1987 / Director. Stuart Gordon.
Review by Justine Ryan. (contains spoilers)
Dolls was the stuff of nightmares for me as a child. I first encountered this film a few years after it was released on home video, while over at my aunties house. She had hired it over the weekend and on this particular Saturday night, a bunch of my cousins and I decided to watch it. I don't think my young self could anticipate the feeling of true spine tingling terror I would feel until that screening (Sam Raimi's THE EVIL DEAD and David Schmoeller's TOURIST TRAP were two other films that also had the same effect). I crapped myself!, and it wouldn't be for another 10 or so years later, that I would have the courage to return to it on video a couple more times in my middle and then late teens before my undying love was sparked.
Stuart Gordon fresh off his directorial debut Re-Animator (1985), followed this up as his second feature. Before any script was written, Executive Producer Charles Band had only a poster made up with the title THE DOLL. Screenwriter Ed Naha (TROLL) came on board and wrote a truly entertaining horror film with plenty of heart, channeling The Brothers Grimm fairy tales.
The film begins with young Judy Bower (Carrie Lorraine), her mean father David (Ian Patrick Williams) and wicked stepmother Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon) stranded during a storm as they seek shelter in a nearby mansion owned by elderly doll maker Gabriel (Guy Rolfe) and his wife Hilary Hartwicke (Hilary Mason) whom by the films end are revealed to be witches. Soon three more guests arrive, to wait out the violent storm. Ralph Morris (Stephen Lee) and two british punk rocker hitchhikers named Isabel (Bunty Baily) and Enid (Cassie Stuart).
Soon enough the night does turn into the longest night in the world for our 6 guests as they soon start getting dispatched in delightfully gruesome ways by Gabriels creations which include a Punch doll, some very creepy victorian dolls, puppets, soldiers, ballerinas and cowboys, whom we discover by the films end, that inside each doll are decaying corpses of people that must have been previous guests at the Hartwicks.
We learn by the film's end that Gabriel and Hilary believe that toys will be around for as long as children want them. They are the heart and soul of childhood and that the bitterness people feel as adults can turn to love if they surrender to the good will toys provide. They give everyone a sporting chance, but for people like the David and Rosemary Bowers and the Isabel and Enids of the world, well they must start over as toys.
Now for those horror buffs that have not seen this gem and in my eyes a classic, please do yourself a favour and track this film down and the rest of Director Stuart Gordon's back catalog of goodness. Highly recommend!