What is it about dolls that strikes fear into my cold little heart? From the moment I saw Talking Tina in The Twilight Zone, I knew something was amiss with recognizing life in an inanimate object. Pediophobia, the fear of dolls, is a primitive fear. To be superstitious of something similar to a person, but not quite human, coming to life with unknown intentions is just good survival skills.
This year, horror-lovers are being treated to a Child’s Play remake, Annabelle Comes Home, Brahms: The Boy II, and the newest addition to join those ranks is Dolls, directed by Cuyle Carvin. With its low-budget, Dolls certainly can’t compete with some of its brethren, but it’s a decent flick with some creative and fun moments.
The movie follows children’s book author Robert Holbrook, played by Thomas Downey, who moves into an inherited home after the suspicious death of his mother Edna (Melinda DeKay). There he finds three mysterious dolls in the attic. A tall ventriloquist puppet named Matthew, a pale more traditional baby doll named Lucia, and a sweet boy doll named Tommy. Robert finds inspiration in the dolls and begins his newest book titled Attic Dolls. A book I’d love to add to my collection.
His defiant teenage daughter Sammey (newcomer Trinity Simpson) shows up after leaving her mother (Elise Muller) and it’s determined she can stay with dad and help with the book. Immediately things are off-kilter as the dolls show up in unexpected locations and sounds in the attic and walls are blamed on raccoons. Luckily for Sammey, the new lawn boy James (Bret Green) provides a welcome distraction from the events.
Thanks to Margaret (the ever fabulous Dee Wallace), who typically enters the screen via jump scares, their suspicions are confirmed as they discover the dolls have a malevolent past that relates to Edna and Margaret’s mentally ill brother Henry (Robert R. Ryel). Without giving too much away, I applaud the creative backstory for the dolls themselves. A unique supernatural twist that explains some of the abilities of the dolls. Is Roberts inspiration from his own mind or something far more sinister?
The effectively creepy nursery rhyme from Robert’s book seems darker than his previous works.
The attic dolls live up the stairs
You’ll hear them laugh and run up there
But when you go upstairs to play
They’ll be standing still each day
If you turn your back on them
You’ll hear them run around again
And if you get to see them move
That is when they’ll come for you
Screenplay writers Justin and Josh Hawkins did a great job with the script. The relationships seem sincere and real. Specifically, the father/daughter duo whose choices make sense. I enjoyed the dialogue and it never felt forced. When Sammey says to herself, “Don’t be a basic bitch, we’re not afraid of ghosts,” was a very relatable and funny line. Going against the low-budget grain, even the acting is good until we get to the latter half of the movie where it’s clear that fear isn’t within the actor’s wheelhouses.
Unfortunately, the dolls personalities aren’t quite as clear. Specifically considering one of the dolls is not like the others. There isn’t much movement from them as well, as they are typically still shots, which is a good choice. Lots of bad CGI doesn’t make a good movie. And although the kill count was low, the deaths and gore were simple and well done.
Dolls is a low-budget horror film with everything that entails. Hit or miss acting, plot holes, hollow and sometimes badly-mixed sound, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a watch. For hard-core horror lovers, the fear factor isn’t there, but I can think of worse ways to spend my holiday than surrounded by hot dogs, fireworks and a few creepy dolls. Perhaps your own dolls are patiently waiting to wake you with their sweet smiles and fanatical laughter.
Dolls comes to DVD and VOD on July 2.
- Crystal Cleveland - Dolls (2019)