Friday, December 25, 2009

Dolls (Stuart Gordon, 1987)

My childhood teddy bear is perched on a shelf overlooking the area where I like to sit and stare at stuff. (The T.V., the television, and the boob tube being my absolute favourite items to stare at in that particular area.) Sporting a dust covered blue tuque, a red sash, and a deflated purple birthday balloon tied to its left leg, the bear innocently watches over my inherent lameness with a stoic brand of hirsute dignity. I have to admit, I never gave much thought as to what its homicidal intentions might be (after all, it's just an inanimate object). But that all changed after I witnessed the killer playthings in Dolls, the lively Stuart Gordon (From Beyond) directed ode to pulseless malevolence. The second the motion picture was over, I immediately sprung into action. Grabbing the dangling ribbon attached to the deflated purple birthday balloon, I proceeded to tie the bear's legs together in a mentally unsound attempt to render the potential creature immobile. My logic being: if the furry bear was going to kill me, it would have to work extra hard to do so. (I'd like to see it try to untie a knot without thumbs.) Now I realize the chances of the furry bear hurling itself in the general direction of my face and clawing my eyes out were slim to none. Not because I tied its legs together, but because toys don't intentionally hurt people. However, the act of shackling the teddy bear did bring me the peace of mind I couldn't acquire with an unshackled teddy bear in the house; its red demon eyes watching over me with a lascivious hunger. This paranoid dementia of mine is a testament to the craftsmanship of Stuart Gordon and his crack team of doll wranglers.

Whether the dolls were inactive or desperately trying to saw a woman's hand off, the dolls were sufficiently fiendish. Actually, just the mere sight of the dolls standing en masse was enough to engage my moist regions in a positive and productive manner. I chose to view the fact that they also stabbed people as an added bonus.

The simplistic plot of Dolls was quite welcome, as my brain (my primary moist region) was in no mood for deciphering a convoluted storyline about a cursed toymaker and his wonky disinterest in all things grownup. Well, there's some of the latter in the film: Gabriel (Guy Rolfe) and Hilary Hartwicke (Hilary Mason), the sinister yet friendly elderly couple who have way too many dolls lying around and possess an unsophisticated disdain for adulthood. But for the most part, it's your typical car breaks down in front of a menacing-looking mansion during a violent thunderstorm, human contents of said car end up staying the night and battling depraved dolls story.

The first broken-down car contains the Bower family, David (Ian Patrick Williams) and Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon) and their daughter Judy (Carrie Lorraine). A second car shows up a bit later carrying two English punk chicks, Isabel (Bunty Bailey from Hot Gossip) and Enid (Cassie Stuart), and a guy named Ralph (Stephen Lee) to give the film more in terms of victim variety. The fanciful Judy is the first to notice there's something evil afoot, while the rest carrying on blissfully unaware that they are surrounded by an armada of bloodthirsty, knife-wielding dolls.

Surprisingly, the least annoying performance in the film is that of Carrie Lorraine as the pigtailed Judy, an adorable little scamp who enjoys daydreaming; in fact, one of her daydreams involves an oversize version of her beloved teddy bear tearing apart her stepmother. As you would expect, this grisly vision gives us a terrific insight into Judy's strange psyche. Anyway, I enjoyed her puckishness and the on the cusp of being creepy relationship she forms with Ralph.

The punk rock hitchhikers were pretty good as far as being obnoxious and uncouth in a stuffy setting, but I definitely could have used more clear shots of their awesome makeup; the film is awfully dark at times.

If this film has taught me anything, it's that my wherewithal when it comes to telling the difference between fantasy and reality needs some serious tweaking. And that in the future, I shouldn't be so nonchalant about admitting that I watch doll-based entertainment from the 1980s with stuffed animals.

video uploaded by annubis44


  1. "Five golden tuques!"
    "And a beer in a tree..."

    Random fun fact about myself: Despite my old age, I still have a rather large stuffed animal collection. There's a turkey staring at me right now. I can't say I've ever thought about them rising up and attacking me. Well, maybe the giant hippo on the couch, but not the beanie babies.

  2. You're probably one of only a handful of Americans who knows what a tuque is. :)

    Stuffed animals, eh? I would have figured you more as a switchblades and sophisti-pop rarities kind of gal. ;)

    Just saw an ad for the new Kids in the Hall show "Death Comes to Town." I wonder if the Sizzler Sisters will make an appearance.

  3. Oooh I love DOLLS. Someone once told me it was like The Puppetmaster with a budget.

    I think the key to any successful movie is a director who really commits. Stuart Gordon could have looked down on the project after making the great Re-Animator, but he fashioned a really good little film with Dolls. Great location, too. One of my favorites of his.

  4. I guess Stuart had grown tired of all the goo and ectoplasm and decided he wanted to play with dolls instead.