Saturday, July 29, 2017

Killer Punk Rock Action Figures From the 80’s, or Thoughts on Dolls

Not to be confused with Puppet Master (1989), Dolls (1987) is a cautionary story, or a modern fairy tale complete with a spooky mansion in the woods and an evil stepmother.  And because it’s set in the 80’s, the filmmakers throw a couple punk rock girls into the mix to attract the teen audience, as if the premise of killer dolls wasn’t enough. 
From director Stuart Gordon of Re-Animator (1985) takes a comic, almost slapstick elements juxtaposed against the popping eyeballs and ankle slashing as Judy, a 7 year-old with an over-active imagination and fantasies of slaughtering her parents take refuge from a storm in a convenient gothic mansion filled with antique dolls.  Along with the aforementioned evil stepmother, Judy is accompanied by her distant father, Isabel and Enid, a couple hitchhiking punk rock girls and Ralph, a friendly traveler.   Their hosts are Gabriel and Hillary, a witch/warlock couple that transforms evil humans into dolls, and there are a lot of dolls in the house…
The dolls come alive at night, much like the Zuni Fetish doll, and the special effects accomplished by a combination of stop motion and actual puppetry.  The movie could easily have been a Twilight Zone episode if you toned down the gore and filmed it in black and white.  Ralph drives an implausible but very cool vintage 1945 MG, and it’s worth staying to the end just to see that car.

I remember reading in an interview that when author Anne Rice lived in New Orleans she bought an entire mansion to house her antique doll collection, and I often wonder if she was in some way laterally inspired by this movie.  Watch out for Bunty Bailey, from the Take on Me video by A-ha (1985) as Isabel, one of the punk rock girls, and the director’s wife, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon as Rosemary, the evil stepmother.

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