Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dolly Dearest (Maria Lease, 1991)

If I took one thing, and one thing only, you know, as supposed to two things, away from Dolly Dearest, it was this: Don't open a doll factory in Mexico. What are you doing? What? Call me overly sensitive, but that sounds a little bit racist. Really? "Don't open a doll factory in Mexico." I guess it a weird, politically incorrect sort of way. Just to be on the safe side, let me rephrase that. Are you ready? If I learned one thing from watching Dolly Dearest, it's that one should think twice before opening up a doll factory that's located next to the ancient burial tomb of a 900 year-old demon baby. Yeah, I like that. You totally didn't even mention Mexico this time around. Sweet save, my unctuous friend. Although, it does make you think about why the film is set in Mexico in the first place. I mean, don't they have demonic dolls in the United States of America? Then it dawned on me. The film, co-written and directed by former exploitation actress Maria Lease, isn't really about a possessed toy, uh-uh, it's about outsourcing. It's the only logical explanation I think of at the moment. C'mon, I highly doubt that. Excuse me? Don't play dumb. You've got plenty of explanations rattling around inside that brain of yours as to why this film exists. Yeah, that's true, they're rattling around in there all right. In fact, I'm pondering one of them right this minute. But, I have to say, I'm a tad bashful when it comes to expressing myself in a manner that might lead others to think I'm mentally unwell. Ah, poppycock! You know you want to. Besides, hardly anyone is watching. Okay, fine. I'll share one of my theories. Don't say I didn't warn you. 
The main reason as to why this film was made has nothing to do with outsourcing or some kind of sick doll fetish, it was primarily made to showcase the gorgeousness that is Denise Crosby in a non-American setting. I know, that doesn't sound too strange. Who doesn't like Denise Crosby? Exactly, she's a beloved figure. So, let me clarify my position. Everything involving the dolls, the ruins, and even the nuns was just a veiled excuse to film Denise Crosby in various summer-friendly outfits. You shouldn't view Dolly Dearest as a horror film. It's more of say, a ninety minute fashion show interspersed with footage of creepy dolls acting...creepy, and, of course, Rip Torn going "Ha!" (just like he did on The Larry Sanders Show) while carrying a backpack.
I know, just the mere thought of Rip Torn being in the same room with a backpack gives me the willies. But it occurs multiple times throughout Dolly Dearest, the only film to sport a backpack-carrying Rip Torn, or your money back. 
Other than the fact that "Dolly" wears a red dress with a white petticoat and Rip Torn carries a backpack, you probably won't remember what anyone else wears, or carries, in this movie.
Wearing a grand total of eight outfits, Denise Crosby, who plays Marilyn Wade, the wife of doll entrepreneur Elliot Wade (Sam Bottoms), and the mother of Jimmy Wade (Chris Demetral) and Jessica Wade (Candace Huston), starts off the movie in a long, flowy white skirt and a turquoise top. The perfect attire for flying, Denise looks fabulous when she and her family land in Mexico. Why are they there? Well, her husband plans to manufacture dolls at a local factory, and, yeah, that's basically it.
I must say, I couldn't help but notice how great Denise Crosby's skin looks in this movie. I mean, she's practically glowing. And the casual nature of her clothing does nothing but accentuate her epidermal luminosity. The first time I noticed this was when she stares wistfully at the large dollhouse located in the backyard of their beautiful new house.
I'm afraid the same can't be said for Elliot's doll factory. To call it dilapidated would be the understatement of the year; imagine if my referring to the shoddy shape of the doll factory in Dolly Dearest was in fact the understatement of the year. How sad would that be? Anyway, while Elliot tries to look on the bright side, Jimmy pokes around the archaeological excavation site next to the doll factory and Jessica has her eye on something. Pointing to one of the dolls located on one of the dusty shelves, Jessica says, "May I have one, Daddy?" When Elliot sees the dolls, the first word out of his mouth is, "fabulous."
Um, hello? You're wife is fabulous. The dolls are just, well, they're lifeless dolls. Or are they? Putting Jessica to bed, Denise, who has since changed into grey one piece and tamed her short blonde locks with a headband (her hair may be short, but her bangs are long - I think that makes sense), asks her daughter about her new playmate. Her name is Dolly, and she is creeping me out. To make matters even creepier, Dolly turns her head slightly when no-one is looking. Personally, I thought the twelve minute mark was way too early to employ a creepy doll head turn. But then again, what do I know. Maybe the twelve minute is the perfect time to imply that there's something off about these dolls.
The next morning, we see Denise Crosby, who is now wearing a bright yellow dress, chopping veggies and talking turkey poop with their live-in maid,  Camilla (Lupe Ontiveros). Check this out, I was so enamoured with Denise Crosby's yellow dress, that I failed to spot Dolly's reflection in the mirror. I know, big deal. Dolls have reflections, so what? Yeah, but it was standing there one moment, and when Denise Crosby, who was unpacking her things, returns into frame, Dolly was gone.
If I'd seen this film during my pediophobia period (ages six through eight). Forget about it. I would have freaked out. Hell, just the sight of the poster alone would have probably sent me over the edge.
Speaking of freaking out, Jessica does just that when she arrives home as a local priest is blessing the house. Maybe it was the yellowness of Denise Crosby's yellow dress or the fact that Dolly was there, but Jessica eventually calms down (dolls and the colour yellow are miracle workers when it comes pacifying demon-based temper tantrums). As she is walking inside, though, Jessica gives Camilla the stink-eye. If you thought getting the stink-eye from an adult was bad, you ain't smelt anything until you have been stink-eyed by a child holding a creepy ass doll.
I think it's safe to say that something sinister is going on over at the Wade house (even though the credits list them as the "Read family," their name is clearly Wade). Sure, it's easy for you to say that "it's safe to say," but Camilla is the only who knows what's really going on. And you know what that means? That's right, Dolly needs to take care of her. You mean? Exactly. She needs to get her Chucky on.
Until that happens, let's enjoy the sight of Denise Crosby in a robe. If you look carefully, you can spot her thighs briefly when she goes outside to investigate some weird noises that emanating from the backyard. Despite her valiant effort to keep it cinched with her hand, Denise's robe blows open a couple of times during her trek to the dollhouse. 
The next day, Denise Crosby's skin, as usual, is glistening with health and vitality. Maybe it has something to do with the moisturizer she's using or maybe it's her diet, but Denise's aura is on fire. That's great and all, but what is she wearing? Oh, yeah. While Jessica and Dolly continue to clash with Camilla, Denise Crosby can be seen in a white dress; a dress that is eerily similar to the one Marilyn Monroe famously wore in The Seven Year Itch, which is apt since Denise's character's name is, after all, Marilyn.
If you thought Denise Crosby looked amazing in her white dress, you should see her in a pleated yellow skirt. Officially known as "outfit #6," despite the fact that hardcore Dolly Dearest fans like to call it, "pleated yellow perfection," Denise Crosby searches for Jessica in this getup (if you listen carefully, you'll hear the pitter-patter of demonic doll feet scurrying across the hardwood floors). Oh, and the lightning effects really seemed to bring out the wrinkledness of the dresses pleats.
When the legendary pink non-dotted top paired with a floral skirt ensemble makes its appearance, Denise Crosby is well on her way to becoming the most sensible-dressed mom in horror film history.
If only Dolly Dearest made the same sense as Denise Crosby's wardrobe, as the film starts to spiral out of control when she dons her final outfit, a black and brown number. Even though they showed the doll moving all by itself way too early, I thought the doll was effectively creepy. However, that all changes once the dolls start to have expressions. Losing their creepiness in an instant, the moment the faces of the dolls began to move, and they started to talk, was when the film became a bit a joke. Which would have been fine had the entire film been like that. But the sudden change from it being a creepy doll thriller to a campy doll thriller was quite jarring. On a positive note, Denise does get to utter the line, "I am not losing my daughter to a God-damned, nine-hundred-year-old goat-head!" In other words, it wasn't a complete waste of time.


  1. Send Abby, High Priestess of Eshu, down there to handle those dolls and 900-year old goat head. She'll have that shit knocked out in 45 minutes and get back to Louisville for some high quality nightgown-based writhing.

  2. Forget about Freddy vs. Jason. We want Abby vs. Dolly. Quick, get Ronny Yu's agent on the phone.

  3. Urk. After just watching how brutally awful that trailer is, I think we need to bring in the big guns:

  4. Morrissey is the biggest gun there is.

  5. Oh, there are bigger. Much bigger: