Monday, February 13, 2017

But Don't All Dolls Trace Back to the Devil?

Here at February's Shortening, we tend to have a few requirements when it comes to filling a full (albeit, short) month with horror movies that center on the wee. Key among them? Dolls. This ain't the Deadly Doll's House for nothing!

Quick Plot: Detective Matt Something has been obsessed with catching a ritualistic serial killer named Henry who brands his victims with a satanic mark. Matt finally gets his guy (after he drills a fellow police officer straight through the head moments earlier) but causes a minor stir with Henry’s mysterious neighbor/guardian Della when he refuses to give her Henry’s box of worry dolls. Evidence, after all, has to be handled professionally.

...Or left in your backseat so that when your crafty daughter jumps in the car, she immediately takes said box and starts to sell said worry dolls to the unsuspecting public.

Let’s talk about the main issue I had with the pretty decent The Devil’s Dolls: Detective Matt Something performs some of the absolute worst police work I’ve ever seen in a movie. The keystone cops of Last House On the Left look like Agent Clarice Starling in comparison. 

After Chloe begins distributing these dolls, bad things happen. Mostly, fairly easily preventable bad things. Sure, the innocent college kids who become possessed and slaughter a convenience store clerk were off the radar, but when Matt is called to his ex-wife’s friend’s house as her husband roams the halls with garden shears, it shouldn’t have been THAT hard to shoot the guy before he appeared from nowhere to get stabby. 

Similarly, just a few hours later, Matt holds his gun on ANOTHER doll-possessed man holding a weapon on an unarmed woman. You would think he might have learned that, I don’t know, shooting the guy in the arm could at least buy the potential victim some safety, but why bother when it’s much easier to let his guard down for the doll-possessed weapon-wielder to inevitably stab his capturee so that Matt can scream --

Details aside, I had a fair amount of fun with The Devil’s Dolls. The violence is handled decently, and most of the characters are drawn clearly enough (and acted better than you often find in the realms of straight-to-streaming) to give you valuable context to care about the danger. There’s a heaviness to the idea of worry dolls being designed to help protect children of abuse, although perhaps it would have been better if that was introduced earlier on. Directed by Rites of Spring’s Padraig Reynolds, this is nowhere near the upper echelon of horror filmmaking, but it’s a fun and grisly enough way to kill 90 minutes.

High Points
There’s a nice hint of a possible (though disappointingly not executed) twist at the very end that lends some weight and moral questioning to the story’s possibilities. While it’s unfortunately not explored, it does elevate the material from your standard “worry dolls possessed my daughter” flick

Low Points
Seriously, how bad a detective can one man a movie wants us to think is a good detective be? Let’s count the bodies that could have easily been saved to find out.

Lessons Learned
When you sell something, that makes you a professional

Yes child. Yes it does
Inventory clerks who hit on you for five years are handy in a cursed worry doll disaster

It’s great to be smart enough to find a way to cut yourself free from a crazed worry doll worshipping murderer, but it’s even better if you’re a tad smarter to hold onto the sharp device you used to free yourself to, I don’t know, maybe defend that same yourself if said crazed worry doll worshipping murderer is nearby

Credits Curiosity
I appreciate any movie that includes a "Doll Design" and "Doll Effects" notation in the opening credits, until I finish the movie and try to figure out what the effects actually were


As an under 90-minute Netflix Instant Watch, one could do far worse than The Devil’s Dolls. It’s better shot and acted than anything Charles Band ever made by himself, which is obviously as grand a statement as saying “the police work in The Devil’s Dolls is worse than that in The Last House On the Left.” So make of THAT what you will. 

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