Saturday, March 15, 2008
#32: Dolls (Stuart Gordon, 1987)
Stuart Gordon's third film, following Re-Animator and From Beyond, could be marketed and shelved as a children's movie, if it weren't for the gore and swearing. A fairy tale and morality fable, Dolls begins with an imaginative little girl, her moronic jerk of a father, and her wicked stepmother getting lost and stuck in a storm on vacation. They take shelter inside a large, semi-Gothic mansion, owned by an elderly couple. The elderly man is a doll-maker, and a firm proponent of never letting the child inside of you die, of course. Soon, more stranded travelers appear, including a nice, toy-loving guy in his thirties and two nasty British hitchhiking kleptomaniac new wave rocker chicks he picked up on the side of the road. I'm hardly revealing surprise plot twists when I tell you that the rotten people get their comeuppance and learn valuable lessons about the power of a child's imagination. How they get their comeuppance turns this film from a kid's movie to a violent gorefest. The doll-maker's dolls like to get up and move around at night, and they're tightly wound little suckers. If they see something they don't like, they will dispense vigilante justice. Extreme vigilante justice.
As you can imagine, the killer dolls are very funny. Intentionally so. Several critics have complained that killer dolls just aren't that scary, but these critics seem to lack the child-like wonder and humor necessary to survive a killer doll attack. They wouldn't last one night at the old doll-maker's mansion. So, killer dolls aren't that scary, but most horror films aren't that scary. This film has great atmosphere, set decoration, detail. The performances are mostly very good. Someone yells, "Fuck you, clownie!" at a clown doll. The little girl is natural and real-life cute, not movie-cute. She doesn't look like she's had her face buffed for fifteen weeks by a stage mother. Dolls lacks some of the insane, gonzo energy of Re-Animator and From Beyond, but Gordon's filmmaking skills improved considerably by this third film. A kid's movie with "adult situations," as the MPAA calls them. I love the perversity of that.
One of the British kleptos looks a lot like Madonna:
One of the killer dolls looks a little like me: