Review: Dolls (1987)
Would the Puppet Master franchise exist without Dolls? Probably not, since this is the movie that proved to Charles Band that inanimate objects could be brought to life on an affordable B-movie budget. Director Stuart Gordon steers the narrative in the direction of a dark fairy tale rather than an outright horror movie, though there's plenty of blood to be found. The doll effects are astonishing considering they're accomplished with practical effects like stop motion and puppetry. While not an outright horror film, the rules of horror are in full effect here, giving the advantage of survival to the virtuous and young at heart while providing a gruesome fate for the selfish and cruel. Guy Rolfe is great as the doll maker; he delivers his lines with a mix of sweetness and menace. Similarly, Hilary Mason walks the same line, though it feels like she has slightly less screen presence than Rolfe, who owns every scene he's in.
Pop culture junkies will appreciate the presence of Bunty Bailey as a young punk with bad intentions. Bunty is best known as the girl from a-ha's video for "Take On Me", which is one of the most famous music videos of all time and was an MTV (and later VH1) staple for years. Charles Band and company would take what they learned on Dolls and lean fully into horror with the Puppet Master films, but there's something innocent and childlike about Dolls that makes it more accessible to a wider audience.
More Empire Pictures Reviews: