PLOT: Under the explosion of a sudden storm, a disparate group of travels converge to seek shelter in the secluded home of a genteel older toymaker and his wife, whose vast collection of dolls may be more than they seem.
REVIEW: It might sound odd to refer to a movie about animate, violent, killer toys as delightful, but that’s exactly what this film is. This is a dark, Grimm-style fairy tale, about a group of people who seek shelter from a storm in a secluded, gothic manse deep in the woods of some unnamed European town. There’s a precocious young girl and her abusive parents; a garrulous, voluble manchild, and the two English, punk-rock chick hitchhikers he has picked up; and, of course, the kindly older toy makers with a secret.
That secret, of course, is that the dolls they make kill people. Exclusively adults, particularly those who have lost their childlike wonder, their spark of imagination and creativity that staves off the cynicism and casual cruelty that comes with growing up. Treat your cutie pie daughter like crap? The dolls are on you. Try to steal from the nice people who sheltered you from the storm? That’s gonna end badly, at the end of plastic, doll hands.
With a swift 87 minutes, there isn’t much time spent mucking about: the dolls get to business pretty quickly. They’re moving, communicating with each other, and judging and enacting punishment on bad adults pretty quickly. And the paybacks given are swift and generally horrible. There’s also a bit of transmogrification, but I’ll leave that for you to experience for yourself.
What could have been a predictable, trite, throwaway movie is actually quite delightful in the hands of director Stuart Gordon. In only his second film, he was already showing his deft hand at the craft by giving us an ultimately feel-good horror film with as much heart and soul as vicious bloodletting: a little something for everyone at your Halloween gathering.
BEST TNA SCENE: There is no TNA to speak of in this film. The English punk rawk girls dress sort of skimpily, but that’s really about all.
BEST GORE BIT: It’s funny that the producers of DOLLS wanted more gore added, to appease the fans of Gordon’s previous RE-ANIMATOR, but most of it was scrapped because it really doesn’t fit the tone of the film. While there does survive some stabbings and an eyeball hanging down by its stalk, the most disturbing bit for me was of a character in transition from human to doll: life-sized, but with misshapen, glistening, plasticized flesh. *shudder*
HALLOWEEN DRINKING GAME: Every time a character says,“Little People?!”, pound one. You might pass out halfway through the film.