I am a longtime Demonic Toys fan. It’s hard not to be, admittedly, when you’ve written a book about Puppet Master. I’ve always thought the two franchises complement each other in interesting ways. Whereas Puppet Master always delivered a bit more than what was promised by the VHS art—be it the surreal, Italian influenced original, the Gothic throwback of the second or the earnest war movie of the third—Demonic Toys was exactly what it promised, no more, no less. As such, I’ve always had a soft spot for it. Having said that, it’s one of the weirder franchises around, given that it consists of the original, two crossovers, only one direct sequel and now a streaming spinoff series. I never got the chance to review the first season of Baby Oopsie, but I was pretty vocal about how much I dug it, to the point of thinking it might, in terms of objective quality, be the best entry in the series. It was maybe for the first time a bit more than was promised by the cover art or title. That first season was simply a total surprise. Baby Oopsie is like a Demonic Toys movie through the lens of Lucky McKee, with a dash of John Waters. The plot revolves around doll enthusiast Sybill Pittman, who hosts a YouTube series in which she restores classic toys. She gets the Baby Oopsie doll in the mail, it comes to life, and begins to, as she describes in season two, “kill her haters.”
The second season, Baby Oopsie: Murder Dolls discards the more May-esque elements to fully wallow in that John Waters energy (especially in what I’ll just call the “step on me” scene) but with writer/director/producer William Butler’s signature style at the helm. Butler is at his best as a director when he is completely unrestrained to go as weird and wild as possible. For example, take Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust, probably Full Moon’s best movie of the ’00s, which was simultaneously a brutal sendup and a wholehearted celebration of Full Moon’s entire moviemaking style. Much of that energy is channeled into Murder Dolls.
This season sees Sybil continue to struggle against the foul-mouthed Baby Oopsie, who has now received two new playmates in the form of a clown and a cowboy, as well as Sybil’s best friend Ray-Ray, who has been possessed by demons and is seeking to unleash (what else) Toy Hell. A major toy company CEO has sent an operative to convince Sybil to sell the evil toys for mass production, and the cops are beginning to suspect Sybil’s involvement in Oopsie’s murders. Guided by the Force Ghost of her verbally abusive stepmother, Sybil seeks to convince a priest she’s telling the truth about these killer dolls, so that they can bring a stop to a baby doll’s reign of terror.
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Like the first season, the success of Baby Oopsie: Murder Dolls lies mostly in the performance of lead actor Libbie Higgins. She plays perfectly to the tone and nails the humor, but on top of that, she gives a genuine performance, one unexpected for a series about a killer doll. The situation is heightened, the tone is often absurd, but Sybil’s loneliness and desperation are very real and are portrayed as such. Sure, the budgets for Full Moon movies and series are as low, if not lower, than ever. But in that micro budget territory, Butler has tapped into the absolute core of exploitation cinema: taking people and stories that are overlooked by the studio system, and letting them take center stage, making them the stars without speaking down to anyone’s experience in the process. They’re simply the protagonists, and a film like this is all the better and more interesting for it.
That’s not to say everything works across the board. Not every joke lands, to be sure. Some jokes are just dated pop culture references, and while that’s something I absolutely condone, sometimes just saying the line is the entirety of the joke. The humor is at its best when wallowing in its tasteless absurdity. And even as good as the second season is, it can’t quite recapture the magic of seeing this approach to Demonic Toys that the first one brought. Nonetheless, it is for sure an admirable follow-up.
While I wanted to remain as spoiler-free as possible going into this review, there is a major spoiler I simply have to discuss. I love Ghoulies II. It’s one of my favorite films of the Empire Pictures era, definitely my favorite Ghoulies, and I’ve been saying for years that I wish another movie would take the ingenious approach of summoning a big monster to eat the little monsters. Well, I found myself on the verge of cheering alone in my apartment as the Toymaster was summoned from the depths of Hell and proceeded to chow down on Baby Oopsie and her Murder Doll playmates. Not only that, the creature FX in that scene, particularly the design of that monster, are some of the best I’ve seen from Full Moon in a long time. The whole sequence has to be a specific and obvious homage to that movie, as writer/director William Butler was actually in Ghoulies II.
I don’t think, ultimately, that Baby Oopsie: Murder Dolls clears the bar set by its predecessor, but I am completely on board with its lunacy, nonetheless. Between these two seasons of Baby Oopsie and my very vocal support of Blade: The Iron Cross, I think that Full Moon’s “spinoff era” of the 2020s is proving a huge step up from the 2010s. At the very least, this is a new, more creatively interesting era, one that is already portraying stories that feel truly different for the first time in a long time. It’s interesting that after building up so many of their own new franchises through the 2000s and trying new things (even found footage) that going back to the well of their classic franchises and giving them a new lens would be the thing to push the studio into new territory.
Another (possible) spoiler, but this season seems to suggest that there may be spinoffs for the other Demonic Toys in the pipeline. I hope that happens, and I especially hope that after Blade and Doktor Death, the Puppet Master franchise sees the same treatment. This current phase of Full Moon reminds me what it was like to eat these movies up as a kid, and Baby Oopsie combines that with my love of classic exploitation and weirdo fringe cinema as an adult.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director: William Butler
Writer: William Butler
Stars: Libbie Higgins, Justina Arminstead, Elissa Dowling
Release Date: August 12, 2022
Runtime: 85 minutes