Dolls are found in just about every household in the world, whether it is little girls, little boys, or adults who own them. Maybe it’s that fact that makes the concept of these little beings made of stuffing or porcelain so damn scary. Who knows what these little monsters do while their owners are tucked peacefully in their beds… horror movies have an idea!
This brings us to the movie we will be discussing today – Dolly Dearest. This 1991 film is a fairly blatant and unapologetic attempt to capitalize on the “killer doll” craze that 1988’s Child’s Play set in motion. Upon its release, the film was universally panned by critics, for two reasons. The first complaint: as already mentioned, it’s an obvious ripoff on the Child’s Play series. The second complaint: it sucks. And with this reputation firmly in place it’s no wonder why many horror fans have never given this flick a fair shot. If you are one of these people, please reconsider. This is solid b-movie gold!
In the movie, American father Elliot Wade (played by Sam Bottoms) obtains ownership of the Dolly Dearest factory in Mexico. Not far from the factory lies the underground, Mayan tomb of Sanzia, or Satan on Earth. An archaeologist breaks into the sarcophagus but is crushed by the stone slab that covers the entrance and the malevolent spirit of Sanzia that has been trapped inside for hundreds of years is released. Upon its escape Sanzia takes refuge in the porcelain moppets of Dolly Dearest. And so it begins…
In a stroke of bad luck, Elliot’s daughter Jessica (played by Candace Hutson) ends up with one of these dolls in her possession. Seeing how her daughter has taken to the new doll, Jessica’s mother Marilyn (played by Denise Crosby) starts to feel like something is wrong. Not wanting to give up the doll at all hours of the day doesn’t seem right and then she starts to hear a scratchy voice coming from her daughter’s playhouse. Going to investigate, Marilyn doesn’t fully understand what is happening, but she’s starting to fear for her daughter’s safety.
That night, Marilyn recounts the day’s events to Elliot, but he seems unworried. However, Jessica becomes progressively more violent and obsessive with Dolly. For instance, Jessica cuts her hair, and when asked why she says she did it to match Dolly’s. Also, it seems the devil possession isn’t just limited to the doll. Jessica is all Satanic now, too. In one scene the family passes a priest while driving, and Jessica responds by screaming as if someone’s trying to shove a cactus up her private parts.
Eventually, Dolly finally comes alive, and kills off the family’s maid. It’s a pretty interesting death scene – Dolly stabs the woman about a hundred times before pushing her into a pool and electrocuting her. Everyone decides later that it must’ve been some sort of terrible freak accident. Right. Stab wounds and electrocution in the abandoned greenhouse in the middle of the night… the quintessential freak accident. From this point on, Dolly takes a more active interest in her movie, killing everyone who isn’t related to the title stars.
In one scene, one of the factory workers makes the cardinal mistake of insulting a possessed toy, so Dolly uses a sewing machine to mangle his hand, and the powers of the occult to give him a massive heart attack. It’s here that Dolly Dearest shines, as we learn that all of the dolls – not just Jessica’s – are possessed by Satan. So now, matters are worse. There isn’t just one Dolly to deal with, there’s actually a dozen of ’em. For whatever reason, the rest of the dolls decide to remain in the factory. Or maybe there was going to be an all out killer doll war in the sequel that never happened, Dolly Dearest 2: This Time There’s More Than One.
In short, Dolly Dearest is commonly mistaken for a terrible movie, when it is in fact a so-bad-its-great masterwork. Sure, it is in no way perfect, but it’s entertainment in its purest form. If you’re looking for scares, you won’t find them here. But if you’re looking for a silly and amusing piece of cinematic ridiculousness, you can’t go wrong with this. Or you can just watch Child’s Play 2 instead. Whatever.
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