Warning, this is a spoiler based review
To add to the, 'doesn't look good factor', I'm always suspicious when none of the writers, directors or producers have their own wiki pages so I did some checking. This movie was produced by Dolly Dearest Productions and Channeler Enterprises and according to IMDB this was the only movie either was involved with. The movie has a couple of credited writers, one of whom is the director Maria Lease, who, according to wiki, was a bit-part actress from 1968 to 1972 and this was her first directing job, her second and last was directing four episodes of the 90's TV series Silk Stalkings and no, I hadn't heard of it either. From 1970 till 2010 she has worked regularly as a script supervisor and that's where her IMDB listings stop except for an appearance as herself in a 2010 documentary called Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape.
Normally this would be over research for me as I really only care about whether or not the movie's good, but since almost all the other movies in this season have come from Charles Band or his production company, this is actually a welcome deviation.
Dolly Dearest is not available on region 2 DVD and I wasn't paying £15 (about 25 US dollars) for a VHS copy which I would not be able to screencap so the version I'm reviewing is hardcoded with Swedish subtitles. A bonus for Swedish readers, I'm sure, though I'll try to avoid them if possible.
The first shot of the movie is a sign, which my knowledge of Spanish translates it as, "No Entry. By the order of the department of archaeology." Though I could be wrong, I'm fairly sure archaeology is spelt wrong, though I'm unfamiliar with Mexican-Spanish.
|In this case, the Swedish subtitles help|
The door he was chipping at, flies backwards and flattens him on the ground. Well done, movie, good jump scare. A red light comes out of the tunnel and loses all scare credibility as it jumps about the screen all over the place quickly in a totally non-scary way. It goes into a shack and oh, titles. The titles are just white words on a black screen with some theme music. Tee hee hee - someone in this movie is called Sam Bottoms. Don't look at me like that, I'm British, the word 'bottom' amuses me.
Do you know a very good way to establish quickly that the child character in your movie has issues? This is it:
Kid is on a plane, kid looks very familiar, looks like the kid from Future Imperfect in Next Gen where Riker is kidnapped as his fake father. *Consults IMDB* It IS that kid! I'm so good.
The stewardess announces that they've almost arrived, but since the kid is wearing headphones he doesn't quite hear so he takes them off and turns to ask Lieutenant Tasha Yar if she spoke to him, but she says no, and repeats the announcement.
Tasha Yar is with a husband and child, the child is writing letters to her friends, the husband shows the child a picture of a doll and tells her she'll be the only little girl in the world whose Daddy makes such beautiful dolls. I'm sure that's a lie, but I'll let them have it. The dad is all like, "Oh we're going to be so successful" and the little girl asks if they can go back to LA then, to which the Dad is clearly owned.
We find out the dad is called Elliot Wade and his and Tasha Yar's daughter is called Jessica, they are met as they get off the plane by a guy welcoming them and giving them some paperwork. They drive to a house and for some reason the headphones kid is with them, so one can only assume that he must be related and with them too. Inside the house a helpful servant lady tells the kid, Jimmy, that there's lots of books with the history of Mexico and he's quite excited about this.
|House of Fun or House of Haunted evilness?|
|The all new Mexican doll factory! Yes, those are tumbleweeds, yes they are tumbling.|
The real estate guy shows Elliot and Jimmy some of the equipment and Jessie follows a frog into a back room. Elliot is well annoyed that he's been so very clearly cheated out of his money and out and out lied to. Jimmy wanders outside and finds the archaeological dig. Meanwhile, Jessie has found a collection of dolls which the previous owner left and Elliot allows her to choose one for herself. Will she have managed to pick the one evil haunted doll from a choice of about 30? What do you think?
They all go back to the car and the real estate guy tells Jimmy that someone was killed in the Mayan ruins and they are waiting for someone in the university. That night, back at home, Tasha Yar tucks Jessie into bed and Jessie talks sadly to her doll about having no friends. The dolls head turns. Yes, confirmed, demonic doll chosen out of a large collection.
|What a spectacular coincidence!|
Tasha Yar is very pleased that Jessie is going out to play, but she's worried by some strange crayon drawings she finds. Later, as Tasha is unpacking some things she hears some foot steps and calls out to Jessie, telling her that it's almost time to go and in a very clever moment, as she crosses the room, we see the doll reflected in the standing mirror, looking at Tasha.
|I see you!|
Jessie throws the house keeper an evil look and then looks at the priest walking away from the house and Tasha looks very concerned. Jessie screams for her dolly, Tasha asks the house keeper what the priest was doing there and she tells them it's custom for the priest to come and bless the house.
Meanwhile at Generic Mexican University Rip Torn is trying to pass himself off as a Mexican. Oh, movie. Why? Why did Rip Torn have to be Mexican? A student shows him some photos of the Mayan dig site and asks when Rip Torn is leaving, he says he's going straight away. Back at the house, Tasha is concerned about Jessie's behaviour and Elliot says he'll take Jimmy to the factory so Tasha can spend time with Jessie.
Tasha looks outside and sees lights on in the Wendy house outside, angry she goes out and hears Jessie's voice inside and her shadow passing the windows. She goes into the Wendy House and finds Jessie talking to her doll and asks what she's doing outside, then brings her in the house. The housekeeper sees this and lights a few candles in front of a picture of Jesus and says some prayers, so obviously, she will be the first to die.
|Say your prayers, Mexican housekeeper! What's that? Oh, you are saying your prayers... Well, carry on then!|
Jessie is eating her lunch, talking to her doll and drawing disturbing crayon pictures which she tells Tasha that Dolly told her to draw. You know, typical kids stuff.
|Just like on Sesame Street!|
Tasha apologises to the house keeper and Jessie says something to her which really upsets her as Jessie runs off. The house keeper says it's the language of the Sanzia and she knows the language and people and then she freaks out a bit and runs off.
Tasha goes to the Wendy house as she hears Jessie talking, Jessie says "What do you want?!" Charming. Tasha asks Jessie why she pushed the house keeper. Jessie explains that the house keeper prays to the spirits and the spirits hate Dolly and that Dolly told her the word she said, though of course Tasha doesn't believe her. Tasha takes Jessie to apologise which she does, but it's totally lame and she strops off like a proper little madam.
Tasha asks the house keeper to make her prayers more private and the house keeper says she understands, but they need to find someone else for their house. Later, Elliot asks Jessie how her day was and Jessie tells him that her mother's been acting funny and he should have words with her. Elliot leaves and as Jessie says goodnight to Dolly, Dolly runs out of the room. Jessie gets up to go looking for her and wanders through the house. Who the hell is supposed to be looking after the kids?
We, (and Jessie) see Dolly running back into the house and Jessie sees the housekeeper which she avoids. Then she goes outside to the Wendy house, after the doll beckons her, which the house keeper sees. Just as Jessie reaches the Wendy house, the house keeper asks her to come back in the house, Jessie tries to run back, as they reach the door back door, they close and lock, so the house keeper goes to the front of the house, but it's also locked. She shouts up to Jimmy, but he has his headphones on and doesn't hear her.
Then she tries the basement doors which do open and she walks through the dark basement till she turns on the light, to discover a load of doll parts all over the place, including a shelf of fake eyeballs. We see Dolly's hands closing and locking the basement doors and then her walking down the stairs and a bunch of doll heads fall on the house keeper. She makes it to the basement door but it's lock and as she goes back down the stairs she sees an old school skate which she picks up. Then, OHFUCKINGHELL!
|Thank you, movie, I needed to empty my bowels.|
The house keeper stands up and the music starts really building up as she pulls out, whatever it was she was stabbed with, and starts searching in the dark for the exit. She finds the light again and turns it on and Dolly jumps up for another jump scare and pushes the house keeper backwards into what is either an indoor well or, well actually I have no idea what the hell it's supposed to be, but it's a big hole in the floor filled with water which is very deep. Dolly pulls the light bulb wire off of the wall and throws it into water, electrocuting the house keeper somewhat realistically.
At this point I've come to a conclusion. This might actually be a good movie. I don't want to count my toys before they've been imbued with an evil spirit, but I quite like jump scares and the tension building has been good, as has the acting and the only dodgy bits so far have been the dodgy effect at the start and Rip Torn being passed off as a Mexican.
Jessie sees Dolly going to the Wendy house and follows her inside as Tasha and Elliot come back from wherever they've been. They notice the lights are out and Tasha mentions that there might be a fuse box problem so Elliot goes to check. Tasha checks Jessie's room and finds it empty, she finds Jimmy in his room and Jimmy goes to see if she's with the house keeper.
In the basement, Elliot looks around the doll parts, looking for a fuse box, which he eventually finds. Upstairs Jimmy says he can't find Jessie or the house keeper. Elliot turns on the lights, but sees that something is sparking and so turns them off again to see what the problem is. He follows the light wire to the water pool and pulls it out of the water. As Tasha realises that Jessie is outside in the Wendy house as a big storm has started she runs towards the doors and all the glass from them and the windows breaks, flying into the house, it's quite a scary bit actually. Elliot tugs around in the water and shits himself as he finds the house keepers body in the water.
I can't stress how good this bit plays out, the music really starts building and Tasha and Jimmy start walking really slowly, looking quite scared, we then see Jessie standing in the middle of the doors with Dolly and Jessie just isn't moving and is staring at them. A screencap won't really do it justice, but it's a very good scene.
The next morning, Tasha is reading in the garden and keeps staring at the Wendy House, she hears a wind chime, then we see Dolly inside talking to Jessie, with Dolly saying "She's always trying to listen, see, here she comes now!" Tasha tries to turn door handle which won't open for a few moments, then manages to open it and we see Jessie sat at the table drawing again.
Tasha asks Jessie why she has cut her hair short and Jessie says she did it to match Dolly's, then she asks why she was holding the door and Jessie says that Dolly locked it because she was sick of everyone coming into their house. Tasha tells Jessie to come with her and leave Dolly and Jessie is all, "No, we'd rather stay here", then she looks at Dolly and pulls the whole "I'm sorry, Mommy" act and I'm officially scared of this kid, because she's so insincere.
|Thank you for coming, Mommy, now kindly fuck off|
We see that the crypt has human and what I think it cat or possibly snake, but I honestly have no clue, skulls embedded in the walls and a coffin in the centre of the room. Rip Torn asks him what he sees, which Jimmy tells him, then Rip tells him to get out of there. When Jimmy comes out, Rip pinches his ear and tells him not to pull that stunt again and Jimmy says that he really wants to be Rips assistant. At this point, Rip's stopped bothering with the accent and asks if he can use the phone in the doll factory so Jimmy leads him there.
Inside the factory, Rip sees the none-Dolly dolls and Elliot comes along and they have a conversation about the dolls and the site, Elliot says the more time he spends with the dolls, the more life they seem to take on and he tells Rip he's sorry about the accident and can use the phone any time. Rip explains that the crypt isn't Mayan, it's a 900 year old civilization called the Sanzia, which means 'Devil'. *Consults google* first three pages mostly consist of hits for Dolly Dearest and a shoe company, so I'm calling made up cult, which is better than real historical cult with factually inaccurate backgrounds. Also this means I can kind of let them off for the Christian imagery being a problem as it isn't really Mayan.
A guy comes in to say the water main is broken so Rip Torn tells them that his men will arrive tonight, Jimmy gets all hopeful and Rip tells him that when it's dark, he doesn't want Jimmy around, but smiles anyway. Jimmy decides to do some research on the Sanzia and finds a book with a laughably fake cover called 'The cult of the DEAD' which of course is the one Jimmy picks up and is fascinated by. That night at the dig site, Rip has set up a little caravan and takes some equipment into the site.
Elliot leaves the factory and gives the keys to a worker to lock up who plays himself some music and starts making a burrito. Inside the ruins, Rip reads out some inscriptions which warn not to cross the threshold of the tomb. In the factory, Luis the worker, grabs one of the dolls from the shelf and asks her to join him for dinner and jokes about with the doll. Then he pokes the dolls nose and the dolls head turns. Does this mean all the dolls are possessed by the tomb demon? Is Elliot under their influence as well? Just how long will it take Luis to die? We'll find out soon.
Luis hears something and turns off his radio, he tells the doll to wait there as he'll be right back. Yes, he actually broke that rule of horror movies. As he walks past the doll it rolls it's eyes, meaning the doll actually knows the horror movie rules and knows how dead this guy is. Luis searches around some boxes as a doll watches him and the movie pulls horror movie cliché 876 out of the bag and a cat runs out, scaring him. He laughs and shuffles back as he realises it's just a cat and one of the dolls jumps out at him and he screams.
Inside the factory Luis is being chased by the dolls and he tries to hide from them but keeps falling into things. One of the dolls jumps up behind him and scares him and his hand becomes trapped in a sewing machine and one of the dolls puts their foot on the pedal, sewing his hand. This is actually pretty uncomfortable watching and anyone who has ever used a sewing machine and worried about catching their hand it in will feel as creeped out as I do. Luis manages to pull his hand free, then in a weird moment, pulls his shirt open and falls to the floor. As he lays there we see movement below his chest, ohmygod, are we going to get a doll chest burster?
The scene cuts to Rip making notes about the crypt, saying it's beautiful and has wonderful detail. The inscriptions say that it is the story of creation and the birth of evil on earth. It turns out this is where the Sanzia have entombed the 'Devil Child', whatever that may be, though it probably is whatever's in the dolls come to think of it. He sticks his arm in the tomb with a device which blows some of the sand off the top of the coffin so he can see the carving more clearly. Jimmy arrives at the dig site outside but the lights have blown out and he thinks that Rip has gone. He hears a dog barking and picks up a stick, then the rottie comes running in and he decides to go into the factory via a window instead, but breaks a sink as he climbs in.
|Are you trying to give us an upskirt shot of the doll, movie?|
Rip exits the dig and hears sand falling down so he draws his gun, we then see some mysterious hands pouring a can of petrol onto the floor and lighting a match. Rip kicks the match away from the persons hand and we see it's a lady, Rip asks what she's doing and she says that he must stop and everyone will be killed unless he does. The woman says that all the children are in danger and he must close the tomb, he says that the Sanzia are dead, etc, etc, but the woman runs off before he can stop her.
Then for some reason, Elliot is back, he pulls up in his car to see Rip chasing down the woman, but she escapes. Rip tells Elliot that it was just a local with superstitions, Elliot says he's looking for Jimmy as they've discovered he snuck out, but of course Rip hasn't seen him. Inside the factory Jimmy has picked up the boxes and sees the cat, he seems to know that something is off about the doll, but doesn't realise that it's moved. He looks around and we see that it's not just the full dolls which are possessed.
|Modelled on Gene Simmons|
Jimmy recounts the information he learned about the Sanzia, which Tasha clicks onto and goes to the foot of the stairs as Elliot tells Jimmy to stay away from the dig site. Tasha goes up to Jessies room and finds Jessie in bed with Dolly. As she goes to take the doll Jessie wakes up and says "What are you doing? Get out of here." Tasha says she's taking the doll and Jessie screams at her and stands up saying she'll kill her if they try to separate them, then her voice turns all demony and Jessie is officially scary as hell.
Jimmy comes in and is like "Wow, neat trick with your voice!" Stupid kid. Elliot comes in and Jessie reverts to wailing child and starts crying "Mommy tried to take Dolly away, don't let her take Dolly away Daddy." Of course Elliot won't listen to Tasha as she tells him that the doll is bad for her. Tasha wants to get Jessie out of there and take her back to LA and Elliot says that they can't just take her away because she's having a tantrum. Tasha should just march right in there and get the doll and burn it to death, but since this movie is about 20 years old, Tasha can't hear me and that doesn't happen. Tasha asks about Rip and the dig, but Elliot is all dismissive and then verbally abusive, Jimmy over hears all this so I hope he'll do something.
|Tasha never got to wear these lovely outfits in Next Gen|
Tasha goes to the convent to talk to the house keeper's sister. Jimmy, at home, plays with an aeroplane, but is spooked by the doll and the, frankly, creepy looking Jessie who is looking drawn and pale. Tasha asks a nun if she can speak to Sister Alba, the nun says that she's ill, but Tasha pleads with her and is allowed. Tasha goes in and apologises to the nun about her sister, surprisingly, the nun isn't very forgiving. The nun gives Tasha a lecture about machines and warnings, the nun tells Tasha that it's too late as the demon has been set free, but Tasha begs her for more information. The nun says that the doll can be one or many and wants to spread it's word through the children, she says all she can do is pray. Then Rip turns up and Tasha leaves with him.
Tasha tells Rip that it is indeed insanity, but she knows that there's something wrong with Jessie and the doll and though it may be insanity, it's real. At home, Tasha looks for Jessie who doesn't answer from her room, she looks in Jimmy's room but it's empty, then as she goes to her bedroom and is scared by Jimmy coming out of the closet. Tee hee hee. Jimmy tells Tasha that he's hiding and he's seen the doll move and talk and Jessie is in her room with the doll and gives Tasha the key.
|I'm not sure that this will be the next Barbie.|
Downstairs Jimmy tries to call for the emergency services, but doesn't speak Spanish so that doesn't help. Tasha looks again for Jessie, checking under the bed and then sees Dolly behind a curtain, a noise distracts her and as she turns back, Jessie is stood right in front of the barrel of the gun. Tasha, being dumb at this point, hugs Jessie and then carries her downstairs and calls for Jimmy. The door opens and Dolly is stood with the car keys in her hand, taunting Tasha. Dolly commands Jessie and Jessie attacks Tasha violently, punching and kicking at her.
Jimmy picks up the gun and can't get it to go off, he fiddles with it and it shoots, scaring Dolly, then he points it at her and delivers the pre-mortem one liner, "Play with this, bitch" and shoots Dolly, sending her flying through the door. Jessie goes limp and then returns to normal and hugs Tasha.
|Meanwhile, an idiot gets to work|
Realising that the myths are true, Rip says "What have I done?" Then he dashses out of the dig and runs towards the factory. The dolls trap Elliot and pull him towards some machinery via a rope, he tries holding onto everything he can but is just pulled further as he screams and freaks out over the dolls. He is pulled over the mixer and Rip runs in, he trips and sees a doll, but jumps up and quickly disconnects the power, allowing Elliot to pull himself up, which he could have done the entire time.
Rip and Elliot run out of the factory as Tasha and Jimmy pull up in the car, Rip grabs a box of dynamite from his car and Elliot tells Tasha to put the kids in the car. Rip and Elliot make a plan to destroy the factory, not the mayan temple of the dolls origin, but the factory, ok. They start dropping lit sticks of dynamite and Jimmy runs off to help, despite Tasha's warnings, because the kid is a bit dumb. One of the dolls stabs Elliot in the knee cap with a pair of scissors ouch. The dolls run around pulling out the fuses of the dynamite and Jimmy does something useful by throwing some dynamite into the ruins. Rip and Elliot manage to blow up the factory with the dolls inside and we hear the demon screaming.
The camera zooms into the burning factory and Tasha sighs with relief and says that it's over. End of Movie.
You know what I really hate? Having to eat my own words. I really genuinely thought this would be a bad movie, due to most of the ones I've seen so far being terrible, but this really isn't bad at all and I think it's a bit of a shame that the director never really got a chance to do another movie as if this was her first effort, she could have made something truly epic.
Some people don't like jump scares, but I do, a good jump scare will make you jump almost every time you watch the movie, even if you know it's coming. I liked the jump scares in this movie, they actually made me jump and therefore this movie managed to scare me, something none of the other Terror Toys movies I've watched have actually managed to do. The actress who plays 7 year old Jessie is terrific, she's genuinely creepy and scary once the doll takes over and delivers a hell of a performance.
Jimmy's a bit goofy, but in a way that plays into being an awkward young boy and I think they could have used him a little more. Denise Crosby was fantastic as she usually is, I know I referred to her as Tasha Yar through out, but her character name is only said about 3 times in the movie and I don't think it's said for the first time till half way through. I didn't see the point of making Rip Torn Mexican, especially since his accent goes off and on through out the movie. One of the best supporting cast is the factory worker, Luis, who has a great scene even if he is just cannon fodder.
The effects for Dolly are pretty good. That dodgy red effect at the start aside, the effects throughout are pretty decent and the doll always looks like it's actually moving, they don't use any stop-go animation in it and therefore it doesn't look dated.
*Sigh* Here's where I get lynched. I think this is a better movie than Child's Play. The acting on a whole is better, it's actually scary, there's no slow bits, it all kind of makes sense and you don't have to suspend your disbelief quite as much as there's not the voodoo stuff to contend with. (If you actually know anything about VooDoo, it's a bit hard to believe any of that in Child's Play). On the whole I was more entertained by Dolly Dearest than I was by Child's Play. Not only would I happily watch this movie again, I'd recommend it to friends and maybe try and start a campaign to get it released on region 2 DVD so I can own a copy I can watch without Swedish subtitles hard coded.
If you haven't seen it and you can get a copy, go watch it, because I think this might just be a missed classic horror film.
8 & 1/2 out of 10