There Once Was a Dormouse Who Lived in a Bed
DOOR MOUSE – A film by Avan Jogia – (limited spoilers)
After a night of prophetic nightmares, Mouse (Hayley Law), wakes and silently narrates the start of the next issue of her monthly horror porn comic. Titled “Whoreific“, the illustrated stories are not-quite-autobiographical, and they help her work through her “existential dread”. As Mouse begins to draw, the song “Big Mouth” by Necking plays in the background. “I wake up in the afternoon,” thinks Mouse, Phillip Marlowe-style. “I have my coffee and I smoke my morning cigarette. Today the cigarette was better than the coffee.”
Mouse has a job at a burlesque club called Mama’s. Her best friend Ugs (Keith Powers) is not at all Ugly, though that’s his name. “Punch A Nazi“, by The Muslims plays as Mouse and Ugly walk past a sign that says “Buying Power, We Simply Sell For Less” on their way to Dirt’s Comic Book Store. (Pay attention to the backgrounds while watching this film. There’s a bunch of interesting stuff there.) Mouse gets the latest report on Whoreific’s poor sales performance from Dirt (Sanjay Talwar). “No one buys them,” Dirt tells her, “It’s a shame, too, ’cause I know how much work you put into them.” Mouse asks what people are buying instead. “Still porn stuff, even horror porn stuff like you do,” he explains, “but they go for more serialized dramas, you know? We talked about this. These guys, they want to connect with the lead character.” (Comics North is an actual store located on Elm Street in Sudbury, Ontario.)
Ugs and Mouse go to check up on Doe Eyes (Nhi Do), one of Mouse’s co-workers at the club, when she doesn’t show up for work. The dancer hasn’t been gone too long, because her one lone houseplant is not at all wilted, but the place has been tossed and there is a packet of drugs with one of Mouse’s own drawings as a label. Doe Eyes, it seems, has been buying drugs from Mouse’s ex, Mooney (Avan Jogia). Mouse has no desire to rekindle the romance with Moony, who gave her the nickname “Door Mouse”, and describes their relationship as “bad news”.
The film is likely set around the turn of the century, because Doe Eyes’ apartment has a small TV/DVD combo from that period, and no cellphones are in evidence, anywhere. The apartment number is 311. Doe Eyes is later rescued from hotel room number 310.
Mouse questions her former lover about Doe Eyes’ disappearance. She finds out little, and Moony suggests that her inquiries might expose her to unspecified danger. “You’re looking down deep wells,” he tells her.
She gets back to Mama’s and cops are parked in front. (Mouse refers to the police as “canaries in the coal mine of misery”.) Her friend Riz (Michela Cannon) has been abducted, and Eddie (Donal Logue) explains that two bald guys jumped out of a white limo and stuffed her into the trunk. Mouse goes home and draws a new comic called “Mouse Trap” that comics dealer Dirt likes a lot. “This is really good,” says Dirt. “Where did you come up with this stuff?” She tells him she just wrote what she felt. “Well,” he continues, “you must have felt pretty fucked up.” Buoyed by success, Mouse decides to investigate the disappearances, and heads to an amazingly seedy area with her sidekick Ugly to find a pimp called Craw Daddy (Gabriel Carter), whose lifestyle belies his professional success. Craw Daddy is reluctant to get involved but becomes the second person to warn Mouse to stop asking those questions.
Mouse will also be warned by her employer Mama (Famke Janssen). “You’re poking your nose in dangerous places,” says Mama. But before that, while casing a hotel they suspect is involved in things, she and Ugs wax philosophical.
MOUSE: “How do you think the world’s gonna end? Like, how do you think it’s gonna go down?”
UGLY: “Probably run out of resources. Too many people, right? And I was thinking the only way to curb that would be to get rid of a fuck-ton of people, like six billion people, so that the one billion left had a bunch of resources to split amongst themselves. Some kind of military state decides who gets food and who doesn’t, who lives and who dies.”
UGLY: “That’s a bit of a pessimistic view.”
MOUSE: “What I’m saying is, if that’s what it takes to save humanity, why the fuck would we want to save it? I’d rather die with the sheep than eat sheep with the wolves.”
Character names seem rooted in urban slang. (e.g. Mouse is easy on the eyes. Riz is a smoothed-tongue seductress. Moony is endlessly infatuated. A Craw Daddy is an annoyance to fisherman that is sometimes used as bait.)
Metric plays “Ending Start“, and Mouse hands Dirt a package full of newly-drawn comics as though it was full of illicit drugs. “That’s the rest of it?,” he asks. “I got your last issue. It sold out in an hour. People want to know more about those missing girls.” Mouse thanks him and walks home, thinking to herself in short, staccato bursts: “I had found my ending. – I would end up breaking my promise… – The dread was too heavy, and Ugly was right. – It had to sit right with me… – Monsters are real and they walk among us.”
Mouse has a cup of coffee, and heads out to destroy the monsters. The blood and gore created by Mouse’s quest is laundered nicely through Mouse’s drawings.
Avan Jogia, who wrote and directed DOOR MOUSE, told Aamina Khan of Teen Vogue: “I like the idea of noir, but I always felt like the genre had a male perspective. And I wanted to do a gender-flipped noir where the lead is still a grizzled whiskey-drinking, cigarette-smoking noir hero. The thing is, this is seven years ago, and obviously things have changed a lot and unfortunately not for the better…It took seven years to make because everyone was like, ‘Eh, this film doesn’t really have any relevance.’ And then all of a sudden it was like, ‘Oh no, this one’s really relevant.’ It’s hard to convince people to give you money when the target of the film is people with money.”
A DVD and Blue-Ray release is expected in March.
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