Dolls takes place on a dark and especially stormy nigh. The film finds an eclectic group of people taking refuge from the storm at the home of a seemingly sweet but ultimately creepy older couple. The husband and wife duo reveal to their houseguests that they are toymakers and then show their visitors to their rooms. Everything seems to be in order at first but shortly after retiring to their rooms, the stranded houseguests discover that everything is not as it seems. Toys begin to come to life and they don’t want to play…they want to kill.
Dolls was written by Ed Naha (Troll 1986) and directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator). Naha’s script is inventive and effectively spins somewhat of a modern fairy tale for adults and children that are old enough to understand the difference between fantasy and reality. The moral of the story seems to be: “If you grow up to be a dick, evil toys will come to life and kill you.” Gordon brilliantly brings the script to life and coaxes fairly respectable performances out of his entire cast. I don’t normally care much for child actors but have to say that Carrie Lorraine did a great job of carrying much of the film as young Judy. Stephen Lee was also a great asset to the picture as the young at heart Ralph.
Related: A Very Good Head on His Shoulders: Revisiting Re-Animator
Dolls is fast paced; it doesn’t spin any excessive backstory for the majority of its characters but those that are important to the outcome are given enough background to make the audience relate to them. The action never ceases; the scares start early on in the film and don’t stop until it’s over.
Though Dolls is much more lighthearted and whimsical than most of Stuart Gordon’s other work, it is still an extremely enjoyable and very fun film. As always, Gordon understands the importance of atmosphere and does a great job of creating a spooky and ambient feel to the film.
The effects in Dolls are very dated by today’s standards but a lot of hard work and talent went into creating them. The film uses stop motion liberally to create the appearance of the toys coming to life. If Dolls were made today, it probably would have relied heavily on CGI and would not possess the same magical quality that it does having been made in 1987. While some of the FX used in Dolls do not really hold up over time (like the scene where one of the characters is transformed into a replacement for the toy he destroyed) these instances of antiquated techniques are not so bad as to derail the film or keep the viewer from appreciating it.
Dolls is a fast paced, whimsical, fairy tale infused horror film If you haven’t had the pleasure of checking it out, give it a look. Dolls is currently out of print on DVD and commanding nearly $40 for a bare bones copy. The price is only going to go up from there, so if you are a collector, make sure to get ahold of a copy before it is commanding a king’s ransom.
Director(s): Stuart Gordon
Writer(s): Ed Naha
Stars: Guy Rolfe, Stephen Lee, Hilary Mason, Carrie Lorraine
Studio/ Production Co: Empire Pictures
Length: 77 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Satanic Toys