A group of people find themselves abandoned in a strange mansion in the middle of a storm. One by one people go missing under mysterious circumstances. Sound familiar?
The above premise has been used in many horror movies over the years, but how many times have dolls been used as the antagonist in them? Well if you’ve seen any more of Charles Band’s movies then you may be familiar with that concept; ‘Puppetmaster‘ (plus its sequels) and ‘Demonic Toys’ all used seemingly innocent playthings as the killers. The theme of dolls was even used when Tim Thomerson crashed to earth and was ‘Dollman‘.
I’ll admit right now that I’ve always been a fan of Charles Band and Empire Pictures, though I can appreciate why their movies may not appeal to everyone. The budgets were low, the effects were hit and miss and the acting would never win any awards, but despite all that I always found them very enjoyable.
‘Dolls‘ main story thread is focused on Judy (Carrie Lorraine), a 7 year old girl who is visiting her father and stepmother for the summer; neither of whom particularly like her. Due to car problems the three of them find themselves at an old mansion owned by doll makers Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke. Making up the numbers (or should that by potential victims?) are Ralph (Stephen Lee) and his two obnoxious British hitch hikers; Isabel and Enid.
It doesn’t take long before proceedings take a turn for the worse, dolls come alive and blood starts to flow. I’ll not spoil the movie by saying who lives or dies but I doubt you’ll be surprised at who eventually becomes a victim.
At a lean 77 minutes in length ‘Dolls’ doesn’t outstay its welcome and it constantly entertained me from beginning to end. I love the way the dolls are animated; a mixture of stop motion, wires (that you can usually see), and good old fashioned ‘film crew holding them and moving them about’. The blood may not look realistic but there’s a fair bit of it splattered throughout…much better than current CGI blood in my opinion.
As I stated at the beginning of the review, Empire Films output are something that you will either embrace or avoid. I feel blessed that I embrace them and I certainly enjoyed revisiting this one. I haven’t watched it since owning it on VHS and 101 Films have released a Blu-ray that looks excellent.
Director and writer commentary: Stuart Gordon and Ed Naha give a lively commentary that is both informative and humorous. They have an obvious love of the movie and are not adverse to poking fun at it while also giving some great background information on what it was like on location at the time.
Review by Dave (co-host of 80’s Picture House) from a disc kindly supplied by 101 Films.