Monday, October 6, 2008

DOLLS (1987)

On the sixth day of Halloween, my boo love gave to me ... six pairs of glowing doll eyes ogling me through the night.


Bumbling Dad, Step-Witch Mom, Precious Little Girl, Man/Child Hero, and lots of Creepy Hence-The-Titles.


Married couple David and Rosemary and seven-year old daughter Judy are traveling down a spooky country road when their car gets stuck in mud. When they can’t get the car out, they seek help and wander the forest where stumble across a sinister mansion. Rosemary the stepmother displays her animosity towards the kid from the onset and the neglectful parents leave Judy in the dust. But Judy has her best friend, a stuffed bear named Teddy. Judy uses Teddy to fantasize about getting even with her total bitch of a stepmother Rosemary in an amusingly bloody sequence. You won’t find this Teddy on the Home Shopping Network. Someone finally greets them at the mansion door and it’s a kindly old couple, Gabriel and Hilary. Gabriel is a doll maker and Judy is ecstatic to find out that someone else shares an interest with her. The jerk parents don’t seem to give a shit. The old toymaker gives Judy a new toy, a jester by the name of Mr. Punch, and shows her around the house where every room is filled with dolls, puppets, and figurines. As a storm rolls in outside, more stranded people arrive at the toymaker’s door: a couple of heavy metal groupies and a tubby guy named Ralph. Judy instantly bonds with the childlike Ralph as they both share a fascination with Gabriel’s toys. The weirdness begins when one of the chicks steals antiques and attempts to make a break for it. She is stopped permanently when Gabriel’s dolls come out to play. Judy witnesses her bloody corpse being dragged by unseen forces, but no one in the house believes her, except for Ralph. They pair go looking for the chick and they find the girl’s body missing, but also come across a very familiar doll: the heavy metal chick is encased in the body of a doll. From here on it out, it’s up to Ralph and Judy to find a way to survive the night against the murderous dolls that seek to protect their home and their maker from outsiders.


Evil dolls, sentient automobiles, malevolent clowns, demonic infants, Ronald Reagan. There are just some things that are instant cinematic horror gold. Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator and From Beyond) mines such gold in Dolls, a terrific little horror film, accented with a sense of fun, style, and self-effacing wit. Gordon presents sharp direction, casting, and dialogue to a premise that could easily have been a disaster. The dolls are simple and nicely designed little nasties and provide plenty of nightmare fuel to exacerbate your living doll phobia including clowns, jesters, babies, and soldiers, all with teeth, slinging knifes, and spine-chilling dead eyes that pierce your soul. Although the film maintains a slasher movie tension at times, it possesses the feel of a fairy tale that while being completely absurd has an underlying moral lesson to tell, perhaps something about the retaining the innocence of childhood. There’s good interaction between Judy and Ralph and there’s subtle humor to counterbalance the horror of the dolls stalking the hallways with butcher knives at the ready.

The evil doll sub-genre often gets little respect, Chucky not withstanding. But Dolls surpasses Chucky, Puppet Masters, and similar fare by its tone, fun-loving weirdness, wonderful characters, and stylish approach.

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