Director Stuart Gordon's follow-up to the classics Re-Animator & From Beyond is the lesser-known Dolls, a fun, unpretentious, low-impact niche frivolity.
Two groups of strangers take refuge from a storm in the secluded mansion of an old dollmaker and his wife. Who wants to bet the dolls are more than just playthings?
Right way — beginning with that old trope of victims driven into a danger zone by an unweatherable storm — Dolls announces that it has no interest in narrative novelty. For the most part, this is as run-of-the-mill as 1980s horror movies get. You have a conceited step-mother who disapproves of everything; a spineless father who defers to his wife over his daughter; two abbrasive "punks" who dress like Madonna, sneer like Johnny Rotten and affect thick cockney accents; and a menace in a dark mansion that picks them off one-by-one.
However, at a scant 77-minutes, Dolls is as objectionable as a light breeze, ruffling the edges of those well-worn cliches with neat & creepy stop-motion animation and great teamwork between the production designer and the FX department to conjure up a variety of subtly disturbing doll designs.
While Dolls doesn't come close to the striking originality of Gordon's and producer Brian Yuzna's Lovecraft-inspired previous movies, and doesn't do enough to deserve the pop-culture cache that was earned by the following year's Child's Play, it's not a bad way to indulge the child within for an hour-plus.