Before even watching a second of the 1987 horror, Dolls there are a few reasons to get excited. First it was directed by Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator and From Beyond fame. Then its producers were Charles Band and Brain Yuzna. The former responsible for Full Moon Pictures which brought us the Puppet Master franchise and the latter directed Society, Beyond Re-Animator, Bride of Re-Animator and Return of the Living Dead 3.
Those three alone should get you very excited for Dolls. A cheesy, silly, gory, inventive and extremely entertaining horror movie.
A group of strangers all end up at a remote mansion following a horrendous thunderstorm. The group are made up of a young girl, Judy (Carrie Lorraine), her father David (Ian Patrick Williams) and her stepmother, Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy Gordon). David can barely stand the sight of his daughter and Rosemary is desperate to ship the little girl back to her mother in Boston. The pairs disdain for the child is not exactly hidden either, something that makes the friendly Ralph (Stephen Lee) very uncomfortable.
Then we have the two 80’s Madonna-style punk rockers who were hitchhiking and also ended up at the mansion. The group are warmly welcomed by the owners, an elderly couple called Gabriel (Guy Rolfe) and Hilary Hartwicke (Hilary Mason). The pair are friendly and kind, willing to allow each guest to stay the night until the thunderstorm passes but their interests mostly lie in Judy.
The house is decorated with dolls and toys which fascinates the little girl and Gabriel reveals that he is a toy maker. It’s all a bit odd no matter how friendly and warm the elderly couple appear.
These dolls and toys are special though. They’re alive, something the strangers are going to find out as the longest night of the year begins.
It’s easy to draw comparisons to the likes of the Puppet Master franchise but Dolls has a fair few twists and turns along the way that makes it stand out. Early on it shows you just what kind of film it is as Judy imagines her toy bear coming to life, transforming into a huge beast and tearing her father and stepmother apart. All done with glorious practical effects. A staple of all involved and it makes it a far more enjoyable watch. Even the stop motion animation looks good.
Dolls has a serious fairy-tale feel about it and the imagery and acting really adds to that. The mansion looks magnificent and the actors were clearly told to ham it up. This is the kind of movie where everyone seems to having fun and while a lot of the dialogue might make you cringe it fits these wacky and over the top characters.
It’s not perfect, there are a number of occasions where it slips into repetitiveness and the big reveal in the end is very predictable. However, it’s a lovingly crafted horror from an era that was willing to take risks.
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The Final Score - 7/10