Reviewed by Caitlyn Grey
What happens when a pair of thieves, a couple of rich, child-hating parents, and a child at heart all meet up by chance in an elderly couples’ forest home? Why, what else than all the toys coming to life and going on a murder-spree of course! This campy movie opens with two, Madonna-inspired 80s dressed hitchhikers almost getting run off the road by evil stepmother Rosemary Bowers (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon). As husband David (Ian Patrick Williams) watches some nasty clouds roll in from the passenger seat he suggests they pull over and wait for the storm to pass. Rosemary refuses and continues on down the forest backroad, but not for long. The family’s car finds itself in a flooded hole and unable to move any further. Fortunately for the Bowers family, there’s a home just a short walk from their car. Seeking coverage from the storm, they enter the house from an open cellar door. In the darkness of the overstocked basement, daughter Judy (Carrie Lorraine) gets her first glance at the killer dolls, who she refers to as ‘elves’ or ‘little people’ for the duration of the film.
Gabriel (Guy Rolfe) and Hilary Hartwicke (Hilary Mason) invite the family upstairs for a warm dinner. Over a pot bowl of warm soup, they explain they’re avid toymakers who decided to live here because the storms, which seems to bring an endless night, help with Gabriel’s creativity. The conversation is interrupted when the hitchhikers from earlier in the film and a man erupts through the kitchen door and asks for coverage from the storm. The Hartwickes graciously accept and show their guests to their rooms for the evening. Rosemary and David, who talk about sending Judy back home to her mother ASAP, are bunked across the hall from the young thieves, Isabel (Bunty Bailey) and Enid (Cassie Stuart), while Judy and Ralph (Stephen Lee) are bunked further down the hall. The terror in the house begins when Enid attempts to ransack the estate of their antiques but is interrupted by a swarm of dolls who beat her up and drag her up to the attic. Luckily for Enid, Judy was there to watch the whole thing. The only unfortunate thing is that, since Judy’s a kid with an active imagination, neither her parents nor Ralph believes her. That is, no one believed her until Ralph finds the trail of blood Judy was talking about. The rest of the night includes Judy and Ralph attempting to prove to the other that something terrible happened to Enid. For those who didn’t listen or didn’t believe them, a similar fate of Enid’s they shared.
While this movie has some laughable, comedic moments, overall I found this to be a great watch. I found myself totally immersed in the story from the time I read the synopsis until the credits rolled. Typically I’ll take a page of notes throughout a movie about characters, plot, development, memorable scenes, etc., but for Dolls, I completely forgot to take any notes. I loved watching the mechanics of the dolls and how each had their own personality. I thought that, in particular, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon did an incredible job in this role. Her acting skills and dedication to this role was superb in the sense that I had so much distaste for her any time she was on screen. On the other hand, I adored Stephen Lee’s character. What made his role of Ralph even better was that I afterward learned that he was encouraged to improvise many of the comedic moments I loved.
In terms of horror, I’d say this movie is safe for even the wimpiest of horror fans. With minimal jumpscares or suspense, this film lands pretty low on the scare scale. I did, however, find a few moments somewhat unsettling. However, depending on your thoughts for dolls, this movie could be utterly terrifying for you. The film is filled with scenes of eyes moving and facial expressions changing, which is pretty eerie in itself. Their movements don’t stop there. As expected in a killer doll film, the dolls move freely around the home of the toymakers once the sun goes down. This, again, could be eerie for people. Thankfully, though, the 80s animation dulls down the scare factor for this film. Taking the average of how scary I think this film is and how scary others who are scared of dolls may find it, I give it 2.5 out of 5 possessed dolls.
After watching Dolls, I can say that it’s quickly become a favorite of mine. I loved the premise of childhood hopes of toys coming alive at night actually come true. I also loved the underlying theme of maintaining childhood as an adult. It was brought up several times throughout the film that children, at one point, has to grow out of toys and their imagination. This principle is strictly enforced by abusive father David but contradicted by Gabriel and Ralph. I can say that this film made me want to bring out my old toys and play with them, just to let them know I’m still a child at heart so they wouldn’t turn on me. With this movie being much more than a story about possessed dolls, I’d say this is a must-see for those lovable campy horror movies. Overall, I’d give Dolls 4 out of 5 stars.
Caitlyn Grey is a horror and suspense author who loves all things creepy. Her first novel, Lost Girls, debuted early this year, with a second novel expected to be released this upcoming fall. As a lover of what most would find obscure, Grey prides herself on her unique and quirky personality. She credits her love for all things horror and paranormal to all of the Stephen King, Wes Craven, and Edgar Allan Poe works she started experiencing at the tender age of eight. While most children her age were playing with friends, she was making up stories of shadow figures appearing at the foot of a child’s bed in the middle of the night. The rest, as the story goes, is history. Now, fifteen years later, Grey has devoted her life to scaring the next generation, as her idols had for her.
Categories: Film Reviews