Don’t you hate those people who always insist on reading the manual first? Kenneth (Desmond Harrington) is one of those types; in fact, he actually writes those manuals. Writer/director Robert Parigi’s trashy b-movie indicts such manual-readers to an extreme degree-when Kenneth finds an attractive new temp at work he decides he needs a manual for her before any romance can proceed. When peeping in on his amorous neighbor’s love making and a visit to a porn shop do not seem to unlock the secrets of love, Kenneth springs for a more ambitious manual, a $10,000 life-size, life-like sex doll. But Kenneth has made a crucial mistake, he gets involved with his doll Nikki before going after the temp, Lisa (Melissa Sagemiller). As this mild-mannered manual-scribe attempts to seduce Lisa good old Nikki, left home alone, begins to get jealous. With Kenneth’s success at work flourishing because of the confidence Nikki’s always available love gives him he begins to transfer that affection to a real person, with understandably brutal results-Nikki always has her way.
Parigi has a terrific concept in hand but regrettably his story fails to support it strongly enough. Budget constraints and a minimal scope restrain some of the devilish conceptual fun of Love Object
, which hilariously has Nikki’s immobile non-communicative body coaxing Kenneth into S&M submission. Later, long after the narrative uses up its steam, Parigi drops a bombshell of thematic and thrill-matic dynamite when Nikki prompts Kenneth to drain the soul out of Lisa’s body so that he may embalm it as a beautiful shell for Nikki. To be sure, Love Object
keeps the mood supremely tongue in cheek, which is often a bit disappointing given the possible depth of the material, but then again it would be laughable to see someone sincerely tackle the topic of a killer sex doll controlling an insecure office worker. (And it is, in the handful of conventionally heavy-handed moments, but there is no doubt Parigi knows how silly he is being).
The occasionally delightful b-movie take on relationship dependency and need is helped by its successful, if amateurish cast. Harrington looks so similar to Christian Bale’s serial killer in American Psycho
as to lend his Office Space
-like meekness a tingle of cold-bloodedness, and supporting turns by Rip Torn and Udo Kier (who now seems to be making a new career by appearing in truncated American horror roles) spice up the limited production. If Love Object
is never as funny, as scary, or as thematically explosive as it could be it is probably more the fault of its meager budget than Parigi’s lack of skill. For a film that attempts to punish sexual desire in an anonymous workplace by turning a drone into a psycho isn’t really anything new, but the addition of a manipulating sex doll always turns the fun level up.