Review: “Dolls” (1987)

These dolls aren't all pills...

Movies where dolls, toys, or puppets are animated and possessed have to be my favorite horror subgenre. You have your Dolly Dearest, your Trilogy of Terror II, and your Dead Silence, but one film for me fully embodies the archetype: Leading the way for game-changer Child’s Play was a little film called Dolls.

Fresh off of Re-Animator and From Beyond, Stuart Gordon brought to life this grand old American cheese fest and packaged it like a serious Italian horror film (which, if you watch the credits, is because it was shot in Italy, with what seems to be an entirely Italian crew). This is one of the film’s finest points, as stylistically it’s brilliant.

Substantively, however, Dolls has the complexity of a half-lobotomized puppy.

The film’s plot is a simple-enough force-fed moralist fairy tale about the innocence of youth, as represented through violence, hate, love, maniacal giggling, and dolls. If you are impure and unable to keep such innocence and grace, you are killed off by the dolls and dealt their fate: you become one of them. This shouldn’t be a surprise since it came from Ed Naha, the writer of Troll and eventual writer of the recent The Ten Commandments and Noah’s Ark: The Beginning.

As far as humans go, we are given a few cultural archetypes for the dolls to deal with: a surly, man-ish stepmom, a bumbling whipped father, a Madonna-wannabe, and a Boy Georgette. As if these types aren’t funny enough, at the head of the class – wagging a wrinkled finger – are the people who set this all up: the elderly couple who own the grounds that these people have stumbled upon. They are obviously a gay man and his beard. I mean his name is Gabriel [pronounced "GAY-brie-EL"] and he only wears velvet. And did I mention he’s a doll maker?

In the middle of all of this are the pure of heart: the annoying little girl, Judy, and the film’s pudgy, adorable, love-of-my-life do-gooding heartthrob, Ralph. These two provide the main dramatic draw, as they’re the ones who are actually “on to the dolls.” And even though the little girl is completely unlikeable and grating, you have to give her credit for providing some of the film’s most comedic moments (all I’ll say is “bear-within-a-bear”—and I don’t mean this kind of bear).

Even though you’ve come for Gordon’s slapsticking horror genius and Naha’s heady morality tales, you’ll stay for the motherfucking dolls. These feisty buggers put Chucky to shame. They are relentless, spunky, and versatile–and travel in packs.

At one moment, Boy Georgette faces a toy firing squad. What happens next? I won’t detail, but I will say that their guns actually work. You also have a scene involving dolls wielding saws, knives, strong arms, and even a hammer. These little guys are definitely within my top ten of favorite villains. Especially this guy:

Homegirl needs a trip to the SPA.

This movie is a lot of fun, flawed, and — you guessed it — so gay it’s begging for a queer cinema thesis. I already mentioned there is a silverback whose name is GA[Y]BRIEL, but the mother looks like a drag queen, there are more-than-clear Madonna and Boy George references, and Ralph? Don’t even get me started. Beyond the fact that this movie is about dolls, you will be surprised just how LGBT-friendly the film is. FIEYARCE.

RATING (OUT OF 5):

ReviewFourSkully

Rated R for a few fun slayings with the aforementioned weaponry, a dead body found in a bed, a room full of killer dolls, and that drag mother: YEEEESH.


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About KYLERAYMOND

A gay military kid who lived up and down the east coast finally decided to venture out West--and hasn't returned. With a love for horror films, champagne, short shorts, and CAPS LOCK, he spends his time writing, doing comedy, and being an assistant (oy). He has a dog and collects magazines with Lady Gaga on the cover, too.