They walk. They talk. They kill.
Year of Release: 1987
Running Time: 77 minutes (1:17)
Director: Stuart Gordon
Carrie Lorraine ... Judy Bower
Ian Patrick Williams ... David Bower
Carolyn Purdy-Gordon ... Rosemary Bower
Stephen Lee ... Ralph Morris
Guy Rolfe ... Gabriel Hartwicke
Hilary Mason ... Hilary Hartwicke
Bunty Bailey ... Isabel Prange
Cassie Stuart ... Enid
When David Bower, his wife Rosemary, and daughter Judy get stranded in a violent thunderstorm, they seek shelter in the only place they can find - a mysterious Gothic mansion inhabited by the haunting Hartwickes and thousands of seemingly harmless hand-made dolls. The storm has also brought a young businessman and two hitch-hiking punk rockers to the spooky "dollhouse." Once warm and dry, the group settles in for what they think will be a restful night. But later, the dolls come to life, attacking all but a lucky few. The Dolls want to play house... and after they're done, there may be no house left! These DOLLS mean business... deadly business.
Dolls, the movie that reminds us that when somebody that catches you rootin' around in their cellar in the middle of the night promptly invites you to spend the night, they probably don't have the most honorable of intentions. I couldn't count how many times this's happened to me, an it's always your standard Ed Gein, Buffalo Bill or Taylor Swift types that try this. The trick is to play along until you get in sight of a door an make like Usain Bolt after puttin' a well placed kick right in their junk. Yes, Taylor too. But enough about my weekend plans, we've got more pressing business here. Who do you spoze likes this one more than Guy Rolfe? Considering Guy made a career outta this kinda role after this one came out, I'd say the only guy that could enjoy it more is Waylon Smithers. Charming old house out in the middle of the moors where nobody can hear your leather S&M parties, filled to the brim with hundreds of beautiful hand crafted dolls an girlish glee. You guys that're leanin' back in your chairs right now an flexin' your biceps while you cross your arms need to get in touch with your feminine side once in a while. Think about it, gettin' all uncomfortable about this sorta thing, even though you're all too willin' to shower with other men at the gym? You may wanna think about that when I'm done talkin' about more important things. Seriously though, not only is it full of dolls, which Smithers craves more'n the other thing he craves, they're dolls that've been made into such as a result of not bein' gentile enough for civilized society. These dolls are every guy from high school that ever jerked off his leg warmers, dunked 'im in the drinkin' fountain an proceeded to snap welts all over 'im til he looked like Sabu. It's the ultimate combination of vengeance and comfort. Like gettin' chased around by angry geese that're nippin' you right in the hind end til you can finally get ahold of your 12 gauge an make pillows out of 'em. But anyway, you're probably thinkin' that since you've seen Puppet Master you don't even need this next part. Well think again. First you've gotta get yourself over there, wait in line, wait for your insurance company to reimburse you. Wait... no, that's dealin' with Diabetes without Liberty Medical. Forget that part, Wilford Brimley took over my psyche there for a minute but I'm okay now.
So anyway, first thing you may not realize, British toy soldiers won't even offer a blindfold to the condemned before an execution. The savages. Second, if smelling your wife's corpse makes you think you need a shower, you'll probably wanna consult a doctor, cause I don't think a healthy man can produce that kinda smell. A third, you know your music's pretty terrible when inanimate objects come to life just to destroy your boom box. But I think this movie was onto something BIG that could put an end to the debate over the death penalty forever. Something that could very well appease both sides and end the issue permanently. All we gotta do is find out what Guy Rolfe an Hilary Mason know about turnin' rotten people into dolls an PRESTO. Not only have you severely punished the criminals by makin' their physical stature match their societal stature, but you can close 70% of all the prisons since you can now fit about a hundred prisoners in every cell. And nobody was put to death. Then, once you've scared the bejezus outta 'em an made it clear that they're never gonna be a real boy ever again unless they earn their humanity back, you give 'em all away to orphanages so the little squealin' nasty kids got companionship an somethin' to wipe their noses on, an they're completely under your control. Course they'll need to check in with Raggedy Ann an Andy down at the parole board every now an then to make sure they're behavin' themselves, but that's no big deal. An of course, they're so small an delicate that without the aid of Guy Rolfe's hand carved doll sized implements of destruction, the kids just rip their arms off if they get outta line an use 'em as a fetch stick for the dog. You wanna be productive members of society again? Prove it. An maybe we won't stick you in the blender or drop you into the toilet tank to see how long you can tread water. I really aughta patent this idea, but then Guy an Hilary might turn me into a Malibu Stacy doll an give me to Smithers an the thought of that concerns me greatly, so lets just forget the whole thing. Also, I'm pretty sure somebody already thought of this cause all the sudden Teddy Ruxpin makes a lot more sense.
The movie begins with an extremely bitchy woman tryin' to run over a couple British whores wearin' goth makeup. Least I think they're wearin' goth makeup... they're Brits, it's hard to tell alright? People're so white they end up gettin' laundered with the sheets cause nobody can tell they're still in the bed. So anyway, the bitch gets the car stuck in the mud an makes her parasitic growth of a husband get outta the car so she can sling mud all over 'im til he looks like Arnold the Barbarian at the climax of Predator. He does it cause she's scarier than havin' to stop an ask for directions in rural West Virginia. I'm talkin' one look from this woman turns David Duchovny flaccid, scary. While he's gettin' spray painted like a truck stop toilet, the guy's daughter (Judy) keeps tellin' 'im to watch his fuckin' mouth around her so she won't pick up any bad language, an the bitch has to tell her to step off an get her own eunuch to degrade. So anyway, her man servant can't move the car an they have to abandon ship an head for drier ground cause it's rainin' hard enough that if they don't get to work buildin' an ark real quick like they're pretty much done for. Then the bitch throws the daughter's teddy bear into the woods cause it gives her cheap thrills in the panty region, only the bear hulks out, busts through its plush covering an goes Mental Ben on the parents til they're reduced to wimp steak with bitch-b-q sauce. Just a dream, unfortunately, and they trudge onward towards what appears to be Chateau Sawyer an start bangin' on the door. Leatherface can't hear much over his work though, so they have to sneak in through the cellar where they're discovered almost immediately by a couple old coots with Village of the Damned hair. Rather'n just shootin' 'em an makin' seat covers outta their hides, the old coots bring 'em upstairs an invite 'em to sit a spell an partake in some raccoon cutlets. Seems the old man (Gabriel) is a doll maker, an he's real concerned about Judy's lack of a doll an the fact that some girls don't like dolls at all an are allowed to play male sports. But when Judy tries to tell 'im that she had a doll until her soulless harpy bitch of a stepmother threw it into the woods the bitch kicks her an gives her the "you say another word an I'ma pound you into spam casserole" look cause apparently she's one of them bitches that's uncomfortable with strangers knowing she's a bitch. Only everyone already knows, cause she's got terminal bitch face an even the best plastic surgeons in all of Beverly Hills can't correct bitch face. Then the back door flies open an the two hobags that narrowly avoided gettin' skid marks all over their butt cheeks earlier step inside with their suck... I mean, good Samaritan.
So Gabe introduces everyone an gives Judy a Punch doll so he can get his gender roles realigned in his head an then shows everybody to their rooms. Once they're settled in, the chalk faced skanks start discussin' their plans to roll Ralph (the sucker) an get his car keys. Why they're goin' to so much trouble I'm not sure, cause Ralph seems like the kinda guy that's made it to 35 without seein' a boob an he'd probably just give 'em the car in exchange for 19 seconds of sex. Meanwhile, Gabe shows Judy an Ralph his workshop, an this room is just lousy with dolls. There's more dolls in here than there are starvin' people in North Korea. Ralph still likes dolls too, although I get the idea that his are kinda different, an he tells Gabe an Judy all about how his father used to tell 'im his toys were alive an that they'd have rowdy parties while he was sleepin' an it's about this point that Gabe an Judy decide to sleep with a claw hammer under their pillows. Elsewhere, Hilary (Gabe's wife) brings the scheming girls some towels an tells 'em their mascara's runnin' down into their shoes in case they feel like lookin' slightly less repulsive. Seriously, these are the kinda groupies that The Rolling Stones' roadies don't want anything to do with. Then the brazen girl of the pair (Isabel) starts askin' Hilary real inconspicuous questions about the value of things sittin' around the house an where the nearest pawn shop is til Hilary leaves an Isabel figures if they're gonna be able to afford enough makeup to continue lookin' like the Misfits' logo, they're gonna need to knock over the house. The other girl (Enid) doesn't think it's a very nice thing to do, but on the other hand she knows exactly how bad she looks without makeup an agrees to stay behind with the radio cranked to run interference. So while Isabel heads out with a big sack with a dollar sign on it slung over her shoulder, Judy's Dad's tellin' the bitch whatever he thinks'll help him score, despite the fact that stickin' his wang in her ice cave'll result in permanent frostbite of the penis. He's gonna dump Judy on her mother so they can run away together an be completely miserable, just like they always wanted. Elsewhere, Judy's readin' to her Punch doll when she decides to get up an find some water so she can get up a couple times every hour to pee in defiance of bedtime. Not far away, Isabel's found some nice sparkly things that she can kiester for safe keepin', only the dolls that're sittin' around keep givin' her the stink eye an movin' around when she ain't lookin'. After being given ample opportunity to put the sparklies back an do the right thing, the dolls are P.O.'d.
So they grab her by the ankles an drag her all over til she's got rugburn on both sides of her face an then they start chantin' "GROND" an rammin' her head into the baseboards til she looks like a paparazzo that got too close to Justin Bieber. Judy bears witness to her bein' drug off after they pummel her face into candied yams an tries to tell Dad an the bitch, but they don't believe her an the bitch has to restrain Dad from backhandin' her so hard her head spins around like Linda Blair by remindin' him that if he does that he's gonna cost her more money in his divorce settlement an she just might have to scissor off his cajones if that happens. So Judy goes an grabs Ralph's big toe while he's sleepin' an scares 'im so bad he makes a noise like somebody just ripped duct tape offa his scrotum. She tries the story out on him too but Ralph don't buy it neither, least not until he sees the plasma all over her slippers an after he whimpers an whines for a few minutes he finally mans up an follows Judy at a safe distance to the scene of the crime. Then their candles blow out an Ralph decides to take Judy upstairs with 'im for protection an so that if he accidentally wets 'imself he can pretend he did it on purpose to show Judy how there's no shame in bein' afraid. They don't see nothin' upstairs, but that's only cause they don't bother to turn the light on, an as they go to descend the stairs on their way out Ralph gets shanked right in the ankle an goes rollin' down the stairs like the boulder in Indiana Jones. Ralph's seen enough. Well, technically he ain't seen a goddamn thing, but that's not the point. He needs some grown ups so he don't have to spearhead this search party anymore. Dad's P.O.'d. Not only is Dad P.O.'d but he starts thinkin' Ralph might be a chester an tells 'im to get away from Judy cause he's got exclusive rights on her psychological traumatizin'. Then Enid comes out an she thinks Ralph sent Isabel to the big mosh pit in the sky so she don't wanna go lookin' with 'im either an Ralph just stands there like that kid that was always last to be picked for dodge ball. Then Judy runs off an Dad threatens to maim her Punch doll if she don't get her pigtails back here right the fuck now, only when he tries the doll seems to be made outta steel an pretty quick it gets P.O.'d an bites 'im before runnin' off. Elsewhere, Enid's gone back to her room so she can pace around an try to figure out what to do now that the brains of the operation is MIA til the radio is mercifully shoved offa the mantle an shatters like Humpty Dumpty on the floor an she gets this deer in headlights expression on her face an goes to find Isabel so she'll know what to think about all this. Then Judy comes to see Ralph while he's pourin' iodine in his stab wound an tryin' not to cry an Punch starts talkin' to 'im til he gets this look on his face like an alien just stepped outta the shadows an started slappin' an anal probe against the palm of its hand.
Meanwhile, the bitch is layin' in bed when what looks like a sea turtle migration starts comin' at her from under her covers, only when she draws 'em back she gets mugged by an army of action figures that start goin' to work on her with miniaturized knives, hacksaws, and claw hammers, an start committin' a serious Toolbox Murder. She crawls out into the hallway, but the little creeps've got some of the best field tacticians the Barbie infantry unit has to offer an she finds herself in an ambush situation with angry Cabbage Patch dolls closin' in on her from all sides. Realizing she's pretty much done for an that little else could be more appalling than havin' her society friends back home find out she was done in by a buncha Bratz action figures, she decides to take matters into her own hands an Supermans over the top of the advancing battalion, out the window, an splatters onto the cobblestone walkway below. Elsewhere, Edith sees Hilary headed down the hallway an hides, only she seems to be pushing something in a baby carriage an... oh dear. So Edith goes upstairs an finally finds Isabel, only she's bleedin' like Niagara Falls an she's got a Michael Myers mask on her face an can't seem to keep her eyeballs from fallin' out. About that time she gets attacked by a Lash LaRue action figure an she has to light 'im on fire with her Zippo and it is then that she realizes there's some serious Attack of the Puppet People shit goin' on here an starts kickin' their porcelain asses all over the attic. Then she stops for a moment an thinks, what would Devo do in this situation? So she takes off her belt an she whips 'em. WHIPS 'EM GOOD. She's crackin' that sombitch like a tiger trainer an snaps off wave after wave of plastic heads... that is until, the toy soldiers show up. They shoot first an ask questions later much like an NYC liquor store owner an it's not long before Enid gets G.I. JOWNED an flops down onto the floor leakin' like a busted radiator hose. While that's goin' on, Judy takes Ralph to see where the little people hang out, only the door slams shut behind 'em an the room's got approximately 759 dolls inside an they're all gigglin' like high school cheerleaders in sex ed class. Ralph's had just about enough stabbin' for one night, so he grabs Judy an goes Wreck-It Ralph on everything between him'n the door til they swarm all over 'im like Black Friday shoppers on a 32" LCD TV priced at $119.99 an Judy starts screamin' at 'em til they stop what they're doin' an start lookin' at each other like they're not sure if they really have to listen to her or not. Meanwhile, Dad goes to bed, only to find the bitch under the covers with her eyeball hangin' out an no matter what he does she just seems to keep wantin' to hug 'im. Which is even scarier than the fact that she's dead, cause that's about as normal as Rush Limbaugh advocatin' equal rights for gays. Back in the valley of the dolls, the lynch mob decides to let Ralph an Judy go, only by then Dad thinks Ralph killed the bitch an starts tryin' to play tee-ball with Ralph's head. But just before Dad can really swing for the fence, Punch appears an sticks a blow dart in his hand, signaling the big climactic battle of wits.
This, good people, is what you can accomplish if you truly give a damn about what you're doing, and not just making another big budget, soulless, bullshit blockbuster designed to put as many asses in the theater seats as possible. This movie gets pulled over an ticketed for bein' over the legal limit on charm. I can't think of any other movie that can approach the level of charm Dolls has. There's just something about it that makes it stand out from all the other Empire/Full Moon movies, which is a genuine compliment if you go back to a time when Full Moon wasn't trying to be the rich man's Troma. Which is a concept so paradoxical that it feels like your brain's gonna explode when you try to examine it, so I'd recommend not doing so. Sure, they made a couple stinkers, but they as a studio probably had the highest ratio of charming low budget cinema of any company in history. Dolls in particular just has such a bizarre atmosphere about it, which stems a great deal from its soundtrack which somehow manages to be both foreboding and cheerful, simultaneously. It's difficult to explain. Equally bizarre is how likable the "villains" are, and how they interact with all the different characters in the movie (I suppose one could consider the Dolls the actual villains, though I was referring to Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason, who make the Dolls). Once they've shown all the visitors to their rooms, they really don't have much screen time after that, but it is truly they who, more than any other characters, set the stage in spite of their lack of screen time. Additionally, the movie also has what you'd have to consider the perfect storm of Empire/Full Moon regulars working as part of the crew. The cream of the crop, as far as the usual suspects of the company are considered. Charles Band, of course, though his name is on pretty much everything they've ever done. Stuart Gordon directing, Brian Yuzna producing, Richard Band supervising the musical composition, and John Buechler and David Allen handing the special effects. That's a low budget dream team right there, this's a movie you've really got no choice but to watch if you're interested in Empire/Full Moon movies, or even low budget horror in general. Puppet Master gets all the fame, but this movie may be better than Puppet Master. That's a really close call, but I'll make it. Dolls is in fact, better than Puppet Master. Though maybe not Puppet Master II & III which are even better than the first. Even the IMDB doesn't show Dolls as having a failing grade, which pretty much requires an act of God when it relates to a low budget horror movie. It's still way lower than it aught be, but it's a start.
Alrighty, lets mash this thing's face with a sledgehammer an see what's inside. While it may not seem like there's a lot of plot from reading my description, it's not really the full picture because you don't get the full story until you watch it all the way through. There is in fact, a little bit of story to it. Not a whole lot, but it's more than just the bare minimum. They don't go into too much detail about how the Hartwickes do what they do, but I don't suppose it's not really all that important. Diagnosis; enjoyable, fun plot. The acting is great, with some seriously entertaining, over the top performances. Particularly from Ian Patrick Williams with the immortal "FUCK YOU CLOWNIE!" line. Equally entertaining, if in a completely different way is Bunty Bailey as the head punk rock goth hitchhiker, and of course, Hilary Mason as the kooky wife of Guy Rolfe whose always got an expression on her face like she just might lunge at your face an gnaw your cheek off. Carrie Lorraine is okay by child actor standards, an Carolyn Purdy-Gordon is a great bitch. Not too much of a list, but here's who matters and why: Ian Patrick Williams (Dire Wolf, Bad Channels, Robot Jox, Terrorvision, Re-Animator), Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (Snow White: A Deadly Summer, Fortress, The Arrival 1991, The Pit and the Pendulum 1991, Robot Jox, From Beyond, Re-Animator), Carrie Lorraine (Poltergeist II), Guy Rolfe (Puppet Master 3 - 5, Retro Puppet Master, The Bride), Hilary Mason (Meridian, Robot Jox, Don't Look Now), Bunty Bailey (Spellcaster). Bunty Bailey, you may also recognize, as the girl from the "Take on Me" video by A-ha.
The special effects are, by and large, great. The mangled face of Carolyn Purdy-Gordon with the eyeball hangin' out is lovely, as is Bunty Bailey's face after she gets battering rammed into the wall a half dozen times an starts lookin' like a rotten potato that got stepped on. But perhaps most impressive are the gunshot wounds inflicted upon Cassie Stuart, the little toy soldiers' guns go off and the blood packages burst together at just the right time, with a spectacular amount of blood spurting from every wound. It's a really, really well executed effect, that's really easy to screw up. Not much else besides those in the way of gore, the remaining special effects are stop motion animation. Stop motion never has and never will look smooth, but there are things you can do to minimize their awkwardness. Keeping the sequences short helps a great deal, just a second or two, then switch to some conventional puppet effects, then back again for the more intricate action effects that don't come across well when using puppets. Essentially, it's the same advice I'd give to anyone using CG. Use it if you must, not because you can. That said, I still like stop motion better than CG, but do recognize it as being a bit hokey. The shooting locations are phenomenal. The dark old house, which is a setting that's been done time and again in horror cinema, looks great. It's actually the same set they used for From Beyond, though that movie didn't utilize it as well. Though I suppose that's because most of the scenes shot in it for that movie were done during the day, where Dolls is shot almost entirely at night, which adds a great deal of atmosphere to a shooting location that was already going to bring a lot of atmosphere just on its own merit. Anyway, really nice looking old building with interesting architecture for people of the American persuasion, as it's different than what we're used to seeing. Kind of amusing, really. Dolls was shot in Italy, by mostly Americans, but was set in England. The soundtrack is fantastic. The opening theme that plays during the credits and during the closing credits is a really nice, atmospheric track that's not only effective on that level, but that just sounds nice to listen to. Richard Band's one fault, if you'd even consider it one, is that many of his soundtracks sound alike. You can always tell that it's one of his, though technically speaking he didn't compose this one. He was the "music supervisor." But anyway, you can definitely hear the similarities between it and the other Empire/Full Moon movies, particularly the Puppet Master series. Bottom line, extremely under rated, charming, fun movie that was a precursor to the Puppet Master series. Highly recommended.