Dolls takes place on a dark and especially stormy night. 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 accommodations, 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 maybe 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 d*ck, evil toys will come to life and kill you.” Gordon brilliantly brings the script to life and inspires respectable performances out of his entire cast. I am not always impressed with 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.
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 and don’t stop until the picture is over.
Though Dolls is much more lighthearted and whimsical than most of Stuart Gordon’s 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 a bit dated by today’s standards but a lot of hard work and talent went into creating them. The film uses stop motion to create the appearance of the toys coming to life. If Dolls were made today, it would likely have relied heavily on CGI and wouldn’t possess the same magical quality that it does having been made in 1987. While some of the effects used in Dolls don’t hold up (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 keep the viewer from appreciating the film.
Dolls is a whimsical fairy tale-infused horror film. If you haven’t had the pleasure of checking it out, give it a look!
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