I’m not sure I understand Charles Band’s obsession with tiny terrors, other than they’re much more cost effective to film. I’m assuming. “Dolls” is a fun precursor to the “Puppet Master” movies that mixes fantasy, comedy, and horror altogether to compose some kind of twisted meta-horror film about a little girl whose daily monsters begin turning in to actual monsters without her realization. Director Stuart Gordon’s horror fantasy moves along at a brisk pacing, making the best out of its minuscule budget, and transforming its house of dolls in to a house of terrors.
There are even some moments of surrealism, including Judy imagining her lost teddy bear mutilating her mother and father, and a man transforming in to a doll. But that’s only a tip of the iceberg in to the unusual oddities found in Stuart Gordon’s genre mix. Young Judy, her mean father, and obnoxious stepmother are stranded in the English countryside and take refuge in an old mansion that’s been decorated with dolls. Its caretakers, the Hartwickes, delight in curating and creating one of a kind dolls, and invite the trio of stranded travelers to stay the night. Just then, two loud British punk rockers and a businessman named Ralph stop by, stranded, and are offered lodgings from the rain. Over the course of the night, the group are haunted and hunted by the caretakers’ twisted dolls, all of whom possess demonic powers, and the ability to punish people they think needs it.
“Dolls” is a unique horror fantasy, and though it can never decide what kind of movie it wants to be, it still comes out a fun and creepy little tale of comeuppance. Carrie Lorraine gives a solid performance as child Judy, who witnesses the terror, and keeps her childhood love for toys as a means of winning the favor of the dolls. As well as the Hartwicke’s. The late Stephen Lee gives a spirited performance as the comedy relief, who approaches every terror with a howl or screech, and also has his own journey to find his inner child. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Guy Rolfe, and Hilary Mason, both of whom are excellent anti-heroes as the Hartwicke’s, a couple prone to giving people what they deserve with their own magic and twisted punishments. “Dolls” is a special artifact from the Charles Band library, and one I intend to catch again.
The Blu-Ray from Scream Factory includes “Toys of Terror: The Making of Dolls” a forty minute making of that is quite excellent. It features interviews, behind the scenes footage, and really provides insight in to the film’s creative premise. There’s a Theatrical Trailer, picture in picture Film to Storyboard Comparison, and a Still Gallery. Finally there’s an Audio Commentary by Director Stuart Gordon and Writer Ed Maha, and an Audio Commentary by Cast Members Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine, and Ian Patrick Williams, both of which vary in quality, the latter being the more interesting out of the pair.