Retro Rewind: Dolls

1987

Slasher (I…uh…think)

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Starring Carrie Lorraine (Judy), Ian Patrick Williams (David), Carolyn Purdy Gordon (Rosemary), Stephen Lee (Ralph), Guy Rolfe (Gabriel), Hilary Mason (Hilary), Bunty Bailey (Isabel), Cassie Stuart (Enid)


Welcome everyone, to another edition of RETRO REWIND, a look back on the horror genre we all know and love. With each entry, I will be looking at films that have both defined the genre or those that deserve a second look. Yes, this is a retrospective, but unlike most, this is meant to be fun, much like the films are. I have a list of rules to keep these uniform, which are as followed:

  1. The film must be legally old enough to drink

  2. Positivity is key. Even if the film is terrible, they’re supposed to be fun and I want to have as much fun watching and writing these as possible.

  3. I will recommend how I believe you should view it: Own It, Rent It or Stream It

So without further ado, I present to you round two (electric boogaloo) of this series, with the 1987 forgotten gem, Dolls. SPOILERS FOLLOW.

I had never seen Dolls before this review. It was a blind buy from Scream Factory (you’re welcome for the shameless plug), and I finally got around to seeing it. And wow, what an awesome movie! While on vacation, David, his bougie wife, Rosemary and their young daughter, Judy, find themselves trapped in a storm. With the only shelter being a creepy old mansion, they seek refuge and meet Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke, elderly dollmakers who live in solitude. They are soon joined by others, two punks named Isabel and Enid, and a hapless dork named Ralph. As people begin to disappear and Judy believes it is the “elves” she hears, shit really starts to get real.

So as you saw at the top, I’m wary of calling this a slasher. It’s a bit of that, a gothic horror, a comedy and there is also a little bit of witchcraft in there. As the title says, the dolls are the killers, though the Hartwicke’s don’t do much to dissuade them from it. First to die is surprisingly not Ralph (trust me, you’d think he’d be the first to go, too). Instead, it’s Isabel, also known as the girl from A-ha’s “Take on Me” music video. She gets, ahem, taken, by the dolls and rammed non-stop head first into a wall in very comedic fashion, and then turned into a doll with her eyes ripped out. So yeah, it’s a happy film. Rosemary is tripped out of a window (a missed opportunity to have Judy there for her death) and Enid is shot to death by toy soldiers. I’m. Not. Kidding.

Judy’s father begins to suspect Ralph, and not just of murder. He also thinks he’s touching his daughter and the two have an epic smackdown that results in a lot of smashed toys and dolls kicking the ever loving crap out of David. It. Not. Kidding.

Ralph and Judy survive because they are “kids at heart” (so we’re all good friends!) and Gabriel writes a hilariously fake note from David, saying he and Rosemary needed to leave Judy behind and Judy is to go live in Boston with her real mother. The film closes with doll versions of our dead characters, as they stare and smile at the screen.

Best Kill: This film does not have a lot of kills and that is okay. It focuses more on some really good character development and slapstick comedy. The deaths are nothing to write home about but I really enjoyed Enid’s, as I have never seen an army of toy soldiers shoot someone to death before.

Best Moment: Much like New Year’s Evil, there are many, many, MANY great moments. One I did not quite touch on, however, is getting this honor, and that comes near the beginning. Rosemary grabs Judy’s teddy bear and chucks it into the woods. Seconds later, the bear comes back, ten feet taller and covered in blood. It begins to rip Rosemary and David apart. It’s only a dream of Judy’s but it keys the audience in to the absurdity the movie is going to show us for the next 80 minutes.  

Take a Drink Every Time: Judy’s parents are absolute shit heads to her. You’ll have a good buzz early on and be nice and drunk near the end, because they are pretty dan awful.

Rating: Own It. I didn’t expect this as I chose this film, but I can see myself watching this time and time again. It’s funny, it’s got very good characterization, the score is eerie and fantastic, the special effects are killer (pun FULLY intended) and it brings out the kid in all of this. Plus, the Scream Factory (cheap pop #2) blu-ray has an abundance of excellent special features to keep us junkies satisfied. It’s a shame Stephen Lee passed away, as the planned sequel I read about sounded super interesting and I really wanted to see this guy find love with Judy’s mom.

So join me in two weeks, as I look at the first film in this series to turn 21. With these FINALLY 21 features, I’ll be adding in a beer I think will pair well with the film. So grab your VHS tapes and join me in sev…I mean, fourteen days.