[Review] Doll Factory: Welcome to Your New Guilty Pleasure

An evil presence possesses an inanimate object –or several hundred inanimate objects — and forces them to terrorize, torture and tear apart the residents of a small town. It’s a story that’s been told so many times before, in franchises ranging from the Chucky films to the Puppet Master movies, that it could almost be its own genre.

Doll Factory, written and directed by Stephen Wolfe, may not be good enough to spawn a series of its own, but it’s certainly silly enough, and gory enough, to entertain even if it never really generate any scares.

The story starts with a flashback to Halloween night, 1976, where we watch a sheriff and his deputy shoot at an oncoming off-camera hoard of killer dolls as a local resident reads from an ancient book of spells in an effort to end their possession. The reading works, but not before one of the dolls flies up, clamps onto the sheriff’s face and eats it.

The film then jumps to the present day where we meet a group of young people whose idea of fun on Halloween night is to go to the abandoned doll factory at the edge of town, the one everybody says is haunted, and try to conjure up some spirits by reading from an ancient book of spells one of them found in their mom’s closet.

This could be your first killer doll movie and you could still figure out what happens next. And that’s OK. Wolfe knows his audience and doesn’t waste any effort trying to reinvent the genre, but concentrates on making sure the kills are as gruesome as his limited budget will allow and in making the time between those kills as enjoyable as possible. Although it starts out kind of rough, almost grinding to a halt during an opening party sequence used to introduce the characters, the story quickly finds its sense of pace and its sense of humor.

The cast is a mix of memorable and forgettable performances, with most of the forgettable ones making thankfully early exits once the dolls start to cull the herd. On the bright side, the ones who survive use their screen time to win the audience over to their side as they race to stop the diminutive doll army from gathering enough souls to resurrect their master. The best of the bunch is Boo Gay as Darius Grumley, the citizen who first battled the evil toys in ‘76 and is coaxed out of retirement to fight them again.

As good as they get by the end, actors aren’t the reasons you’d settle in for a night of Doll Factory; you want to see cool, creepy dolls doing awful things. Well, the dolls in Doll Factory, designed by Jeffrey Birney, aren’t very cool or creepy; they don’t even have enough animation in their faces to make their lips move when they talk. But they do say some funny things in a silly/creepy voice-over and you eventually get used to their low-budget way of moving around. In terms of kills, a big shout out goes to the special effects house DWN Productions for not sparing the splatter as the body count rises.

  • John Black, Doll Factory
John Black
John Black still remembers his first horror movie, sneaking in to a double-feature of Horror House with Frankie Avalon and a Boris Karloff film he can’t remember the name of but will always remember for giving him his first glimpse of cinematic nudity as one of the actresses moved from the bed to the door without putting on any underwear! (Fond family memory: That glimpse, when discovered by his parents, cased John’s mom to call the theater and yelling at the manager for letting her son see ‘such filth’.) Luckily, John was more impressed by the blood and horror than the bare haunches and quickly became a devotee of the genre.

John has been a professional movie reviewer since 1987, when his first review – of a Robert De Niro film called Angel Heart – appeared in the entertainment section of The Cape Codder newspaper. He’s been writing about film ever since, primarily now as the entertainment editor at Boston Event Guide. Hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t watch at least one movie, which is how he thinks life was meant to be.