Before "Child's Play" and "Puppet Master," there was the lesser- seen, lesser-talked about killer doll movie, simply titled "Dolls." The third offering from Stuart Gordon, "Dolls" is a low-key yet supremely entertaining comedown, following the director's more high- concept and out-there offerings, "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond." It's also a collaboration between Gordon, his producing partner (and future "Society" director, among others), Brian Yuzna, and of course, Full Moon pictures. This leads you to believe you know what to expect, but Gordon and company throw a few curveballs your way, crafting a horrific fairy tale of sorts that strikes just the right balance between fun and frightful.
After their car breaks down in the middle of a bad storm, The World's Worst Parents (the comical and on-point Ian Patrick Williams and Carolyn Purdy Gordon) and their instantly adorable young daughter, Judy (Carrie Lorraine), seek refuge in the home of an elderly doll-maker and his wife (Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason). Also staying the night are the affable, slightly dopey but well-meaning Ralph (Stephen Lee) and two new-wave/punk-rocker hitchhikers (Bunty Bailey and Cassie Stuart). It's not long before the old man's hand- crafted creations start going bump in the night, sparking Judy's imagination, peeving her parents and ruining Ralph's beauty sleep. It's gonna be a long night for all involved!
There's a lot to love in the tight, 77 minutes of "Dolls." First off, the cast is just absolutely brilliant, bringing a silly concept to life with colorful performances all around. You'll love some of them, and you'll hate the others, and you won't soon forget them. Likewise, the old house that the bulk of the film takes place in becomes a character of its own. One of the most memorable sequences involves poor Ralph stumbling around its halls late at night by candlelight as the creepy creations cause concern. The special effects, as dreamed up by "Troll" creator John Carl Buechler, are downright spell-binding. The dolls are at once ugly and convincing. For his part, Gordon keeps things light and dream-like, making "Dolls" a sort of horror movie comfort food. There are plenty of films about killer dolls out there at this point, but this dolly is one of the dearest.