing than that. The movie either needed to give in to a touch of fancy and be more fun, or it needed a bigger threat to our heroes than forklifts. Still, it’s well-made aside from that, and Horton clearly has some skill as a director.

1.5 out of 5

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