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A Teenage boy with a passion for all things nerdy! Expect a lot of Doctor Who, Cult/Horror Movies, Literature and Novels, History, Comic Books and random thoughts. Posts published weekly on a Friday evening. DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the items reviewed on this site and i also do not own of the pictures (unless stated so). If you own one of the photos and wish for it to be removed contact me at this adress: Super.pig@live.co.uk. However all of the written work is my own and is protected under copyright law.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Dolls (1987)

I really was surprised to discover just how good Dolls was. I’ve never really been much of a killer doll fan, I mean I adore ventriloquist dummy movies like Dead Silence (2007) and Magic (1978) but movies where Childs toys run around trying to stab people? I always found it just a tad silly and not at all scary. Don’t get me wrong I love the odd one like Childs Play (1988) but there are not many others that float my boat. I was even more put off when I discovered Charles Band had some involvement with this one, I’ve tried again and again to get into Puppet Master (1991) among others, but I just can’t do it. So imagine my surprise then when Dolls turned out to be rather good, brilliant even. I just can’t understand why more people don’t talk about Dolls! Don’t get me wrong, it has its problems and it does lag in the middle, but it’s defiantly a great 80’s horror and stands up well next to director Stuart Gordon’s other works.

Dolls begins with a typical “Old Dark House” set up. A young American girl, Jude, is driving through the English countryside with her cruel step mother and father when a storm hits and they become stuck. Seeking shelter they come upon the home of an elderly doll making couple and are invited to spend the night until the storm clears. They are joined by a naive American called Ralph and two criminal female punk Rockers before the group retires to bed. However as the group sets down for the night, little do they realise that the dolls in the house have a habit of punishing adults who sin and make their way through the group one by one.

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”.

Killer Doll movies have quite often walked the line between comedy and horror, look at the latest Chucky movies for example. However Dolls surprised me as it’s the first movie I’ve reviewed in some time for this blog that actually managed to send a chill up my spine. The atmosphere for Dolls is wonderfully creepy. The house, the thunderstorm, I mentioned earlier that it began feeling like a 1930’s “Old Dark House” and in particular the catalyst for that whole sub genre The Old Dark House (1932). Although admittedly the filmmaker’s presentation of the English countryside has used some artistic license, it helps the surreal feel. We really get the impression that these people are trapped. Stuck in this house away from any help or assistance, an allusion is made once or twice that the characters feel like they have stepped into the past. Indeed, in places, this is what the film itself feels like. Don’t let the gothic cliché’s and homage’s fool you though, Dolls does not shy away from the gore even though it primarily relies on atmosphere. One of the most memorable scenes is where a character is physically transformed into a toy; we see every painful change as his body morphs in front of our eyes.

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.

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