Dolly Dearest (1991)

Growing up in a household with two brothers, I neer had much to do with dolls. Not that dolls are only for girls but we just were not interested. We had action figures. However, when I visited female relatives or friends I would always be a little creeped out by their dolls. Dolls are designed to accompany their owners everywhere much like mothers must always have their babies in sight. That seemed like a lot of work compared to just having a pitched battle with GI Joes or building something with Lego. On top of that is the whole uncanny valley thing. Dolls often look very close to human without actually achieving the full effect. There is a reason why the line from Jaws mentions “like a doll’s eyes”. They are lifeless and stare into the distance or through your very soul.

For a lot of these reasons, I have become obsessed with dolls and puppets in horror. This started when I saw Child’s Play for the first time. Although killer dolls had been around for quite some time before that, the franchise really brought more life and horror to the story. From there, I fell in love with Full Moon Features which put out franchises like Puppet Master, Dolls, and Demonic Toys among others. I drew from that inspiration and put them in my Dungeons and Dragons campaign, letting loose dozens of evil living dolls on the party in a creepy mansion. Creepy dolls will always be something that thrills me and will attract me instantly to a television or movie project.

The first thing I noticed were the special effects. While they are cheesy and definitely of their time, they really worked for the kind of movie they were trying to do. Digital effects were relatively new and are used sparingly but add a definite cartoony fun. The practical effects are goofy and fun. The effects of the titular doll are actually pretty fantastic. It helps that the dress covers up a lot which aids in the illusion and they also use the Jaws method of less is more. The lighting is done well, creating plenty of shadowy settings without sacrificing the scene or having to resort to the hideos Day to Night effect a lot of cheap movies did at the time.

The acting is pretty good. The lead is arguably Candace Hutson as a little girl who gets a hold of a very bad doll. She is great at acting as sweet as pie without coming off as too saccharine. She is also great at being nasty and mean. Quite a range for a child actress to have to hit. She seriously does a really good job in this movie. Denise Crosby really shines as the worried mother at wit’s end. Sam Bottoms is good as the doting but distracted father. Lupe Ontiveros is great as the sweet and superstitious Mexican housekeeper. Rip Torn adds some comic relief with some scenes with child actor Chris Demetral.

Overall, I really loved this goofy movie. I found myself laughing a lot which I think was with the movie rather than at the movie. I honestly found myself getting a bit scared as the movie progressed. The movie has some legitimately tense moments amidst the goofy PG-13 horror. I recommend it if you can find it streaming somewhere. I found it on YouTube because nobody wants to own the streaming rights at the moment.

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