A Movie A Day: DOLLS (1987) Toys are very loyal and that is a fact.
Published at: Oct. 23, 2010, 6:55 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next installment of A Movie A Day: Halloween 2010 edition!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf or streamed via Netflix Instant and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
I’d love to think of this movie as an another tale going on in the Toy Story universe. The legends are basically the same: What if dolls came alive at night when you weren’t looking?
And these toys are fiercely loyal, like the toys in Toy Story, so there’s that, too. Very similar… Except instead of Woody scaring Sid at the end of the first Toy Story he would have more likely stabbed him in the back and dragged him screaming around his house.
I was absolutely in the mood to watch this fun movie. As you’ll notice this review is coming in rather late. I’ll spare you the boring details, but let’s just say after two consecutive days of being awake 24-26 hours at a stretch I finally slept for 16 hours straight. I didn’t intend to, but sleep I did. So late in fact that I almost missed a birthday dinner with my mother, which was immediately followed up by a midnight movie with another friend celebrating her own birthday.
I didn’t get home until after 3am and immediately sat down to watch Stuart Gordon’s DOLLS, produced by Mr. Brian Yuzna and Charles Band. I was definitely in the mood for a fun movie and fun this movie is.
Is it ridiculous? Yeah, you bet, but you know what? The characters realize how ridiculous this situation is and comment on it multiple times, so you have no choice but to dive in with them.
Remember when these cheapo horror movies could still have some smart directing, scripting and production value? Now Sy-Fy channel garbage is what we get for low budget schlockers. Where has the attention to quality gone?
I know it’s silly to talk about a Charlie Band movie centered on killer living dolls as a mark of quality, but the flick really is well put together. Remember back to Charles Band’s earlier movies, like Puppet Master. They used to be good. Now Full Moon can take a brilliantly cheesy and fun idea like GINGERDEAD MAN starring Scary Busey and make it an unwatchable movie that looks like it was made by window-licking mongoloids.
With a heavy influence on a fairy tale like quality DOLLS was a pleasant surprise. Knowing that Stuart Gordon directed it led me to believe it was going to be harsher. Don’t get me wrong, there’s tons of blood in the flick, but also an odd sense of morality.
Really, the only people that get killed and turned into dolls are people that really, really deserved it.
Basically you have a family with car trouble in a storm that find their way to a creepy old house. An elderly couple meets them and there’s something off about them. The man (Guy Rolfe) is a toymaker and his wife (Hilary Mason) looks very grandmotherly, but something’s off. I think it was lack of any kind of make-up with a hint of insanity in her eyes that make the eerie vibe come alive.
The family is dysfunctional to say the least. Keeping in fairy tale tradition you have a wicked stepmother (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon) who is cold as ice and a huge cunt to boot (and I don’t use that word lightly). The father isn’t that much better. In fact he’s kind of worse. He feels stuck with his daughter (Carrie Lorraine) after a nasty divorce and just wants to wine and dine his rich lady-friend.
The little girl has a vivid imagination and even dreams up her teddy coming alive and killing her parents in the early scene that gave me the first impression that I was gonna really like this movie. I mean it’s a giant teddy bear that rips apart to reveal a malicious evil bear monster that eats the wicked stepmother and slashes apart the asshole dad.
Of course that’s all in her head, but her vivid imagination doesn’t dream up what actually happens once they get in the house.
My favorite character, by far, is another traveler who shows up with a pair of annoying British Punk girls. This traveler is an everyman, a chubby dude who is nice and polite isn’t above screaming obscenities when he sees a doll walk on its own. Stephen Lee plays this character and he stole the movie for me.
You always have a secret desire to see people in a horror movie realize they are in a horror movie and want to just fucking leave and that’s this dude. He doesn’t ignore the signs of a horror story starting and just wants to get the fuck out.
But he’s also a child at heart, something that saves him after he freaks out and kicks at a few of these dolls. They begin to kill him, but the little girl, who makes an instant friend out of him, stops them and the dolls have a conference between themselves to figure out if he’s a child at heart or not. If he is a good person they will let them go. If not, murder and eventual transformation into one of them.
Which is pretty fucking creepy, by the way. When one of the punk chicks decides to go on a stealing rampage all throughout the house she is attacked by something off camera, dragged around, rammed into a wall a few times and then pulled, screaming, into the attic. Strong fuckin’ dolls, right?
But that’s not where it ends. A character later goes up to the attic looking for her and we see that she’s beginning to turn into a doll. She’s still human-sized, but has a doll face which is gloriously upsetting.
They execute the dolls as a combination of low-budget animatronics and stop motion. I love the old days and the old ways. So much more convincing than badly comped in Playstation 1 looking CG.
Final Thoughts: DOLLS’ dark fairy tale aspect mixed with some surprising sharp character writing, fun effects and gore make a movie that really stands above the type of film you might expect from this era, with this subject matter. If you haven’t seen it, add it to your Netflix Instant queue and have some fun!
Currently in print on DVD: YES Currently available on Netflix Instant: YES
Upcoming A Movie A Day Titles:
Saturday, October 23rd: SILENT SCREAM (1980)
Sunday, October 24th: SCREAM OF FEAR (1961)
Monday, October 25th: THE MEPHISTO WALTZ (1971)
Tuesday, October 26th: THE OMEN III: THE FINAL CONFLICT (1981)
Wednesday, October 27th: THE EVIL (1977)
Thursday, October 28th: THE DEVIL DOLL (1936)
Friday, October 29th: DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1981)
I’m gonna do my best to get caught up and have the next AMAD to you before midnight tonight. The flick is called Silent Scream. See ya’ then!
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