- Movie Rating -

Dolls (1987)

| March 27, 1987

Scary dolls are really only scary when they are inactive.  There is something about their stillness, their frozen expression, the light cast on their plastic faces that makes them unsettling.  A lot of filmmakers don’t realize this.  When they charge forward and attack they look ridiculous.  A filmmaker has to be truly skilled to really make the attack effective.

That’s not to say that Stuart Gordon isn’t a talented filmmaker.  He’s a man who knows what he wants and gets it in spite of working through a budget that you could buy lunch on.  His films hit you in the guts with their trashiness.  He made Re-Animator which featured a severed head giving oral pleasure to his captive lover, and he made From Beyond, an inter-dimensional blood and guts geek show that has to be seen to be believed.

By comparison Dolls is almost civilized and that’s the problem.  Any horror director could have made this.  It doesn’t contain Gordon’s patented brand of weirdo theatrics.  Dolls is a killer doll movie but it doesn’t go far enough, it doesn’t contain that extra level of gore and blood and obscenity that we’re looking for.

The story involves a little girl on vacation with her parents.  The tension in the family is almost as violent and volatile as the storm that has blow up outside.  Its so bad that they are forced to pull off the road and take refuge in an old mansion whose inhabitance are an old dollmaker and his wife.

This set-up is really effective because we can feel Gordon building to something.  The dolls in the house are genuinely creepy, but only creepy when we’re not sure if they’ve moved or not.  When they attack, the spell is broken and the movie grows tiresome and silly.  Sure the movie is packed with his patented sleazo charm and the characters are entirely repulsive – with their hate-spewing, their puns, their double-entendres, but it is all for nothing because when the dolls attack it degenerates into a silly-looking bloodbath.  We are aware of the special effects and of the lack of logic in place.  There should be a magic spell that hangs over the film, but it doesn’t.  The magic of Gordon’s early work is not really here.


About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Horror