I gotta wonder what happened to Charles Band during his yute. Oh sure, dolls are creepy. Everybody knows that. It’s kind of a horror rule. And it’s entirely likely that he found a formula that worked and rode it into the ground (Dolls, Demonic Toys, Blood Dolls, Ooga Booga, Ragdoll, Dangerous Worry Dolls, the Puppet Master franchise).
But isn’t it possible that maybe, just maybe, he was deeply traumatized by some doll-related incident as a child? Maybe he was beaten with a doll by a deranged babysitter. Maybe he caught one or both of his parents in bed with a blow up doll. I dunno, something.
My point is, Doll Graveyard is yet another of Band’s forays into this genre. It’s a 2005 movie, so by that point he’s been at this for a minute. Sadly, I have to report that, well, ain’t nothing new bein’ brought to the table on this one. We open in 1905 with a little girl, Sophia, playing with her four dolls: a samurai, a fairly normal looking female porcelain doll, a pickelhelmed Prussian soldier, and our buddy, the racially unacceptable Ooga Booga.
“What’s a pickelhelm?” you ask. It’s that Otto Von Bismarck/Kaiser Wilhelm helmet with the spike on top. Except this one is viciously long. Also, it is 1911 here, so I guess the cringeworthy racial stereotype that is Ooga Booga becomes not acceptable but explainable. Still doesn’t make it okay or any less wince-inducing.
Anyhow. Sophia knocks over a vase whilst playing in a room she’s not supposed to be in. Her rigid, sadistic, abusive father decides to punish her by making her bury the dolls in the back yard.
He stands over her as she digs the hole, says goodbye to them, and puts them at the bottom. As she climbs out, she falls back into the hole and dies. Her father buries her and the dolls. Like ya do. Oh, and she grabs his pocket watch as she falls. This is important later.
Speaking of later, we come forward almost 100 years to 2005 (that ‘s as specific as I’m getting cuz fuck math) and meet Guy, his dad, and his sister DeeDee (a name I can’t hear without going right to Dexter’s Laboratory). Dad is the same guy who played Sophia’s father, and he has the same pocket watch. We find out later that he found it in the back yard despite its having been buried a good 3 or so feet in the ground.
While we’re on that subject, this is how Guy finds the samurai doll. He’s out doing yardwork (Guy, not the doll), and finds a small samurai sword. Again, this thing should be under 3 or so feet of dirt. He brushes aside maybe another inch of dirt and finds the samurai which is remarkably intact and not smelly despite being in the ground next to a corpse. Meanwhile, in the Hall Of Justice…sorry, went all Ted Knight for a second.
Meanwhile, Dad is getting ready for a date, leaving the house in his offspring’s capable hands. Well, no sooner does he depart than two of DeeDee’s friends show up for girls’ night. There is, of course, a catch. One of the girls, Olivia, has also invited DeeDee’s boyfriend Tom and his testosterone-addled, football player buddy Rich. Immediately, the two of them waylay guy and tie him up in his room so he can’t rain on the festivities.
In the process, Rich crushes one of Guy’s action figures, a 1978 collector’s item Guy had just bought. Keep in mind this all sounds pretty good, and to be fair, the doll effects are definitely fun and entertaining, but everything I’ve just laid out here is acted so woodenly I had to go pull splinters outta my eyes.
And now, some spoilers cuz I gots ta talk about what happens. There’s a storm. Not sure why, cuz it has nothing to do with the plot. But the other dolls now come up out of the ground while Guy slowly becomes possessed by the spirit of Sophia. Tom and DeeDee head off to her room for some innocent teenage fun & games wild sex involving handcuffs and a riding crop. Not as titillating as is sounds.
However, whilst Tom sits handcuffed in a chair, the Prussian soldier pops up and kills him by stabbing him in the crotch with the aforementioned pickelhelm. Around the same time, Rich tries to bring some of his misogynistic, big dick swingin’ energy to bear on DeeDee’s friend Terry who is uninterested which only makes her a “challenge.”
Thankfully, he gets his eye gouged out and his throat slit by Ooga Booga. This occurs after Rich attempts some drunken dialogue with said doll. Apparently animated dolls don’t strike this kid as creepy or even moderately out of place. Also be on the lookout for some artistically handled Natty Light product placement.
Despite its shortcomings, there are a few things I will say in favor Doll Graveyard. For one thing, just when you think Band is drifting into the tired old “sex+drugs=death” slasher bit, he reels it back in. Second, what little gore there is, while not the best ever, still manages to stand up okay given the level of “cinema” it’s in. Finally, as I mentioned, the doll effects hold up nicely as well. The craggy-jawed porcelain dolls is kinda terrifying.
And there it is kids. If you wanna see how this all gets resolved, you’ll have to check Doll Graveyard out for yourself. I mean, I can’t just give everything away. What kind of man-nequin would that make me?
BODIES- Just 3
Stream- Full Moon, Tubi
PS: The trailer on IMDB is not for this movie, but a compilation of scenes from a DVD set that also includes Ragdoll, and Demonic Toys.