If I am being honest, I have been fixated on DOLLS ever since I first passed by its lurid half doll/half skull cover art on the shelf in a Blockbuster Video seventy kajillion moons ago. But that was back in the days where between you and your sisters you could only pick ONE movie to take home on a Friday night, and no one could ever agree on anything and certainly, no one else but me wanted to watch this one.
But I am an adult now and I can do whatever I want and no one even has to agree with it!
Six travelers stranded in a sudden thunderstorm– a trio consisting of a shitty father, a wretched stepmother and an imaginative young girl, and another group of two awful (but awesomely attired) hitchhiking punkettes and the well-intentioned but derpy guy who picked them up– seek shelter in a nearby mansion. An elegant old doll-maker and his wife live in this creepy, wonderfully atmospheric place full of gorgeous old dolls, and they offer to put the group up for the evening. The charming elderly couple is very welcoming and hospitable to this group of very rude assholes. Too welcoming, one might say.
Over the course of the evening, all the baddies get what’s coming to them and by the closing credits, the doll-maker’s collection has mysteriously grown. I LOVED THIS MOVIE.
Most of all, I loved this doll in the right-hand corner in its little pig costume! Rabbit costume? I don’t actually know what’s going on there, but I love it more than anything in the world! But I’m fairly certain that no matter what happened over the course of this film, I was going to adore it. I love old dolls. I love any kind of doll. If I had more space and more money, I would totally be an unhinged doll collector, filling every room in my house with their ruffles and lace little staring eyeballs. Here’s a controversial thing: I even love clown dolls! (Heck, I also love clowns!)
The creature effects in this film were a lot of fun (Teddy in an early scene was fantastic!) and the menacing, mischievous stop-motion movements of the dolls, their frowning expressions, and devious grins with those tiny demonic teeth, were wonderful. I would have liked to have seen more of that, but I think it was probably *just* enough.
This is maybe the only time in my life where, upon finishing a movie, I immediately wanted to watch it again. Is it a “good” movie? I don’t know about that. But it was extremely satisfying on a visually appealing level, and its messages of both appreciating the imagination and the stuff that keeps you young at heart really spoke to me. Plus…I loved Ralph. I know he was awkward and weird, but I really want to be friends with that character! So…again. A good movie? Probably not by the standards that a lot of people might measure such things. But I think it is! And even more than that, it’s a “feel good” movie. I never really had a feel good movie in my arsenal, but I think DOLLS has become my go-to.
What other creepy doll movies do I need to watch? I don’t really care about Chucky or Annabelle, I’ll just go ahead and put that out there. I’ve seen Pin and maybe Dead Silence, but I might be getting that mixed up with something else.And I just learned that there’s an Amityville Dollhouse movie! It’s probably awful, right? But…I should watch it anyway, right?
Speaking of dollhouses, one of my favorite books when I was a little girl was The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright. I wonder how that holds up? Author of the weird and eerie, Robert Aickman wrote a story about a dollhouse if I recall. Ah, here it is: The Inner Room.
I guess I understand why people are freaked out by their little uncanny, almost-human faces, their imagined movements from the periphery of your vision, and why the creepy doll is a long-standing horror trope. Here’s an interesting article that goes into more of an explanation, with a bit of history as well. But me, well. I’m scared of lots of stuff. I mean…A LOT. But dolls just aren’t one of them.