This isn’t one of Stuart Gordon’s better films, but it does contain
some very enjoyable moving doll effects.
Stuart Gordon directed this film (with longtime
producing partner Brian Yuzna) for Charles Band’s Empire Pictures back
in 1987, and shot it back to back with
FROM BEYOND, utilizing the same sets.
The script was by Ed Naha, who knocked it off following
TROLL (an Empire
production directed by John Carl Buechler, a special effects supervisor
on DOLLS). Apparently there was a proposed sequel to DOLLS that never
came to fruition (dry your eyes), although Mr. Band did turn out
a slew of doll-themed horror flicks--PUPPETMASTER, DOLLMAN, DEMONIC
TOYS, DOLLMAN VS. DEMONIC TOYS, BLOOD DOLLS, WHEN PUPPETS AND DOLLS
ATTACK, DOLL GRAVEYARD, etc--and middling though DOLLS is, it’s still
very likely the best of the lot. No, I haven’t actually sat through all
those films, but I’m confident that DOLLS is superior to BLOOD DOLLS and
WHEN PUPPETS AND DOLLS ATTACK!
During a road trip through the English countryside the
young Judy, her father and bitchy stepmother find themselves stranded
near a deserted castle. The place is owned by Gabriel, an ancient
toymaker, and his wife, who kindly allow Judy and her folks to stay the
night. Before long, however, they’re joined by two punk chicks and a
nerdy salesman named Ralph. Gabriel allows them to stay in different
rooms of the castle, all packed with creepy dolls--which are alive and
homicidal. It seems the dolls are actually flesh and blood people who’ve
been killed, reanimated and shrunk to doll size…a fate awaiting
Gabriel’s present guests!
The first guest to be tormented by the living dolls is
one of the punk gals, who gets her head banged repeatedly into a wall.
Judy witnesses the killing and tells her folks about it, but they won’t
listen and so she informs the more sympathetic Ralph. He accompanies her
on an exploration of the castle’s corridors and winds up being accused
of the crime.
More killings follow: Judy’s stepma is harassed by the
dolls until she jumps out a window, and the surviving punk gal is shot
to death by a toy soldier firing squad. This leaves Judy, who survives
because she’s a child, and Ralph, who’s spared because he’s a child at
This film is the very definition of a “quickie.”
It’s underscripted and perfunctory, with quite a few missed
opportunities. Promising elements like a
dolls-squirming-under-bed-sheets gag are lessened, if not outright
ruined, by Stuart Gordon’s by-the-numbers direction. He doesn’t seem to
have cared much for the material, and the same is likely true of
screenwriter Ed Naha, who provides little in the way of mystery or
genuine invention (much less narrative energy or character development)
in his perilously thin script, which doesn’t develop its killer doll
concept much beyond the obvious.
Yet the film is fun to watch for one reason and one
reason only: the dolls! Brought to life via puppeteering and old school
stop motion, the film’s many killer dolls are a sight to behold, and
work largely because of the old fashioned special effects methodology.
In other words, there are no digital effects in this film and it’s all
the better for it!
Director: Stuart Gordon
Producer: Brian Yuzna
Screenplay: Ed Naha
Cinematography: Mac Ahlberg
Editing: Lee Percy
Cast: Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams,
Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Cassie Stuart, Bunty Bailey, Carrie Lorraine