For WIllington, County Durham based filmmaker Dean Midas, the past few years has seen him dedicate his life to showing film fans the world of Rag Dolly and Eve Valentine. Within this time, he has been successful in creating 5 brilliant short films, which has given everyone the opportunity to not just discover the menacing tactics of these two masked killers, but has also allowed us to go on a journey with these characters as well. As I have said many a time myself, on a normal day, I am quaking in my boots when it comes to watching horror films, and trust me while there were plenty of screams and jumps on my behalf, I have nevertheless enjoyed watching every single film that makes up the Dolly Vs Eve franchise so far.
While 2021 has been a fantastic year for our talented filmmaker, with many achievements such as the films being showcased in the Middle East and the United states, plus dedicated fans creating their own Rag Dolly inspired merch, it is also a time which will no doubt bring some sadness, as Dean prepares to work on the final film in the franchise, Dolly v Eve: Homecoming. With Eve Valentine having a bone to pick and some unfinished business with her nemesis Rag Dolly, this film will see the master of the blade and the queen of the spade lock horns one more time. What’s more, this film will also see Dolly returning to her childhood roots and much more, as Dean does everything in his power to ensure that this will be one film to remember.
With so much to discuss, I was grateful to catch up with Dean as we reflected on the spine tingling and mischievous antics of these masked killers.
How have you been since we last saw each other?
Yea it has been good. A lot has changed since we last spoke, but it has all been absolutely amazing!
In that case, with everything that has been going on, let us start with the thing which has been making you smile the most?
Do you know what? Now I have to keep a note of everything that is happening because in the early days I could count on one hand all the different things that were going on and that was good, but now I am losing track. We have been shown in the middle east now, there is a guy I know in America who does a series of festivals and has made a t-shirt in honour of Rag Dolly which is on sale via Amazon, and lots of other bizarre things. If you had told me two years ago that this was happening, I would probably have laughed at you.
How did viewers in the Middle East react when seeing Rag Dolly and Eve Valentine for the first time?
Well I think they have gone down very well as I have not had any negatives so far. With the films being on YouTube and Facebook the viewing figures have gone crazy again. I think the middle east viewers are very intrigued by Rag Dolly, and probably a bit scared of her too as most people are. Currently she is up in my attic, or at least her head is haha. As for Eve, I always wanted her to be the more jokey Freddy Kruger type of character that can talk and who is a bit mouth, so I think the viewers in the Middle East find her a little bit more easy going.
How did that brilliant opportunity happen in the first place?
I got contacted on Instagram because as you know I am quite active on social media with the characters. Initially as we all do, I was sceptical as I was waiting to see what the catch was because in the past when someone has shown an interest in any of the films there is always a hidden cost involved too. With these guys, I checked the company out and saw that they were completely genuine and thought ‘wow this is a bit crazy’. When the first email pinged back I was quite excited as it stated that Rag Dolly Returns was scheduled to be aired at 4am in the morning. 10 days later I then got another email to say that Valentines Eve was going to be shown in prime time, which in UK time would be roughly the time sort of time people would be tuning into Coronation Street or Eastenders.
Ah you can just imagine Eve popping over to the Queen Vic can’t you?
Haha yes, Eve putting her blade down while she treats herself to a pint in Albert Square!
Seriously though, they have now shown all the films in the franchise, and the relationship continues to be positive. As I have always been, I am really appreciative of all of the support. When you know that your films are being shown in the likes of the Middle East and the USA, it is a pitch to hopefully encourage other people to invest in the films and the characters on their platforms too.
I think this is where the internet has become a very powerful tool for you, especially during this ongoing pandemic era that we are living in?
I will be honest, the pandemic for me as a filmmaker has been remarkable because in a business sense, people have been wanting things to watch having already watched everything on Netflix and other streaming platforms so they are exploring to see what else is out there. We have had publicity by the likes of yourself and other outlets which has been priceless, so I think yea being online during a pandemic when people want things to watch and do has been a massive help for us.
In those times of excitement, how do you keep your cool?
You know what I just laugh about it all every time someone asks me about it, because it is just so surreal. My mate Adrian now just gets referred to as the Chief Inspector, and Carl who plays the local MP, people joke with him saying ‘oh there are some problems with the town I need to discuss with you’. We have to remind ourselves that he isn’t really the MP, he is just the character. I think the best one though was when we got contacted by a paranormal agency who said to us, ‘we have watched the Rag Dolly Returns and want to investigate the house. I said to the guys that it is actually a huge compliment because the films are meant to be in the style of a mockumentary where we have just made up, so for people to think that house is really haunted, that in itself is pretty crazy.
As a filmmaker, what has it been like to see the stories of your characters grow?
It has been amazing! It is also slightly sad in other ways, because as a journey starts at some point in life the journey also has to end. As you know I am a horror buff and I always have been since a young age, but it comes to a point when someone makes something like ‘Monster Mash 26’. The first three might have been good, but 23 films later they are just milking it. I know I don’t make money from my films, but what I didn't want to do is get to that point where I am reaching out to people being like ‘oh we are going to make Rag Dolly 46’ and having people go ‘I lost interest 4 films ago’. I am so grateful for how many films we have successfully created, but I have come to the point where I want to ensure that people don’t become annoyed or bored with the characters, because at the moment we have a nice balance where people are still scared and intrigued by Dolly and Eve.
What are some of the elements then which have helped you to decide when the time is right to bring the franchise to a natural end?
The honest answer - I am running out of ways to kill people haha! I want to always ensure I keep on the edge of the rating being 15 and not take it over where the killings would become really horrible and gruesome. Also with a story line there is only so much you can do before it starts to become repetitive. As much as it is going to devastate me, I know at some point the story has to come to an end.
With that in mind, tell us what is coming up?
I changed the goal posts slightly. The next film I had originally planned to do was the Rag Dolly Homecoming, so having thought about it for a good number of weeks, I thought if we are going to conclude this story, the best thing to do would be to bring the characters back together again. We are obviously not going to say what happens or give away anything about what happens to the characters themselves, but what I can confirm is that it will be the final piece of the puzzle for this franchise.
How do you feel that both Sam and Faye have represented the spirit of their characters?
They have both been absolutely unbelievable character wise because they are both two completely different people and I think that is why they have both embraced the characters. You have Faye that now has the signature Rag Dolly head tilt which is very creepy even for me. When I am filming it even though I know it is coming, it still gives me shivers haha. Then Sam, she is a very lovely, confident and experienced performer, and she really brings that to Eve. Bearing in mind two years ago both of these characters didn’t exist, Faye and Sam have done an amazing job.
When you look back over the five films you have made so far, how do you think you have seen your own confidence grow?
There are still moments when I watch over the earlier films and think to myself how I could have edited certain parts better, but that comes with experience. I have also grown with the team as well, because other than Faye and Sam, none of these people have acted before. As you yourself have said in previous articles, you have described the films as very full on, and that is the same when we are doing the filming too, because we will have the camera right in the faces of the characters with bright lights shining on them. The great thing though is that everyone has taken it within their stride and embraced the whole process and you can see their confidence and their acting getting better as each film is made.
It is great to know that as well as the films, you are including the characters in a number of scare events too?
Yea that was always the goal. Whatever happens to them in the films, in the ‘real world’ I want them to still be active, whether that be appearances at Halloween Events or Scare Walks etc, so yea I am looking forward to that because I don’t people realise that when coming face to face with Rag Dolly and Eve Valentine in real life, they are actually quite scary, and when they are holding a spade and a very big knife, they become even more scary haha. More than anything I am intrigued to see the reactions of people who may not have even seen any of the films before and how they would react to Dolly or Eve jumping out, because I know if it was me I would be terrified.
We already know who is behind the mask in terms of Eve’s true identity, but without giving too much away, can viewers finally see who the mastermind is being the notorious and illusive Rag Dolly?
Yes! It is one of the main things we have planned for this next film, because as you said we already know who Eve is, so I want people to see who Rag Dolly is without the mask. Credit has to be given where credit is due, because the actors do an amazing job, so their time in the spotlight without the masks is just as important.
Do you think people might be surprised when people see Rag Dolly’s identity?
They might be. Faye is a very good actress, and even though she is a very pretty lady, I know some people might actually say she is scarier with the mask off especially when she does that head tilt. I just think however we conclude this story, both characters deserve their moment
As you prepare for the final showdown in the weeks to come, is everything going as planned?
We decided to put a hold on things for a bit, because of a certain football tournament, but between now and early September we will have the film done. The reason it is going to take so long is because we are using quite a number of different locations, including scenes which will be key to Rag Dolly’s Homecoming, then over to Rayton area and a few other places. This one’s a bit all over the shop to be honest, because some of the other films have tended to be focused much more in one or two locations such as West Manor, whereas this one we are exploring the north east a bit more. I wanted to do it that way though, not just to test the actors, but test myself too, because if this is to be the last film of the franchise it needs something special so it goes with a bang, so I am pulling out all the stops to make sure it is one leaves a lasting impression on film fans.
Also ever since I first started making these films, I have always wanted Rag Dolly to return to the home she grew up as a kid, which I can’t wait for her to kill a few of you haha.
Sorry folks, no more Darkus issues of Darkus this year, Thushara faced the wrath of Dolly’s mighty spade!
Haha! Yes, DARKUS will need a new Editor In Chief in a few weeks time! Haha! But yea I am just looking forward to her returning to her roots.
How about the return of the other loved characters like the Chief Inspector?
Yes! I cannot end these films without bringing back the Chief Inspector as well as Officer Reed and Jason and maybe one or two others we may see such as Dr Elliot who is Rag Dolly’s psychiatrist, but I don’t want to give too much more away about them.
Dean, you always have such amazing energy and it is really good to see your passions really coming through, especially in your films, so when you think about your own journey these past two years, what would you like to say to all the people who have supported you along the way?
I would just like to say thank you because without people within the press and the media who have been really loyal and other people who have been loyal since the very beginning, you know what if I am still making films in 5 years time, I will still remember them massively. It is humbling and I can’t emphasise it enough because when I look at the stats, the merch and the new places that the films are being broadcast, none of this could happen unless you get support. I could make the best film in the world, but if noone tells other people that the films exist, then I have wasted my time. So for everyone you has helped spread the message, their support is priceless.
What would you say to the 10 year old Dean Midas?
Watch out for Rag Dolly and Eve Valentine because when you get older they are going to take over your life haha. I would say seriously though to enjoy every moment, because as the famous phrase goes, you're only as good as your next film.
For anyone who hasn't watched any of the films so far, what would you say to them so that they do not miss out?
If you haven't seen any of them and are wondering what are these guys going on about, if you head to dollyveve.co.uk all the films are there and it gives you a bit of a rundown of just how successful they have been. So yea head there and give them a watch. They are slightly scary so maybe watch them behind a cushion or something haha. We appreciate all feedback whether it be positive or negative, because we love to know what you think.
What an incredible guy. Who knew that 12 months ago, a horror enthusiast who put his passion into creating films, would end up making a scaredy-cat like me fall in love with these brilliant films. While it will be sad to say farewell to these characters, in the final film, it films me with some hope that just because it might be the end in one sense, the spirit of Rag Dolly and Eve Valentine, will continue to live on for forever more.
What is next for Dean Midas? We shall all have to just see, but one thing I do know is that this creative genius who I will always regard as County Durham’s version of R.L Stein will continue to go from strength to strength for many more years to come.
For more information visit: dollyveve.co.uk
Article By Thushara S. Chandrasiri