Note: Yesterday, the death of horror director Stuart Gordon was announced. I’m posting this look at his 1987 film, Dolls, in his memory. Rest in peace.
Don’t let the freaky poster art fool you–Dolls is as much a comedy as it is a horror film, and not usually the subtle, dark comedy of Stuart Gordon’s masterpiece, Re-Animator, but closer to the comedy of the Full Moon Features films that would succeed Dolls‘ production company, Empire Pictures.
This makes Dolls a bit schizophrenic. Some genuinely scary moments (particularly when the first victim gets it) are surrounded by often goofy attempts to generate laughs, some of which don’t work but many of which do. As a general but not strict rule, the comedy more in the Re-Animator style works better than the comedy in the Full Moon style.
Beyond director Stuart Gordon doing an admirable job with a slapdash script, what puts all this over are the wonderful stop-motion dolls and the film’s real leads. Seven-year-old Judy Bower is portrayed by Carrie Lorraine, a child actress who is not only not annoying, but a delight. (She would never act again–thanks, Hollywood!). Stephen Lee plays her situational sidekick, Ralph, a nice-guys-finish-last type who learns to embrace what he is rather than what he thinks the world wants of him.
While hardly great, there are reasons why Dolls is looked backed upon fondly by many, and given that it’s only slightly longer than a TV episode if you don’t count credits, there’s no reason not to watch it if you’re remotely curious.
Dolls theatrical trailer