Dolls (1987 film)
Dolls is a 1987 American horror film directed by Stuart Gordon, written by Ed Naha, and starring Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams, and Bunty Bailey. Its plot follows six people who seek shelter during a storm in the mansion of an elderly puppetmaker and his wife, only to find that the various puppets and dolls in the home contain the imprisoned spirits of criminals. It was produced by Charles Band and Brian Yuzna, through Band's Empire Pictures.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stuart Gordon|
|Written by||Ed Naha|
|Edited by||Lee Percy|
|Distributed by||Empire Pictures|
|Box office||$3.5 million|
The film grossed $3.5 million worldwide against a budget of $2 million.
A violent thunderstorm strands young Judy, her father David, and her stepmother Rosemary in the gothic English countryside. Seeking shelter, the trio break into a nearby mansion, where they meet the owners, a kindly older couple named Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke. Learning that Judy has "lost" her beloved doll Teddy (in fact, the cruel Rosemary threw Teddy into the bushes), Gabriel gives Judy a Mr. Punch doll. Three more people arrive at the mansion, also seeking shelter from the storm: good-natured Ralph and English hitchhikers Isabel and Enid. Gabriel invites them all to stay the night.
Judy soon discovers that the mansion is full of beautifully detailed dolls like Mr. Punch; Gabriel explains that he is a toy maker. Judy is overjoyed, as is Ralph, who is something of a child at heart.
Isabel and Enid are actually petty thieves who hitchhiked with Ralph intending to pick his pocket. That night, Isabel sneaks out of her room to rob the mansion. Instead, she is brutally attacked by dolls. Judy, in the hallway, briefly sees the attack, and she rushes to tell her father David. However, David is a neglectful and uncaring father, and he and Rosemary accuse Judy of making up stories. Instead, Judy convinces Ralph to check out the hallway with her. Ralph is initially very skeptical, but he eventually believes Judy after her Mr. Punch doll speaks.
Rosemary is later attacked by the dolls; to escape them, she leaps out of a window to her death. Enid searches for Isabel and finds her almost entirely transformed into a doll version of herself. A horde of toys attack and kill Enid. Meanwhile, as dolls gather around Ralph and prepare to attack him, Judy convinces them to spare him because he is her friend. David finds Rosemary's dead body, and believes that Ralph killed her.
Now safe from the dolls, Judy and Ralph enter the workshop, where the irrate David finds them. Ralph tries to explain the danger the dolls pose, but David knocks both his daughter and Ralph unconscious. The Mr. Punch doll then comes to life and attacks David. Other dolls drag the unconscious Ralph and Judy away to safety, as Mr. Punch is destroyed by David after a fierce struggle.
The Hartwickes appears and explain that they are actually a wizard and witch who see toys as the heart and soul of childhood. Gabriel and Hilary dislike the bitterness of adults, and when people seek shelter at their mansion, the dolls serve as a test for the visitors. People like Ralph, who appreciate the joy of childhood, and children are spared and leave the house with a fuller appreciation of life. However, those who refuse to change their ways can never leave; they are themselves turned into dolls. As the Hartwickes explain this, the incredulous David transforms into a doll to replace Mr. Punch.
The next morning, the Hartwickes convince Ralph and Judy that the night's events were just a dream. Gabriel reads a fake letter from David explaining to Judy that he and Rosemary are changing their names and leaving the country with Enid and Isabel. Judy will be able to stay permanently with her caring mother in Boston. Gabriel gives Judy and Ralph money to buy plane tickets to Boston. Ralph and Judy leave the house, and as they drive away, Judy hints to him that if he would like to stay with her and her mother, he could be Judy's new father. Ralph seems interested in the idea.
The film ends with dolls of David, Rosemary, Enid, and Isabel sitting on a shelf while outside another car with a set of obnoxious parents gets stuck in mud near the mansion.
Stuart Gordon was, at one point, very interested in directing a sequel to this film. The initial storyline would have followed Judy and Ralph back to Boston in which Ralph would have indeed married Judy's mother and they would all become a family. Until, one day Judy would receive a box sent from England which would contain the toy makers, Gabriel and Hilary, as dolls. The sequel never happened.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 62% based on reviews from 13 critics. On Metacritic the film has a score of 55% based on reviews from 5 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Ain't It Cool News reviewed the DVD, calling it "a movie that really stands above the type of film you might expect from this era, with this subject matter." Roger Ebert's review of the film was mostly negative, writing "At some point Dolls remains only an idea, a concept. It doesn't become an engine to shock and involve us," though he also conceded that the film "looks good" and "the haunted house looks magnificent. HorrorNews.net's Jeff Colebank listed the toymaking couple as one of the "13 Best Horror Movie Couples", stating that Rolfe was "the creepiest toymaker of them all". Allmovie's review of the film was mildly favorable, calling it "a serious-minded, lovingly-crafted modern fairy tale that only misses classic status by a few clumsy, low-budget moments."
Dolls was released to DVD by MGM Home Entertainment on September 20, 2005, as a Region 1 widescreen DVD and by the Scream Factory division of Shout! Factory (under license from MGM) on November 11, 2014 as a Region A widescreen Blu-ray.
- "Dolls". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Los Angeles, California: American Film Institute. Archived from the original on December 27, 2019.
- "'Running Man' a Running Joke, But Fun". New York Daily News. New York City, New York. November 18, 1987 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Dolls (1987)". Rotten Tomatoes.
- "The Dolls". Metacritic. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
- A Movie A Day: DOLLS (1987) Toys are very loyal and that is a fact. Ain't It Cool News
- Ebert, Roger (March 27, 1987). "Dolls movie review & film summary (1987)". Chicago Sun-Times.
- The 13 Best Horror Movie Couples (serial murder edition) HorrorNews.net
- Robert Firsching. "Dolls (1987)". Allmovie. Retrieved July 1, 2012.