Stuart Gordon’s Dolls is classified as one of my specific triggering films from when I was a wee Manster. Watching it today shines new light on the bad acting from most parties involved but in turn gives me ‘Nam flashbacks to hiding under the covers in terror. The dolls are still extremely creepy today and the archaic stop-motion shots add a dated, unsettling lens to top it all off.
A family is stranded in a toymaker’s old, creepy house when a storm disables their car. A travelling man-child and his two new sleazy acquaintances accompany them. The toymaker (Guy Rolfe) and his wife (Hilary Mason) are nice enough at first, but when their generosity is tested, things start to come alive. Those things being dolls. That’s why that’s the title.
Rolfe did well in this role, so much so when the casting for the master of puppets in Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (another one of Charles Band’s productions featuring pint-sized terrors) came around, he was offered the role from then on for that franchise. He has a nice chemistry with the child actor Carrie Lorraine, who’s only other film credit is from Poltergeist II. Lorraine’s sweet, innocent Judy is the other high point of Dolls‘ slim pickings of dramatics. The way the toymaker teaches Judy lessons during the film gives his character a half Mr. Rodgers, half Jigsaw quality.
Dolls won’t most likely won’t impress your friends in this day and age, but if you yourself are predisposed to hiding from half-height-horrors, then this movie might scare the stuffing out of you. This might be the first film where I can see the wire work but I still believe the evil things are coming to get me. So grab your young one who thinks they’re not afraid of anyone and show them this sucker. Just make sure you check the usual MDHS’s* around your house first.
4 *Murderous Doll Hiding Spots out of 5
BONUS REVIEW (MM 2018)
HELL HOUSE LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel
Forgive me for not getting too much into this next film because, by chance, I am ending up reviewing the series in reverse with years in between viewings. I do remember liking this second installment into the Hell House LLC franchise, not as much as the first but more than the third. The ending was kind of lame but the overall cleverness of stretching a five minute 11 o’clock news tragedy into three feature films is commendable. Even when the plot runs thin, at least they try to shake things up. If you enjoyed the first foray into The Abaddon Hotel, where we saw a professional Halloween holiday haunting troop succumb to true evil, then watching thrill seekers break into the closed attraction to drudge up the sinister past is worth it.
3 final Vines made on haunted grounds out of 5
BONUS REVIEW (MM 2019)
(Poster enlarged to show detail)
Speaking of chance, I can’t believe after just discovering it is Guy Rolfe (see above) who portrayed Mr. Sardonicus, the horror gods made last year’s MASSACRE MARATHON movie align PERFECTLY with Dolls to the day! Yes, one of Rolfe’s other well known roles happens to be the titular character. A younger Rolfe brings great energy to this disfigured man who has one foot in the grave towards becoming a ghoul. Mr. Sardonicus is another of my favorites on my short but ever-growing list of black-and-white films. Not much action, although it’s not needed due to the engrossing story. A fairy tale to scare you straight and hopefully you don’t get stuck like that!
4 ghastly grins out of 5
P.S. William Castle says, “Don’t forget to vote!”