Well, 101 films, thank you very much - not only do you provide us with an amazing transfer of yet another of Stuart ‘Re-animator’ Gordon’s imaginative back catalogue, you give us a reason to revisit one of the creepiest mansions in the history of horror - thankfully from the safe distance of my own living room.
Not concerned with any pretence or unnecessary subtly ‘Dolls’ is exactly what it says it is. The movie’s plot sees a group of less than pleasant people get their just desserts as they ungratefully take an old couple up on their offer of hospitality in a mansion with a little secret - well about 100 little secrets actually - as they seek refuge from a storm. Throughout the night there seems to be some form of karma at work as with each of the group’s rude encroachment on the old couple’s privacy as one by one they are picked off by the strangely sentient dolls which inhabit the shadowy hallways.
The plot is simple, but none the less effective. I will go out on a limb here and put my cards on the table – this movie is without a doubt the best example of the ‘killer toys’ subgenre out there. The characters are diverse, and suitably reflective of the decade the movie was made in. The acting is credible, whilst maintaining the camp edge, such a movie benefits from - hell even the kid manages to stay on the right side of annoying, just about. The star of the show ‘Guy Rolfe’ (who would go on to star in a number of the ‘Puppet Master’ sequels) gives the movie its dark fairy tale edge which a number of films have tried to recreate in recent times. His confident thespian acting, coupled with some fantastic set designs create an atmosphere which is pitched just perfectly - this movie is really creepy.
Naturally the true stars of the show are the dolls themselves. At the helm of the doll design, and the stop motion which brings them to life, John Carl Buechler and Dave Allen do an astounding job of not only creating the otherworldly actions which frankly would be ruined by modern CGI, but give each of the key doll characters a personality. The murder scenes are lengthy and numerous, despite the obviously labour intensive task of bringing them to life, and considering the temptation to tone this movie down due to its child cast member, rest assured those of you who are familiar with Gordon’s other works will not be disappointed with the levels of violence within this movie whose body count rivals that of many popular slasher movies. There aren’t any massive gross out scenes, but there is blood all over the place, imaginative deaths and the effects look amazing! In hindsight so many movies have payed homage to this film in ways they might not have even realised – not least of which is the ‘Puppet Master’ franchise which the producers of this movie would go on to release under the ‘Full Moon’ group, and a possible little nod from the mini-Ash attack scene in 'army of Darkness’.
Overall I think I have shown my enthusiasm for this movie enough. This is truly reference 80s horror. It’s quirky, violent, creepy and with the latest transfer to Blu-ray on this 101 Films release it looks like it was made yesterday. You need this movie, go buy it.