The episode of Horror Movie Rip-Off covering Child’s Play and Dolly Dearest was Written by Paul Bookstaber, Narrated by Ryan Cultrera, Edited by Ryan Cultrera, Produced by John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
Dolls, dolls, and more dolls! The horror genre is an ever-twisting blade that goes in deep when a good, and original concept is copied, replicated, and beaten over the head until it’s nothing more than a watered-down caricature. They say imitation is the biggest form of flattery, but are we so sure about that? Today I have an interesting Horror Movie Rip-off between two evil entities covered in rubber that cherish their higher gods and massacring anyone and everyone in their path. One that spawned countless sequels, tv shows, a cemented horror legacy, and worldwide notoriety, while the other I may have glanced at on the racks of my local blockbuster back in the day. Does 1991’s Dolly Dearest (buy it HERE), directed by Maria Lease go above and beyond to Tom Holland and Don Mancini’s blood-thirsty Good Guy doll, Chucky in Child’s Play (watch it HERE)? Let’s deep dive in this installment of Horror Movie Rip-off.
Now in order for a film to have an effective execution about killer dolls, they need significant backstories for the believability to set sail. While watching Dolly Dearest you couldn’t help but realize the similarities or influence it gained from its older brother in Child’s Play. Child’s Play tells the tale of Lakeshore Strangler, Charles Lee Ray on the run from the cops in downtown Chicago. Charles is gunned down by a detective and in a last-ditch effort, transfers his soul to a good guy doll due to his practices in voodoo and the Heart of Damballa. Charles soul manifests itself in the doll, which is then taken in by a mother, Karen for her son, Andy, who wanted the hot-selling dollar more than anything. You can guess what happens next, as strange occurrences and bodies start piling up only pointing the cops to Andy Barclay. Unfortunately, Andy is trying to convince his older companions that Chucky, the freckle-faced good guy doll is behind it all. Chucky’s goal is to transfer his soul back into a human host before he becomes stuck in his current plastic body forever, which causes Andy and Karen to fight for their lives in the process.
In Dolly Dearest, a businessman by the name of Elliot Wade, moves his family to Mexico, where they take ownership of the abandoned Dolly Dearest factory. Elliot’s younger daughter, Jessica takes a liking to one of the porcelain dolls on the assembly line, unbeknownst to her, the doll is alive. Dolly, serves as a vessel under the spirit of Sanzia, which means “Satan on Earth”. The Dolly Dearest factory is located not too far away from a fenced-off tomb, where Sanzia was located and when an archeologist opened the tomb prior, the spirit got out and latched itself onto the dolls inside the factory. When Jessica takes a serious liking to Dolly, Dolly starts to eliminate innocent bystanders in her path, while also possessing her in the process so that she becomes a pawn for Sanzia’s own malevolence.
Now you can’t help but notice that both films are front and center establishing their killers as rubberized dolls who stalk and prey their victims. Chucky from Child’s Play debuted first, creating a historic legacy to his name with further installments. And just like Child’s Play, Dolly Dearest also has that evil, maniacal doll at the helm as well, hiding in the darkness only to pounce at a moment’s notice. Both display the same formulas in their films, being their “doll-form” in public which throws off any traces of their true nature. But when they show their real form, they display the stuff of nightmares, both possessing that extreme creep factor and malicious look to them. They’re both cunning and ruthlessly calculating making them formidable foes to those around them. And at a time, when technology wasn’t up to where it is now, they walked and moved the same due to the puppeteering, but in all honesty, it made it much more terrifying on film. Funny enough, American stunt actor Ed Gale, was hired for both Child’s Play and Dolly Dearest when it came to doing the “human motions” of the dolls during production.
Dolly Dearest took out of the Child’s Play playbook when the film decided it needed to keep the stakes high. Both films use their child protagonist as a pawn to the doll’s diabolical plans. In Child’s Play, Andy is set up by Chucky after the bodies start falling, literally. Andy, being a kid, is only looking for companionship in his good guy doll. And at a time when most children need friends, why not turn to a valuable substitute before hitting grade school? It’s easy to manipulate and coerce a child, as they do not know right from wrong, and this is where both Child’s Play and Dolly Dearest materialize. Chucky uses Andy to get him to several destinations around Chicago in pursuit of revenge, while also maintaining that trust to Andy so he can eventually transfer his soul back into a human. In Dolly Dearest, Dolly befriends Jessica, possessing and manipulating her. Jessica becomes very aggressive, and violent throughout the film until her older brother Jimmy takes a shotgun and blasts Dolly through a door unlatching the possession from Jessica. The Child-Devil spirit Sanzia eventually wants to possess all children on the planet, which is quite a big task to fill. Unfortunately, Jessica is patient zero to Dolly and brings her along for this twisted, terror ride. Jessica, however speak good Mayan, let’s be clear about that. Hats off to for being bilingual when you need to be.
There is nothing like a mother’s love, and they’re both done similar here. In both Child’s Play and Dolly Dearest you can’t but realize that both Karen Barclay and Marilyn Wade are practically the same person. They both become worried about their children when shit hits the proverbial fan. They go out of their way to do some detective work of their own, visiting shady areas to get clues, or dig for truths when no one else will. Interesting enough is that both women display more of a ferocity and quick wit opposite their male counterparts. In Dolly Dearest, Elliot Wade is an absolute clueless father who doesn’t see any pattern happening when people are dropping dead, and Detective Norris brushes Karen off throughout Child’s Play. Norris claims she is crazy and nuts until he comes face to face with Chucky while driving in one of the best scenes in horror cinema. Both women stay dedicated to their mission of finding out the real reason behind their child’s actions and not listening to the naysayers. Both Karen and Marilyn display that inner hero that any real mother would do when it came to protecting their loved one. You do not screw with a mother bear’s cub and in both these films, both mothers display some inner-strength, and intimidation when they need to get down to it.
Even though Child’s Play and Dolly Dearest have different settings, they’re tonally the same. Some of the scenes are blatantly replicating one another, and it’s mostly during the murder scenes. When the housemaid Camilla, and the factory watchman Luis meet their fate, they’re stalked, and teased, while Dolly remains in the shadows springing the traps. You get the clever misdirects, until you reach the climax of these deaths in great horror fashion. However, they play out like deja-vu to the deaths in Child’s Play to that of Maggie, the shrink tending to Andy, Dr. Death, and Eddie Caputo (Charles Lee Ray’s partner-in-crime). Even the car scene with Detective Norris, who does however manage to escape with a few bumps and bruises is stalked around the overturned vehicle. Hell, even Chucky and Dolly get blasted and thrown the same way from firearms (Norris shooting Chucky in his overturned vehicle, or Jimmy shotgun blasting Dolly through a door) You can tell Dolly Dearest used Child’s Play’s execution in those scenes very close to the chest. I couldn’t help to add the cherry on the cake when both Dolly and Chucky near the climax of their films are either destroyed or severely maimed due to fire. Chucky gets locked into the fireplace while Andy sets the match (This is the end friend), or Dolly and her porcelain pals being sent sky high by Elliot and Karl courtesy of some dynamite.
I can’t bash Dolly Dearest because in the end it’s a guilty pleasure, but it fails so hard in trying to be better than Child’s Play or even place itself beside it. Let me reinforce that imitation is the purest form of flattery, it’s just a shame that Dolly brought that phrase down a few notches. Let’s be honest, Child’s Play is one of the best horror films ever assembled to celluloid. It stands amongst the all-time horror greats such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street. If a Mt. Rushmore was created for horror films, these four horror icons would be sitting atop of it, maybe throw in Ghostface for good measure. We can appreciate that Dolly used Child’s Play as influence, as it tends to deviate itself a bit from the better iteration of the killer doll trope. It’s decent horror movie schlock and I’m glad it exists, even if it doesn’t warrant repeat viewings from other horror films. The fact that Child’s Play has generated a ton of sequels, a popular television show with multiple seasons, and tons of merchandise and memorabilia tell us who the said victor really is. Now if we can throw in Chucky, Dolly, M3gan, Annabelle, and the dummy from Dead Silence in a battle royale, then that would be quite an interesting battle. Keep your eyes peeled for the next one folks.
Two previous episodes of Horror Movie Rip-Off can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!