Titles can be misleading. Our titular The Devil’s Dolls aren’t Chucky style monstrosities that come to life. No, they’re nothing of the sort. Sure, young Kennedy Brice sort of looks like a porcelain doll come to horrific life in the more intense moments of The Devil’s Dolls, but this isn’t the case. No, our “dolls” are more vesicles for possession from one being to another. Basically, think of the possession method of a Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday but instead of a worm it’s a worry doll. “Worry Dolls” (the original title for The Devil’s Dolls) are small hand made dolls from South American countries based on a Mayan legend of dolls that carry the burden of worries. Here though, they’re more in the vein of voodoo dolls. If anything, the human characters here are more like dolls, being moved by these voodoo-like forces for manipulation. Yeah. Just blew your mind there, right? Pretty deep analysis here, folks.
The Devil’s Doll itself starts with a mind being blown quite literally. In this case, it’s an officer attempting to track down a murderer who puts a chainsaw through his temple. Before said killer can do the same to his kidnapped victim, police officer Matt (co-writer/producer Christopher Wiehl) shoots him down. Matt later visits his daughter Chloe (Brice) who lives with his ex-wife Amy (Samantha Smith) and Amy’s new husband Ethan (Yohance Myles). As the adults talk, Chloe finds a box full of these small dolls that were found at the crime scene in Matt’s car and takes them to use for her little homemade jewelry that she sells at Amy’s shop. Chloe starts having fits that her mother thinks are seizures, but soon turn into more homicidal rages. Others who come into contact with the dolls experience similar rages, leading to murders that match the serial killer’s M.O. As Matt and his partner Darcy (Kym Jackson) investigate, they seek the help of a fortune teller named Della (Tina Lifford) who informs the officers of the supernatural origin of these dolls.
I give The Devil’s Dolls credit for trying to give a new face to the possessed doll genre. The voodoo style possession angle isn’t one taken enough and using an existing concept like the worry dolls allows for a more potentially palatable connection. The Devil’s Dolls tries to stretch that to the idea that the serial killer trapped inside is playing on their fears and worries through these dolls, coming out in the form of some decently put together kill sequences. They’re well choreographed and shot, featuring mostly practical effects work and a lack of remorse that’s brutal. Unfortunately, they’re not enough to make up for the complete lack of interest in anything that’s going on. Most of these people are bland canon fodder and even then, their deaths aren’t creative enough to stand out too well on a gory level. Some of these characters are so innocuous, to the point where the female blonde characters who were in peril or spent most of their time on the phone started melding together.
The cliches that come out of The Devil’s Dolls aren’t merely stuck in the horror genre. There’s plenty of that, including the use of a chainsaw to kill a victim and a sort of zombie sickly gray look to these possessed persons. Hell, Kennedy Brice’ possession behavior is right out of The Exorcist at points, right down to her pissing herself at her mother’s shop. Side tangent: no one ever bothers to even move on cleaning that piss once it expels forth. But the buck doesn’t stop there. No, we’ve also got our fair share of familiar cop drama tropes, mainly centered around Christopher Wiehl and Kym Jackson going on & on about being on the force and how oddly peculiar this case is. The exact same note played for the sake of exposition that connects these killings. There’s also the attempted build up of family drama about Matt’s underwhelming performance as a father that tries to be an emotional core. Yet, Wiehl is so distant and cold as a presence in even the most emotional scenes that the connection feels more like a cop film cliche.
Of course, this could all work properly with the right tonal balance of gritty atmospheric crime and fantastical horror, some of which occasionally splice together. There’s a solid sequence where someone’s being quietly stalked in a large empty house at night that’s honestly terrifying, mostly due to the impeccable lighting and cinematography that often serves as the saving grace of The Devil’s Dolls. Unfortunately, all of this merely showcases the problems firmly on display between the character relationships and the general blasÃ© nature of the pacing with cinematography it doesn’t deserve. By the time things come to the climactic twist reveal – when The Devil’s Dolls turns into a Christopher Nolan wanna be moral dilemma – one officially realizes how little the proceeding actions between these characters really mattered.
Rating: (1.5 / 5)