Dolls Blu-ray Review
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Written by Ed Naha
1987, Region B, 77 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 17th February 2014
Ian Patrick Williams as David Bower
Carolyn Purdy-Gordon as Rosemary Bower
Carrie Lorraine as Judy Bower
Guy Rolfe as Gabriel Hartwicke
Hilary Mason as Hilary Hartwicke
Bunty Bailey as Isabel Prange
Last year was a good year for Stuart Gordon. 2013 saw the UK release of his masterful From Beyond on Blu-ray, along with the relatively minor Castle Freak and The Pit and the Pendulum. It was after watching these three releases in quick succession that I had myself something of an epiphany: that Stuart Gordon might be my favourite film director of all time.
From the obvious classics (Re-animator and From Beyond) through to the cult (Fortress), the underrated (Edmund) and the downright bizarre (King of the Ants), I’ve never seen a Stuart Gordon film that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. Although I haven’t seen Space Truckers yet, so that’s not to say that there isn’t one out there. Dolls was one of the few Gordon pieces that I hadn’t seen, so imagine my delight when the folks at 101 Films were good enough to bring it out as part of their ‘Cult Horror’ range. Although, given my recent revelation, I couldn’t help approach it with some trepidation. Its reputation, after all, suggests that Dolls isn’t quite up there with Gordon’s best.
The first thing you’ll notice is a distinct lack of H.P Lovecraft, Jeffrey Combs or trademark Gordon sleaze. Dolls is a less typical Gordon feature than most, to be sure, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. One dark and stormy night, a family’s car breaks down on a lonely country road. Taking shelter in a nearby mansion, (step) mum, dad and their young daughter spend the night with a kindly couple and their collection of not entirely inanimate dolls. It’s a familiar setup, but Gordon wrings plenty from it. Too few horror films have the bravado to attack their characters with a giant teddy bear (even if it is a dream sequence), a feat Dolls accomplishes with aplomb.
Fun, funny and gratifyingly gruesome, Dolls is the film that Puppetmaster should have been. It tells a very similar story, but the fairytale vibe and lack of pretention about it makes for one of the most enjoyable killer toy features you’ll ever see. Genuinely creepy (those with a phobia of china puppets and dolls will not be a fan) but with an oddly sweet edge (or lack of edge, even) it’s a more likeable film than Puppetmaster, which has a fine atmosphere and scares, but lacks fun. It’ll never be up there with Gordon’s classics, but it’s far more worthwhile than its reputation suggests. Those looking for originality or more serious scares may be disappointed, but Dolls has plenty going for it.
Video and Audio:
It looks and sounds very impressive; the HD transfer being far better than one has any right to expect from a cult eighties horror of little regard. It sounds good too, although we could probably do without the atrocious cockney accents from the two punk girls.
The only extra on the disc is a director’s commentary from Stuart Gordon, who is joined for the occasion by screenwriter Ed Naha. It’s entirely disposable, but is warm and personable enough.