Okay let’s see, here. Family traveling at night. In a thunderstorm. Car stuck in mud. Looming mansion some place in the English countryside. Sweet elderly couple. Surely they have a phone, so roadside assistance is a mere call away, yes? What could go wrong? One word: dolls.
Dolls. Are. Creepy. Everybody knows this, and I’ve said as much many times. In fact it’s Rule #5. Sooner or later, then, I was gonna have to face Stuart Gordon’s Dolls. Again, it’s technically it’s pre-Full Moon, but it is Empire Pictures, so it is under the umbrella of Charles Band, and, as I frequently have to remind myself, I’m the one writin’ this godforsaken blog anyway.
And so let’s meet our intrepid ensemble. First we have Judy, her father David, and her stepmother Rosemary. Rosemary, shockingly, is a jerkface and tosses Judy’s teddybear into some nearby shrubbery when they leave the car (marks her for death, clearly). Right, so our parents of the year break into the mansion, like ya do, where they meet the owners, the kindly old Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke.
The festivities are then joined by another trio: helpful and amiable Ralph who has picked up hitchhiking delinquents Enid and Isabel. Graciously, of course, Gabriel invites them to spend the night. Oh, and while all this is going on, Gabriel gives Judy a doll to replace her “lost” teddy bear. Dawww. It happens to be Mr. Punch. Which he give to, y’know, Judy. Punch. Judy. Get it??? I have to admit, upon first viewing, that one got by me.
One of the recurring qualities you find with Full Moon is that these movies are just so goddamn entertaining. For those of you who, like me, have an overdeveloped sense of vengeance (and a proclivity for spoilers), the rotten people in Full Moon flicks routinely meet nasty, grisly ends of the types you’d like to see visited upon obnoxious entitled people in the real world. Okay, maybe that’s goin’ a bit far, but still. My point is everyone who is marked for death…
Dolls is no exception. Rosemary we’ve already covered (literally with a sheet ho ho). But that leaves Judy’s dad David who is an insufferable asshole and total rat bastard, along with apathetic Enid and thieving little miscreant Isabel. I won’t give away how each one arrives at his or her respective dirt nap, but I will say that they all appear as dolls on a shelf at the very end. Speaking of, I so wanted the cute little old couple to turn out to be dolls as well. Full circle cinematic perfection.
Sadly, this was not to be. But at least they turn out to be a witch and wizard who, having become jaded with the state of humanity, use their toys to test the individuals who show up on their doorstep. Those who fail meet grim fates and become dolls. Considering that the house is full of ’em suggests how vile people generally tend to be. If you disagree, you’re not paying attention.
And of course, a word about the dolls themselves. Terrifying. That’s the word. Some of them are sinister simply by virtue of being dolls. Cuz dolls. But some of them are straight up nightmare fuel. Mr. Punch looks vaguely homicidal, but more in an “I’ve got my eye on you so watch it” kinda way. One is dressed like a sailor, and I’m convinced he’s a reference to that cursed doll in Florida named Robert.
But then there’s this soul-destroying monstrosity:
Also of note is the fact that Gordon’s vicious little tea party predates Puppet Master by a couple years. I dunno about y’all, but I see similarities.
And there ya go. If you find that you have trouble sleeping tonight, you might find a modicum of comfort knowing that I’ll probably be having the same problem.
Oh, and a bit of housekeeping ere I depart. As you may notice this very instant, there are new, vastly improved skulls below. These are WAAAY better than the dumb picture I took myself and were created by an actual living, breathing, remarkably talented Norfolk artist and good friend of mine, Erik Leach. You can see (and more importantly BUY) his work on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/erikleach_art/ or his website http://erikleachart.com/.