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The Bottom Shelf #129

10.11.2007

I always used to laugh at those idiots on Maury who would be afraid of simple shit like buttons or used tissue. But simple shit is what seems to make horror movies work. Well, horror movies that turn out to be more campy than scary, but still. Here are a couple of movies featuring simple items, some blood and a whole lot of goofy fun.

DOLLS (1987)
Directed by: Stuart Gordon
Starring: Carrie Lorraine, Stephen Lee

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

When I was a little girl, I was a huge Barbie fan. I had all of the different dolls from the different vocations and I would make them live out the glamorous lifestyle befitting of Barbie in her Malibu dream home. My room was strewn with dolls, not just of the blonde bimbo variety. I had many that were handmade for me by my great-aunt Florence, ones with porcelain faces and soft hand-sewn bodies. It never occurred to me that the dolls were creepy in any fashion. And it never made any sense to me why my dad would visibly shiver when he passed by the open door to my room. When I got older and learned that there were things that people were frightened of to a hysterical level, I still never quite understood why dolls would be one of those nefarious items.

But after watching Stuart Gordon's DOLLS, even I'm a little afraid of dolls now. The movie follows a little girl traveling during summer vacation with her father and new step-mother, both of which are disagreeably put out with her presence. Their car breaks down in the middle of a back road during a storm and the three trundle down the road to an old house. The house is inhabited by a rustic old doll maker and his skeletal wife, just waiting with wide eyes and vacant stares for stranded motorists to come along. The group is soon joined by the sweet-natured bumbling idiot (a wonderful Stephen Lee) who normally stumbles along in horror movies such as this one, as well as two appropriately annoying young women up to no good. When the first rocker chick turns up missing and the little girl blames it on the "elves" in the house, things go from wonky to out-right creeptastic.

DOLLS is pure, unadulterated camp at its best. Lee manages to not only be the child-at-heart man that his character is supposed to be, he also seems to be playfully turning in looks of shock for the benefit of the young actress (Carrie Lorraine) that he's working with. All of the right notes are hit, from the lunatic parents who don't appreciate their child to the strangers who are up to some light-hearted mischief. While the movie quite clearly isn't taking itself too seriously, it also turns in a decent amount of blood and a hefty dose of shivers. Plastic eyes in bizarre looking doll heads swiveling about to watch where you're going, it's as if the entire movie is an extended, acid-drenched version of the doll scene in BARBARELLA. The graphics are dated but very strong considering the time frame in which it was filmed. There's just enough of an edge on this movie to bite but leave you wondering if it came from a doll, or perhaps it really was that rat... This movie is an absolute must if you want to weird out anyone who's afraid of dolls, clowns or other small plastic toys that appear to have an ulterior agenda.

Favorite Scene:

The death of rocker chick number two (with that ever-so-classic name, Enid) by doll firing squad.

Favorite Line:

"With my luck, they're rabid."
"I like rabbits."

Trivia Tidbit:

Stuart Gordon was, at one point, very interested in directing a sequel to this film. The initial storyline would have followed Judy and Ralph back to Boston in which Ralph would have indeed married Judy's mother and they would all become a family. Until, one day Judy would received a box sent from England which inside would contain the toy makers, Gabriel and Hilary, as dolls.

See if you liked:

RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, SILVER BULLET

THE STUFF (1985)
Directed by: Larry Cohen
Starring: Michael Moriarty, Scott Bloom

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

Probably the most charming thing about this movie is how much Michael Moriarty has that McConaughey drawl, schmoozing his way into any situation and only changing his claimed occupation as needed. People never perceive a threat in a pleasant Southern accent and very rarely believe that they are capable of bringing the pain in the zero hour. One of the safest prejudices to have is the one that allows you to mentally deduct 50 IQ points the second you hear a drawl escape someone's lips. The only thing safer is being able to enjoy truly horrible movies just because they're schlocky.

And boy, oh boy is THE STUFF full of schlock. When people start to go crazy over a new dessert that manages to be tasty and low in calories, it threatens the financial security of the ice cream companies. The CEOs of these companies get together and hire Moriarty to investigate what's going on behind the product that seems to have the nation in a hypnotic mind grip. The only other person who seems to be as skeptical of the product's goodness is (inexplicably) a suburban middle-class white kid (Scott Bloom, younger brother to soap opera heartthrob Brian Bloom) who stumbles upon The Stuff crawling around in the family's refrigerator. Along with the help of a disgruntled cookie maker (SNL's Garrett Morris in a role satirizing Famous Amos) and the attractive female ad exec (Andrea Marcovicci) who popularized the yummy treat for the masses, they seek out to discover the source of The Stuff's production and destroy the distributors behind it.

This isn't a good movie. It's one of those films which was made during a time when horror movies began to make fun of themselves, especially those topics which were seemingly innocuous. I mean, seriously... evil yogurt? But despite it all I do appreciate the mocking of out-of-control industry antics and sheep-like nature of consumers. Paul Sorvino (Mira's dad) also turns in a funny performance as an Army Colonel paranoid of the perceived threat of Communism. Then there's the scene where Garrett Morris' head cracks open. Partake of some 'shrooms, watch that scene and I promise you'll never be the same. Hell, it's pretty f*cking disgusting sober as well.

Favorite Scene:

Watching the kid tear through the grocery store, destroying entire displays for an extended period of time before someone finally stops him.

Favorite Line:

"Look, I like the sight of blood - but this is disgusting!"

Trivia Tidbit:

The scene in which The Stuff attacks a man by spraying out of a mattress and plastering him to the wall was shot in the exact same rotating room where Johnny Depp gets sucked into the bed in 1984's A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.

See if you liked:

THEY LIVE, CRITTERS, THE BLOB

I recommend staying away from the movie about the used tissues, though. I think it's most commonly referred to as CASPER.

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