I'm sticking with G.I. Joes
I remember seeing a box for Dolls in my local video store. That first sentence probably doesn't make sense to anyone under 18. Well, back in the old day, people use to drive to a store that allowed them to rent videos and video games in exchange for money. Movies came on video cassettes and were played in a VCR (or Betamax if you were one of the 10 people to own one) This was before laptops and Netflix, and torrents. Now that I'm done with the old man talk, I remember seeing this movie in the store. It didn't particularly scare me, but it managed to stick with me all these years. It was finally time to watch Dolls.
Directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, The Pit and the Pendulum), Dolls takes place at an eerie English manor. Young Judy is on vacation with her jerk of a father, David, and nasty stepmother, Rosemary. Their car gets stuck in the mud when a freak thunderstorm occurs and they are forced to take refuge in the old mansion. The mansion is inhabited by an kindly if not strange old couple named Gabriel (Guy Rolfe, Puppetmaster series, Ivanhoe) and Hilary. To Judy's delight, Gabriel explains that he is a doll maker and the house is filled with dolls. Gabriel gives Judy her own doll, named Punch. They are soon joined by friendly Ralph (Stephen Lee, War Games, Quantum Leap) and British punk rockers Isabel and Enid. Ralph is very nice to Judy, far nicer than her parents. Meanwhile, Isabel decides to rob the house of it's antiques and goes off on her own. While she's ransacking the house, she is viciously attacked by the now-animated dolls in the house. Judy sees Isabel being dragged off and tells Ralph. He believes her, but her parents and Enid do not. Soon Enid and Rosemary are both murdered by the dolls. David thinks Ralph is the cause of the murders and tries to kill him. Will Ralph and Judy be able to survive her father and the killer dolls?
I'm cheering for the dolls in this one
With a name like Dolls, you have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen in the movie. It's no secret that dolls are going to come to life and start killing people. It certainly brings to mind other killer doll movies, such as Child's Play, Puppetmaster, and Demonic Toys. The real challenge is to make it an entertaining movie and for the most part, the movie succeeds. Dolls has a fairly good fear factor especially the creepy animated faces of the dolls. The slight grins and moving eyes can make you shudder in their sheer evilness. There is a decent amount of blood and some creative violence. There is some humor to lighten to the mood, but it's not particularly funny. References to Punch and Judy are particularly maddening to me. A movie from 1987 referencing a puppet show with roots tracing back in 1662. 1662! It's even more dated in 2012. That's like a LOLCats reference in a movie made in 2317.
The acting is good for the most part. Guy Rolfe is particularly great and the doll maker, combining an uneasy creepiness with a grandfatherly kindness. Stephen Lee is pretty is pretty lovable in his role as the child-at-heart Ralph. He wins the audience over with his innocence and attention towards Judy. Unfortunately, Dolls does suffer from the curse of the annoying child in horror movies. Judy is supposed to be a sympathetic character because of her awful parents, but she's just too annoying. Most of blame should go to the writers and not the young actress. Horror movies need to learn that not every kid is stupid and not every kid is annoying.
But references to Madonna are
Dolls may not be on most horror movies lists, but it certainly has some good horror moments. It has a scary atmosphere and enough violence to keep the audience entertained. The story is basic, which can either be a blessing or curse, depending on the viewer. The acting is good, though some characters are overly annoying. The humor can be forced and painful at times. While it's not a must-see movie, it's still worth your time if you're in need of watching something different.