DOLLS (1987)


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Dolls 1987

DOLLS (1987)
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Available on Blu-Ray in Arrow Video’s Enter The Video Store: Empire of Screams Boxset

After their car gets stuck in the mud during a storm, little Judy, her father David and her wicked step-mother Rosemary take shelter in a nearby mansion in the woods. Joined by two female punk rocker hitchikers and friendly adult big-kid Ralph, the group are greeted by the mansion’s owners, dollmaker Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke. The couple allow the stranded guests to stay for the night until the storm passes and show their guests to their rooms. Little do they know that Gabriel’s dolls, that sit upon the shelves in most of the rooms in the house, don’t take too kindly to bad and ungrateful guests…

Directed by Re-Animator’s Stuart Gordon, DOLLS is a classic feel-good horror film that focuses on a house of dangerous dolls that come alive at night. From the offset, we’re introduced to the cute little girl Judy who has her best friend, plush toy Teddy for company, and has to spend her summer with her father (Ian Patrick Williams) and his new wife, the wicked Rosemary (played terrifically by Carolyn Purdy-Gordon). Neither her dad nor Rosemary want her around and see Judy as a pain in their sides. Judy talks about her mother back in Boston and clearly she is loved by her mother, but her father would rather forget about his past life and Judy and go on to live a new one with Rosemary. From this introduction, we can already predict who’ll be on the hit list and who won’t be, but, as predictable as it may be, the film is tons of fun.

To match Judy is Ralph – an adult who’s obviously still a big kid at heart. Taken in by a pair of punk rockers who are after robbing him of his wallet, Ralph finds himself alone in the house, just like Judy. The two strike up a wonderful friendship as he is the only adult, out of the guests, to listen to her and treat her with care and respect and believes her about the ‘little people’ in the house.

Now, the dolls. I’ve never been a fan of killer doll Chucky, but I must say, the dolls in DOLLS are quite creepy! Ever seen those dolls with porcelain faces? Well, imagine those coming to life. It’s not that hard to imagine as I find them quite frightening in reality. Using stop motion animation, the dolls are brought to life and are fantastic as the so called ‘villains’ of the piece. As a matter of fact, it’s not the dolls but the guests that are the villains, and the dolls do a great job of getting rid of them. You’ll find it hard not to raise a smile when the attacks happen and a scene involving Rosemary, some dolls and a hacksaw will surely make you laugh.

We can’t mention the dolls in this movie without mentioning the characters, who are brilliant in this film. They’re quite stereotypical in a way, but they ooze personality, for good or bad, as does the old house and toys that occupy it. Guy Rolfe, who stars as dollmaker Gabriel, is perfectly cast, with such a gothic, haunted appearance, as does Hilary Mason as his loving wife. Stephen Lee is charming as the likeable, bumbling Ralph who seems to get himself into trouble with all the adults in house, and who’s the only one to take Judy seriously. Bunty Bailey and Cassie Stuart seem to revel as punk rock thieves Isabel and Enid, who’s only goal in the house is to steal whatever they can and flee before morning. That’s presuming they’ll live til then. Bunty Bailey was already known to the world as the girl from the A-ha ‘Take On Me’ video prior to the making of DOLLS, which only makes the film that much cooler!

DOLLS is one of those cult favourites that everyone can enjoy. It’s got the horror, even if it’s not exactly terrifying, and it has buckets of subtle humour that will make any horror fan’s day. Even a daydreaming scene with Judy’s teddy on the rampage at the beginning of the movie proves to be a frightening ribtickler.

DOLLS is a warm, cuddly horror movie that has been treated with love and care. Just make sure to do the same when you watch it else you might find yourself stalked whilst you sleep!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Stuart Gordon’s Dolls is available on Blu-Ray as part of the Enter The Video Store: Empire of Screams boxset from genre label Arrow Video.

The film have been given a new 2K restoration by Arrow Films from the original interpositive with original lossless stereo audio and looks better than ever, especially when the dolls wreak bloody carnage on the cast.

Dolls – Arrow Video Blu-Ray Special Features

Archive audio commentary with director Stuart Gordon and writer Ed Naha

An informal and entertaining commentary from Gordon and Naha, chock full of informative detail about the making of the movie.

Archive audio commentary with cast members Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine, and Ian Patrick Williams

This audio commentary is again quite fun and lighthearted as members of the cast recount their experiences working on the movie, filming the various scenes. There’s plenty of laughs and banter between the group along with wonderful insights, such as how parts of the Teddy scene was filmed on a set indoors with crew moving the trees to simulate wind.

New audio commentary by David DeCoteau, Empire Pictures and Full Moon alumnus and friend of Stuart Gordon

Director of Creepozoids and several flicks in the Puppet Master franchise, David DeCoteau provides a professional, analytical take in this new audio commentary, offering filmmaking background on the actors and crew, and sharing working stories, in particular of his friend, Stuart Gordon.

Assembling Dolls, a new interview with Lee Percy, editor of Dolls, Re-Animator and From Beyond (17 mins)

In this new interview, Lee Percy discusses his background, including how he initially got into acting before deciding to study filmmaking at Juilliard.  He got involved with Noel Marshall’s adventure-comedy ROAR where he learnt editing on the spot through videos created by editors he admired. Percy discusses the processes of editing and what it was like working on Dolls, where editing took 3-4 months and was done before the introduction of the VFX.

Toys of Terror: The Making of Dolls (38 mins 31 secs),

In this archive featurette, Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Ian Patrick Williams, Charles Band and Gabe Bartalos share their memories of working on Dolls, and discuss different aspects of creating the horror film we see today, including things like shooting the marionettes, and animating the dolls with the scenes with wicked step-mother Rosemary.

Film-to-storyboard comparison (8 mins)

This featurette shows several scenes from the film, including the opening Teddy scene, Rosemary’s attack scene and Punch’s Little Secret, with the series of corresponding storyboard sketches in the lower right corner to compare the vision and the final result.


Three Dolls trailers are included: the theatrical trailer, the alternate trailer, and the UK home video trailer.

Image Gallery

Featuring artwork and stills from the movie, totalling 52 stills to cycle through.

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About Bat 4425 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.


  1. Ewwww! This film freaked the hell out of me when I saw it on video many many years ago. Maybe it’s because I have a ‘thing’ about dolls.

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