I have to admit straight out: doll horror films don’t scare me*. Don’t get me wrong, I hate scary dolls. One of my sisters used to have a clown doll. Hated it. Chucky? Hate ’em. But there’s something so…silly about them. For one: why the hell can’t anyone kill them?
Well, demons for one.
Dolly Dearest was one of the many scary doll movies to come out after the success of Child’s Play. And in many ways, it rips off many of themes there. But it also rips off a number of other themes from popular horror films.
And yet, it’s strangely very watchable. That’s due to a pretty solid cast, which definitely makes this more than a mere knock-off.
Husband and wife Marilyn and Wade (Denise Crosby and Sam Bottoms) move their young family to Mexico, where Wade believes he can make a fortune manufacurting dolls. But when he arrives at his newly-bought factory, he finds only an archeological dig and a run-down shack that’s his ‘factory’. The seller tells him that it hasn’t been touched since the old doll make who owned it before died.
The family begin to explore the factory when Wade’s young daughter, Jessica, spots one of the woman’s old dolls. She asks for one, and her wish is immediately granted.
Back at their new home, the family’s maid Camilla (Lupa Ontiveros aka THAT BITCH YOLANDA!) asks the house to be blessed. This upsets Jessica, and she becomes upset. Well, less upset and more Damien at church.
Both Camilla and Marilyn become concerned as Jessica increasingly spends time in the dollhouse in th family’s backyard. Jessica acts like a brat, not her usual way. She pushes the maid. She talks back to her mom. She speaks to Camilla in an ancient language. A some-what unusual moodswing.
One night, Jessica sneaks out to do to the doll house. Only Camilla catches her first. As punishment, Jessica’s dolly lures Camilla into the cellar where she meets her death.
Unaware that anything is unusual abou the death, the family try to continue as normal. But Jessica continues to become a pint-sized Regan MacNeil. Jessica’s brother, Jimmy, spends his time scoping out the dig site near the factory. While he originally believes it to be Mayan, he later learns from a university professor (Rip Thorn) that it’s Sanzian.
Through his reading, Jimmy learns that the Sanzians were pretty Satanic people. They tried to make a devil child, and had to destroy their handywork when things spiralled out of control.
By the time Jimmy and Marilyn realise something is seriously wrong with Jessica, the little girl has gone full-on possessed. And “Dolly” has become a twisted, demonic entity.
Now. Dolls are small. Kick them. Dismantle them. Set them on fire. You do NOT need to run away from a doll. Unless it’s going to pushing you in a well and electrocute you. RIP Camilla.
That’s what makes the last act more of a comedy than a horror film. While the dolls look creepy as all hell, it’s sort of difficult to take them seriously. In the end, despite being an ancient spirit or whatever, the dolls are destroy by being blown up. That’s it. It seems simple enough. Jessica gets off scot free and all.
I won’t pretend that Dolly Dearest is a work of art. It really isn’t. But it is fun. Definitely a hidden gem in the scary doll genre. But if you’re already unafraid of dolls, this isn’t the film to change your mind.
*”The Tale of the Dollmarker” will always be the exception to the rule….and Talky Tina. Ok and that thing from Trilogy of Terror.