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Review: Door Mouse

January 16, 2023

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Door Mouse, a Canadian mystery involving missing girls and dirty nightclubs, is a pretty good little homegrown neo-noir exercise done on a budget that serves as the feature directorial debut of Canadian actor Avan Jogia.

The film is named for Mouse (Hayley Law), who works by night dancing at a seedy burlesque club, under the tutelage of the joint’s brusque, lesbian manager Mama (Famke Janssen). When one of the girls from the club goes missing, Mouse takes it upon herself to find her, poking into the city’s underworld and walking herself and colleague Ugly (Keith Powers) into a conspiracy involving the rich, powerful and depraved.

In classic noir fashion, the script by Jogia (who, in addition to writing and directing, also has a supporting role as a drug dealer named Mooney) features hard-boiled narration by Mouse (“it was a full pack of cigarettes sort of night,” she bemoans at one point as she slides into a van for an overnight stakeout). It’s brought to the screen in a heavily stylized way, including action scenes that break away into blocky animation done in the style of panels from an underground comic book. But these aesthetic flourishes serve a narrative purpose; Mouse is the author and illustrator of a horror-porn comic that she sells through a local shop, and starts writing her experiences into it.

If Door Mouse faces a few of the challenges of being a first feature (the story could have been tightened up in places, and aspects of the film feel held back slightly by the limited budget), this is still a promising debut that suggests a strong sense of style. Jogia does a fine job of staging a mostly entertaining spin on the neo-noir genre, delivering a few twists through a topical (if somewhat simplistic) story. Law delivers a good performance as Mouse, the beleaguered artist turned burlesque dancer who morphs into the role of amateur sleuth, including her droll voiceover narration that effectively carries the film.

Door Mouse is now playing in limited release at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto, and is also available for rental on Digital/VOD platforms. It’s being distributed in Canada by Elevation Pictures.

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