One of the vital tasks for any horror film, and this goes double for independent, low budget fare, is to select a villain / monster / enemy that's suitably creepy and terrifying. Unfortunately, ultra-low budget film Fetish Dolls Die Laughing went with the Tickle Monster, an eons old demon who possesses guys and compels them to tickle women to death. It's weird, yes. And a bit creepy. But the inherent goofiness prevents it from being frightening in the least.
The film starts with a young woman being chased through the woods by a giggling man with red rimmed eyes. He runs her down, and tickles her to death, also ripping out her entrails with his bare hands. Intercut with this is young boy Adam, whose wizened grandmother regales him with the story of the Tickle Monster. Cut to the present day and we see adult Adam (Aaron Bernard) tickling the feet of his girlfriend, police detective Greer English (Laura Romeo). She's on the trail of the Maid of Honor Killer, who not surprisingly targets maids of honor for upcoming weddings. Her partner is Leland Tucker (Angelo Bruni), a wisecracker who likes to use big words to sound intelligent.
Intertwined with this search for the Maid of Honor Killer, we see the story of fetish photographer Billy Tagg (Michael McGovern) and his overbearing wife Tanith (Diana Silvio). When Tanith dies of a heart attack brought on by his tickling, Billy comes into a large inheritance, and the freedom to pursue his foot fetish. His obsession with the feet of his models soon turns murderous, as the Tickle Monster inhabits him, leading him to tickle girls to death and broadcast it on the internet.
Greer takes risks in order to solve her cases, often going undercover to pose as potential victims to draw out the killer. This gets her into to trouble, and dangerous situations, more often than not. When she suspects Billy of killing young women, and poses as a fetish model, it might be her biggest mistake ever.
Fetish Dolls Die Laughing certainly has a level of insanity going for it. A gonzo sensibility can oftentimes cause the audience to overlook the mistakes and poor production values inherent in low budget filmmaking. There are also some pretty good performances, considering. McGovern is convincingly disturbing and obsessed as the demonic photographer / killer, and Laura Romeo does pretty well as the independent and feisty detective, particularly when her character has an emotional and mental breakdown late in the film. However, this is not enough to overcome the significant issues with the film. Apart from the two above mentioned, the performances are not great, and often quite flawed. Quite a few lines are flubbed, and awkward or stilted delivery is common. The two mysteries, of the Maid of Honor Killer and the Tickle Monster, don't really fit together well, and split the attention of the audience. Also, the film isn't very scary or intense. The idea of a demon that delights in fatal tickling is too goofy to gin up the necessary dread. And some of the foot fetish-y things that Billy engages in will be disturbing (and not in a good way) for everyone who isn't already into that kind of thing.
Of course, these kinds of flaws are (mostly) inherent in the business of low budget film. Fetish Dolls Die Laughing will still appeal to those aficionados of super low budget independent horror films, particularly those that seek out the strangest they can find. For most others, though, the missteps and flaws will be off putting rather than endearing. Rent it.