I suppose a big part of the appeal of Dolls is it’s fairytale like quality. The plot has very much the feel of a Brothers Grimm tale complete with wicked stepmother, magic and a child as the protagonist. Carrie Lorraine’s performance as Judy (the aforementioned child) really is incredible. When a film relies so much on a child actor to drive the plot forward, particularly a horror movie, I always have my doubts. Child actors have a habit of being the most cringe worthy things on the planet. When a scene is supposed to be horrific or disturbing they sometimes struggle to convey their emotions in a way that is effective. Lorraine has none of these problems, she’s likeable and her reactions are realistic and compelling. Indeed Lorraine’s is not the only noteworthy performance in Dolls. Guy Rolfe as Gabriel the Doll Maker is a scene stealing performance. Rolfe would later take on the similar role of Andre Toulon in the Puppet Master films but personally I prefer him as Gabriel. He has great chemistry with Lorraine and their scenes together are some of the best in the movie, particularly when Gabriel is telling her about “The longest night in the world”.
I did mention though that Dolls does have one or two very very small problems. The most irritating of these is that it lags noticeably in the middle. There’s a large section where Jude and Ralph are wandering round the house together and Ralph keeps getting the blamed for the disappearance of one of the Punk Girls and for having paedophilic tendencies towards Jude. When the rest of the movie is clever and sometimes subtle in its little shocks and scares, well this just came across as predictable and silly. It would of also have been nice to maybe of had some more of Gabriel and his wife in this segment, just to break things up a bit.
For fans of 80’s horror and especially those with a love for the Killer Doll/ toy sub genre I really can’t recommend Dolls enough. It’s well acted, well written, stylish and slick. There’s a good helping of gore and fantastically creepy atmosphere as well. The Dolls themselves are impressive and a great deal more terrifying than any of Charles Bands other Tiny Terrors, having both moments of comedy but being frightening at the same time. Dolls is something of a lost classic and one that I suggest you track down.