Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dolls: Go Away Judy

Dolls are universally terrifying. Let's just get that out there. Put a doll in any horror film, or any movie for that matter, and it's bound to be met with unpleasantness. People can typically recall an event in their past that makes this fear much more attainable than say, a man wielding a knife. My creepy doll memories include Colonial portraits of short haired little girls where I used to envision them being alive in there and starring at me (I blame The Witches).

Oh wow those are really really creepy. I think it has to do with the fact that they look like adults, but are little. Midgets? Maybe. Still, why did we have these? And why is she holding a squirrel? Sick.

Technically these aren't dolls but they have the same characteristically creepy old faces that creepy old dolls have. Still not happy? Fine, here's a better one. We used to have this doll in our family, which I assume was some family heirloom that could have made a buck or two at Antiques Roadshow. This doll was at least 1o pounds, made of the heaviest plastic possible and had a short brown haircut just like those creepy portraits! I hated it so much that I used to step on it on a daily basis, but then finally gave up and locked it in my closet. I shudder to think if it's still there.

Having not seen Dolls until very recently, and based on my latent fear of dolls, it's hard to tell if not seeing it when I was younger is a blessing or a curse. Watching the film now, I find the dolls to be very creepy but I'm not agonizing over it like I would if I had seen it when I was little. I'm also not 100% positive that I really loved this film, which again has a lot to do with only having seen it now. If I saw it back in the old days of Power Rangers and jelly shoes, I probably would be talking about it non stop as a past traumatic event of my life. I'd be going to support groups, and yelling and crying every time someone brought a doll near me. Instead, I'm just taking screen grabs of dolls with dirt lips, and being annoyed at Ralph and the comedic music.

For what it is, and being that it is Stuart Gordon-- Dolls is still entertaining. I think I mainly just have a problem with movies like this and that stupid comedic music. It makes everything so damn funny doesn't it? Despite there being actual moments of what could be considered fear, the music ruins it all and calms us. There is nothing technically wrong with doing that, especially if the movie is trying to achieve something more lighthearted---BUT there is kind of a surprising amount of blood and gore in this for it to be lighthearted so this leaves me feeling confused.

Yes, I'm really confused.

Dolls by the way, is about a little girl named Judy (I'm sorry but she looks like a Cabbage Patch Kid)
her mean parents, a nice fat guy named Ralph and some British punks who are holed up in the nice manor of some old people--that really like toys.

When one of the punky girls tries to bag some antiques in the middle of the night she is attacked by the dolls and killed. Judy, who witnesses a portion of the crime tries to alert the others-who mainly believe her to be just a silly child. But the gist of the matter is yes, the dolls are alive and they kill people who aren't nice and childlike.

I really enjoyed the dolls in this. Their giggling and the way you didn't really see them fully move until later was quite well done. I also enjoyed how tool savvy they are.

I'm not sure why they have things like mini drills, and mini saws but hey--it works. It really convinced me that being taken over by little dolls would be difficult to get out of. In most instances when dolls are used they bring nothing to the table. They are just little and then suddenly someone is dead...? These dolls however are ruthless. I'm not sure how crazy I am about seeing what is really underneath their faces though. What is that all about?

Why can't they just be dolls, why do they have to be some gross goblin, skeleton, weird creature?

One thing that has been bothering me though, is how much I hate everyone in this film. Maybe it's intentional but is it really? I'm pretty sure we are suppose to like Judy, and I'm at least a little bit sure we are suppose to like Ralph. Maybe it's just my personal taste preference involving ugly girls and fat guys who are too overtly "funny" and over the top. Tough call. I will say how I found it very odd and annoying that Ralph is so jumpy and terrified of the two old people at the end. Obviously if he deserved to be made into a doll, or killed by a doll he would have. They won't be hurting you anytime soon and plus you should be grateful. The more anxious and annoying he got, the more I was sure the old people were going to change their minds. Ralph showed promise early on but for the most part he kind of creeped me out. He reminded me of someone.....yes, I think he reminds me of the guy on Man vs. Food.

Well anyways, this brings up another interesting point however which is the likability factor of the two old people and in a larger sense-- the dolls. Technically everyone who dies is an asshole and deserves it, but it still seems like we are in the mindset that the dolls are the villains. But it doesn't feel like it's supposed to be that way. I can never get a good sense of whose side I'm suppose to be on and that bugs me. I feel like we are pulled back and forth and the movie isn't sure which way it wants to go. You would think that Judy is the hero--but her life is never actually put in danger, and the movie makes it clear that Judy is untouchable in the eyes of the dolls pretty early on. So what does that mean? What are we doing if we aren't watching Judy and Ralph try to escape from the dolls. The crisis has been averted and no true harm will really come to them (except at the end when Judy's Dad goes crazy). It's the strangest set up I've ever seen.

Anyways, I like Dolls, I really do. It's not perfect or anything, but it carries with it just the right amount of creepiness. Sure the dolls may get too giggly there towards the end but you really can't beat a doll that moves around and cackles at you. It's an untouchable kind of fear that continues to upset people no matter how old they are. I suppose if anything else, Dolls is good for a laugh. Everyone just seems like such a caricature--like is anyone's Step mom really that heinous? And the Dad too? And why God, why, would a Teddy Bear slow down someone? Who throws a kid's Teddy Bear in the woods, honestly? Again these things are probably intentional but it doesn't mean those choices can't bother me. I will watch Dolls again, and continue to get creeped out by the dolls, but let's just say that it's not on my list of things to demand people to see. Really, it's no Showgirls.

This scene right here is actually pretty effective. I especially love the little old lady with the baby carriage, very spine tingling indeed!


deadlydolls said...

I love this movie more than about 97% of all movies made, but as you point out, I did indeed see it as a kid which easily makes it more endearing. I love the whimsical child fairy tale wrapped inside a vicious and bloody movie. I love that little Judy is a cute, realistic little girl who I could easily identify with as a kid (though as you may know, I was terrified of dolls and would never have let Teddy out of my sight).

It's an odd film tonally, but that's what makes it so memorable for me. As a child, it's a perfect horror film: the kid's okay, the nice people survive, and there's no sex or nudity to worry the parents. Also, the dolls are insanely creepy. But hey! They only want to hurt the bad people!

As you can see, I really love this film. Maybe I'll even sport my DOLLS Fright Rags t-shirt at Rock 'n Shock so you can identify me when at last we meet.

Andre Dumas said...

Hahah wait what Judy is cute?!!! Now I've heard everything. Hehehe. I did think of you during this entire movie and your fear of dolls actually. You're right about it being a perfect horror film for a child, which I think is what I was getting at with the comedic music making it lighthearted. But still...a lot of blood and gore for a lighthearted "childrens" horror movie eh? That's what confuses me. And mean Dad or not, his grisly end would probably be a lot more upsetting. But I forgot the old man tells her he left so I guess that make things better after all....!

I know what you look like Emily jeesh! But wear it anways...

Strange Kid said...

For my buck 'Dolls' is definitely one of Gordon's most solid flicks outside of H.P. Lovecraft lore. You made a lot of good points in regards to the soundtrack/music, but overall I enjoyed almost as much as the first Puppet Master film.

I could be wrong, but I think that the "reveal" of the creature inside the doll shell was meant to allude to the fact that they are actually human souls (?) who have been transformed into dolls... kinda like really tiny zombies inside porcelain doll shells. That was my interpretation at least.

deadlydolls said...

Judy is cute in a way that you don't typically see in movies! A little chunky, probably not going to grow into Monica Bellucci but realistic, friendly, and as you point out, Cabbage Patch like! I hate overly cute kids in film, and I like that this little girl isn't one of those.

And yes, the tone is absolutely bizarre but I guess that's why I love it. It's not mean or sleazy. Innocent, just with gore. I think a lot of kids raised with horror (at least, me) can handle most violence but don't necessarily know what to do with the sex. Dolls just bypasses all that.

Oh! And of course you think you know what I look like, but I'm actually 98% better looking in person so I just wanted you to be prepared.

Andre Dumas said...

Hahah that was amazing Emily, thank you. I'm going to prepare myself for your ravishing good looks....can't wait..!!!

Strange Kid- that is right about the little zombie souls inside the dolls. I think what annoys me is that I don't like the fact that the Dad and stepmom are now minions and will be doing all the cool stuff the dolls got to do. I wish they could have just been killed. I do think that idea is very interesting, it just goes back to this complex I have where there always has to be a mini twist of sorts. Like it can't just be a ghost story it has to have been in somoenes head. Ya know?

But the dolls are still terrifying. Although some of those dolls are very old looking. How long have these old folks been in business eh? The film's ending and that never ending cycle of people turning up there did make me think fondly of TV shows with spooky nightmarish endings, and I loved that.

The Fiji Mermaid said...

I love Dolls. I always try to watch it at least once a year. A really weird flick. I would agree the music is a bit strange at times. Although, being a soundtrack junkie I'd love to have the score to this one.

I remember seeing the Puppet Master movie yrs later and thinking it have a very very similar idea. A quick lookup on IMDB tells me that Charles Band produced both flicks. I guess he really liked the killer doll genre.

bastardjackyll said...

"Anti-ques" (as spoken by one of the punk chicks is one of my favorite mispronounced words ever.