Dolls are creepy, there’s no doubt about it, with their human features and eyeless stares. So does Stuart Gordon’s Dolls deliver both campiness and scares?
(USA 1987, director: Stuart Gordon)
A group of people find shelter in an old mansion whose occupants aren’t just two old toymakers, but whose creations have a life all of their own.
Getting creepy toys right isn’t easy, so it’s a surprise that Dolls achieves just that by using even more unsettling close-ups to the stop-motion creatures. The killing instruments they operate are also something to behold, with saws cutting through body parts and hammers being üut to use as well. This is certainly not for the faint-hearted, with surprisingly gruesome gore scenes.
But what the movie also does extremely well is to create an atmosphere with shadows and lightning, a memorable piano score in addition to scary sounds of whispering dolls, something other more comedy-like iterations like the Chucky or Puppetmaster series usually avoid when having their horror icons crack jokes. There are still some funny scenes, though, but these are mainly due to overacting.
Characters are certainly not the most interesting thing here, with two extremely annoying punk rock girls, a couple who have to put up with the man’s daughter before the divorce of his wife is through, and a Mr. Nice Guy. Still, the short runtime makes the standard small talk a lesser evil, and the interaction with the weird old couple is a highlight with some interesting views on human nature.
All in all, Dolls isn’t a masterpiece in storytelling, characterization, suspense or non-stop gore. But it manages to entertain, scare and disgust at the same time, being a welcome alternative to the bad-mouthed dolls of other flicks. And one has rarely seen a teddy bear this scary.
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