Written by Ed Naha
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Produced by Charles Band
David Bower...Ian Patrick Williams
Rosemary Bower...Carolyn Purdy-Gordon
Judy Bower...Carrie Lorraine
Gabriel Hartwicke...Guy Rolfe
Ralph Morris...Stephen Lee
The dysfunctional Bower family, two thieving punk rock bitches, and an average schmo named Ralph all seek refuge from a terrible storm in the enormous mansion home of eccentric toymaker Gabriel Hartwicke and his wife Hilary. Hospitable hosts that they are, they offer the guests rooms of their own in which they can hole up for the night. At once charming and creepy, each room is filled with dolls crafted by Gabriel's skillful hands.
When one of the punk rock grrls vanishes in the night, only young Judy Bower knows what happened--and even she is a bit fuzzy on the specifics: the silly girl believes that the woman was attack by elves (as if that were even remotely possible)! No, the tiny marauders are (surprise, surprise) dolls.
Bet you didn't see that one coming.
Being a child, Judy can't seem to convince anyone of her tale, except of course for Ralph, who is essentially just a big kid himself (at once charming and creepy, just like the house). The two wander together, hand in hand, through the old dark house, narrowly avoiding death around each corner as they attempt to unravel the mysterious going-ons.
One look at this movie and it becomes obvious that this is a Charles Band joint (as the kids are saying these days). It has his fingerprints all over it, from the use of miniature killers to its effective stop-motion animation, and occasional over-wrought melodramatic performances. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on whether you are a fan of classic Band productions or not.
Yes, these days it seems painfully reminiscent of the Puppet Master franchise. But when kept in perspective--Dolls was released a full two years before the first Puppet Master--it becomes obvious that the Puppet Master franchise is actually painfully reminiscent of Dolls. And although lesser-known than its rival (owed mostly to the fact that Puppet Master spawned numerous sequels, while Dolls forever remained a done-in-one), it still held up surprisingly well in my opinion. It's not a ground-breaking horror film, and the motivations of some of the characters aren't fully explored, but it's a well-crafted B-movie that would have been more effective if we hadn't already seen this sort of thing a few dozen times before.
Remember, hipsters: You're never too old to play with toys.
"Fuck you, clowny!"