Hell hath no fury like a Mouse scorned…
Written and directed by Avan Jogia, Door Mouse tells the story of Mouse (Hayley Law), a comic-book creator who earns her living working at a burlesque club. Hanging out with her friend Ugly (Keith Powers), Mouse carries herself with confidence and strength, even if she can’t seem to catch a break. However, when young women from her circle begin to disappear, Mouse scrambles to find out the truth about her friends, even if it means stepping deeper into the shadows.
Unflinching and uncompromising, Mouse is a neo-noir that burns with heat. The noir genre is often imitated with its filtered colours and voice-over narration but, frankly, it doesn’t always leave an impact. However, Door Mouse has such a fury in its soul that one cannot help but be drawn in. Through bleeding colours and endless shadows, Jogia creates a world that simply feels broken. The lines between right and wrong have all but been eliminated, leading to a world of blended morals and endless compromises.
At the same time though, Jogia gives his film a punk rock flare that fuels it with energy. Although the air is heavy, there’s a frenetic nature to the film that builds in intensity as it unfolds. (This is best exemplified by Jogia’s use of graphic novel art to tell some of the film’s most brutal moments.) This unique blend of styles leads to a truly fascinating piece that digs into the evil of our world as it looks for some (any?) good.
Leading the charge though is an absolutely fiery performance from Law. As the emotionally disconnected and electrically-charged artist, Law is absolutely magnetic onscreen. Traditionally, the noir protagonist carries under a hard-nosed persona but requires a certain charisma but the strength of Law’s performance shines through. Despite living in a broken-down apartment, Mouse is an empowered woman, confident and fearless in all she does. Although she isn’t looking for trouble, neither does she accept it amidst her own circle. As such, Law steps into in this world with a burning fuse, willing to get her hands dirty if it helps protect and empowerd other young women.
Now, having said this, Door Mouse may not be for everyone. As is keeping with the genre, Mouse’s journey takes her into some dark and disturbing corners of modern society. As a result, it’s worth noting that Mousemay be uncomfortable viewing for some—and, in fact, it is meant to be.
After all, Door Mouse is very much a story that wants to explore the nature of today’s monsters. Without giving away any spoilers, the toxicity in this world is tied the need for power. Whereas classic noir films like Kiss Me Deadly and Chinatown exposed issues of their day like corruption or the nuclear threat, Door Mouse focuses on some of the seediest realities of our world, such as trafficking and exploitation. Willing to sit in the shadows of evil, Jogia points out that the truest demons of our time are those that prey upon the autonomy of others,
Even so, he also acknowledges the power of sharing stories that shed light on oppression. For instance, Mouse’s artistic expressions become a voice for the voiceless, causing a stir amongst the community who clamour to know the truth. (“People want to know what happened…,” Mouse is reminded.) In this way, Jogia acknowledges the fact that darkness may be pervasive… but the real heroes are those that are willing to kick against it by speaking out.
In the end, Door Mouse should be a special viewing for fans of neo-noir. Blending styles and genres, there is a grit to this film that is palpable, making it one of the more memorable examples of this style in recent memory. Jogia understands the tropes of the genre yet makes them entirely his own.
Needless to say, this Mouse has teeth.
Door Mouse is available in theatres and on VOD on January 13th, 2023.