Friday, October 1, 2010

Movie Review: 'Dolls' (1987)

By Ryan Clark

Dolls is another one of those movies that I always saw on display at the video store when I was a child, but I never bothered to rent it. I saw parts of the movie on TV once, but I wasn't really paying attention. Well, I finally got around to watching it, and at 77 minutes, it was an enjoyable, fast-paced fantasy horror film that I enjoyed tremendously.

Of course, it helps that it was directed by Stuart Gordon, who is the master of light-hearted, yet gruesome horror-comedies like Re-Animator and From Beyond. I even liked Castle Freak (yeah, yeah). So why did it take me so long to watch Dolls? I really don't know, other than the fact that the premise of killer toys was never that appealing to me. Oh sure, I loved Child's Play, and later on I got around to renting Dolly Dearest and I had fun with that, too, but Dolls just didn't capture my attention... until now.

I'm glad I saw this film because it taught me a very important lesson: If I should ever buy a car, and if I'm driving around and see a couple of punk girls with British accents hitch-hiking, NEVER pick them up. They will invariably scheme to steal my money while I'm sleeping, and then attempt to loot the creaky old house we're staying the night in because my car broke down. And then, of course, they will get murdered by dolls. So, when I see these girls on the side of the road, I will just drive right on by.

Anyway, it's nice to have Dolls under my belt at last. Especially because it helped me to realize what an amazing presence Carolyn Purdy-Gordon is. She's the director's wife so he usually manages to give her a part in his projects, but she always stands out because of her unique face and voice, and because she plays a bitch so, so well.

And oh yeah, that one British punk girl? She graced the back of the VHS box, arm extended, face bleeding, and when I was younger for some reason I thought she was a doll. Nope, she just looks like one naturally. Well, she does end up getting turned into a doll later.

Another welcome performer is Hilary Mason, who was the weird, blind sister in Don't Look Now and the housekeeper in I Don't Want to Be Born (aka The Devil Within Her, The Monster, Sharon's Baby, Awful Movie, etc). She's perfect in this role as the creepy wife of toymaker Guy Rolfe (who also played a toymaker in Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge -- go figure!).

Despite Dolls' quirky tone, one scene stands out as particularly frightening to me, even if the rest of the film isn't. The stepmother has just been murdered and her husband settles into bed beside her dead body. She's covered with a sheet, so he doesn't realize that his beloved has just been slaughtered by angry dolls. We, however, do know it, and the filmmakers included a nice touch as a wink to the audience: A spot of blood on the sheet that keeps getting bigger and bigger. We've yet to see what she looks like under there, but we can probably guess.

As much fun as cinematic gore can be, sometimes it's true that what you don't see is the most terrifying.

Also, it's a good thing I never saw this film when I was younger, because the scene where the dad turns into a Punch doll would have flipped me out, much like the Annie-Ross-turns-into-a-robot-with-a-fright-wig scene in Superman III, only not... as... scary.

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