Charles Band Spotlight (Part 3: Dolls)
I’ve heard complaints about Charles Band and Fullmoon about how a lot of his stuff has a heavy emphasis on killer dolls, puppets, toys or whatever. Charles Band has admitted himself he’s always had a fascination with that concept.
My personal opinion is that if something is done well, I don’t mind seeing it again and again. I can tell you this much when it comes to dolls.
When I was a kid, staying at my grandparents house they had this doll. It was about a meter tall and it always just sat on this stool facing out from the television. During the day, when the lights were on, it was just a doll to me, not freaky at all but at night, it was the scariest fucking thing I’d ever seen. Its doll-face was cracked and held together by bandages. Its hands were these tiny shriveled brown messes that looked like a mummified corpse. I swear to god, that thing would look at me sometimes. Just look straight at me. I always thought one day for sure it was going to come to life and kill me.
So why am I telling you all of this? Well because our third and final spotlight on mister band is going to be his movie, titled simply; Dolls.
Dolls was released in 1987 and was produced by Charles Band and his Empire Pictures company. Band had nothing to do with the directing however. That was done by Stuart Gordon (a horror legend in his own right) It was a precursor to the Puppetmaster franchise and interestingly enough, it’s a hell of a lot better.
The film starts off with a family taking some non-specific vacation in England. It seems the father David (Ian Patrick Williams) has divorced his wife and remarried Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy-Gordan). A fun fact is that both these actors would be in another film together, albeit in smaller roles in “The Re-animator”.
David has a daughter Judy (Carrie Lorraine) Who has a big imagination and seems to piss off her father and step-mother to no end. The opening scene itself is equal parts hilarious and “what-the-fuck”. After their car gets stuck in the mud, they notice an eerie old mansion nearby. As if some kind of paint by numbers horror scenario they start to walk through the storm towards the house. For –no- reason whatsoever the step-mother turns to Judy and tells her to leave her teddy-bear in the car. When Judy tries to explain that the toy is her best friend, the mother just takes it out of the little girl’s hands and throws it in the bushes. What a bitch! The best part comes when for no reason the teddy is now a giant. It then attacks and kills Judy’s Father and step-mother. Judy says “Oh teddy what have you done now” And the bear, covered in blood just gives a shrug. I was dying of laughter. This whole sequence was just in Judy’s head however, it cuts back to reality and they enter the house where they are introduced to its owners.
An elderly couple live in the mansion are Gabriel and Hilary Hartwickle, (Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason respectively) Rolfe would later be cast several times and Andre Tulon, in many of the Puppetmaster sequels. It seems Gabriel is a toy-maker who specializes in one of a kind dolls, their entire house is filled with them on every shelf. Most are the really creepy kind with the big cheeks and dead eyes.
Out of the absolute blue three more characters show up, two British punk rocker chicks (one of whom seems to be channeling early 80’s Madonna.) and a big guy named Ralph. As if totally expecting these new people to come, the Hartwickles invite everyone to stay the night. Of course it doesn’t take long for things to start to get creepy as guests start to vanish and nobody will believe young Judy that it’s the dolls.
This movie is part horror and part comedy. It’s not as goofy as Ghoulies but it also doesn’t take itself as seriously as Puppetmaster. The person who really steals the show is the guy who plays Ralph, (Stephen Lee) he’s a lovable nice-guy who never outgrew the heart of a child. He has a big of imagination, like Judy and while reluctant at first, he is quickly to believe Judy to help her investigate the Toys. Honestly his scenes where he interacts with Judy and the Dolls are the highlight of the film, he really seems to be channeling his Lou Costello in a lot of his lines. The whole time I was watching this I couldn’t ignore the fact that a lot of the comedy was similar to that of the old Abbot and Costello meet the Mummy/Dracula/ Frankenstein etc.. films.
The Dolls themselves are great. The combination of animatronics, stop motion and camera tricks really make those things effective. I think I have a natural leaning to be somewhat creeped out by dolls in the first-place but with all of the Charles Band productions I’ve watched, this was the first time where I was actually freaked out by the dolls. The death scenes are pretty brutal all things considered. A lot of the toys are just savage and attack in large packs.
Now, my biggest complaint about this movie is probably the ending. People who read my blog know that I hate to ruin endings or important plot points while talking about these movies. So, I really don’t want to say much other than, it was really hard to swallow. How the characters could simply buy the story that was fed to them by the elderly couple is just…well like I said it just made no sense.
That being said, I highly recommend this movie, in that if you are going to watch any of the three from my Charles Band Spotlight, watch Dolls. It’s the perfect mix of horror and comedy, plus it’s only an hour and seventeen minutes long, so you can’t really go wrong. It’s available on Netflix for those who have it.
Well that’s it for the Charles Band Spotlight. I hope you guys had fun reading about some of these productions. I said at the start of this that at splatterpictures, we love Charles Band, the reason why we do is because the guy has made his career out of horror.
So many other directors, actors and producers get their start out in the horror industry because they are fast, cheap, and profitable for the most part. People take risks on newcomers, when it isn’t a 100 million dollar franchise. So in that sense, a lot of people use horror as a stepping stone.
Charles Band, just makes horror, dumb, cheap and ridiculous horror. For that mister Band I thank you!