Starring: Thomas Downey, Dee Wallace, Trinity Simpson, Bret Green
Directed by: Cuyle Carvin
Written By: Justin Hawkins, Josh Hawkins, Jeff Miller,
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Reviewed by: Dan Oles
Dolls is a film that’s not lacking in heart but could have used a bit more polish in the story department. The production is handsome for a low budget film especially: nice atmospheric camera angles, an enthusiastic and compelling cast, subtle use of digital effects and some creative practicals. The premise of evil dolls (spoilers) harassing a broken family seems to have the beginning and end of the screenwriting’s requirements.
Character arcs terminate without satisfactory conclusions, some of the events seem completely arbitrary, and there’s an odd uneasy transition between slow burn atmospheric horror in the first half with some weighty dialogue sequences…and speedy traditional blood and splatter with a supernatural/psychological twist. Both halves are decently displayed and if you’re a fan of old school horror you might get a kick out of the combo of relationship drama, haunted house thrills, and a couple inventive means of demise here.
The problem is that disconnect. I was looking forward to a near wordless journey of a washed up alcoholic author digging into the shadows of his past. THEN we’re hurled into a father/daughter argument followed rapidly by romantic tension and THEN an extensive flashback sequence. All the while these ideas hung in the air like cobwebs until the next collection of concepts brushed them aside. Also the central poem which is supposed to be spooky is pretty lousy.
Still and yet you can admire the evident persistence, invention, and effort which masks the limited resources well. Taken each part at a time it’s a compelling and solid horror effort. Apart the seams begin to show, but you can’t entirely fault a film whose major issue is too much ambition rather than too little. Needed some more massaging at a plot level, but the dolls are creepy, the house is cool, the characters are interesting and it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.
An attractive little slice of shock with a sprinkling of substance mingled in.