Film: Dolls

Dolls is a 1987 horror film directed by Stuart Gordon and produced by Brian Yuzna.

A family consisting of innocent, neglected little girl Judy Bower (Carrie Lorraine) and her surly, abusive father David (Ian Patrick Williams) and stepmother Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy Gordon) are driving in the English countryside when a thunderstorm brews up and their car gets stuck in the mud. They are forced to take refuge in a big, old mansion occupied by elderly couple Gabriel (Guy Rolfe) and Hilary (Hilary Mason) Hartwicke. Promptly, kind-hearted businessman Ralph (Stephen Lee) arrives with two British punk rock girl hitchhikers, Isabel (Bunty Bailey) and Enid (Cassie Stuart), in tow. The Hartwickes allow the six to stay the night. Something is not quite right about them... they are too charming and hospitable. Gabriel is a toymaker, and thus, every room of their mansion is piled high with mysterious antique dolls. Something is not quite right about the dolls either...

This is the inspiration for a string of killer doll movies.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: David and Rosemary are horrible parents. Gabriel and Hilary spell this out near the end.
  • Antivillain: Gabriel, Hilary, and the dolls. They are only antagonistic if provoked, or if they see someone like Judy being mistreated.
  • Asshole Victim: David, Rosemary, Isabel and Enid are turned into dolls for their horrible deeds. Instead of crying "horror!", the expected reaction is "Karma!"
  • Bittersweet Ending: David, Rosemary, Isabel and Enid get mauled by the dolls and turned into dolls themselves. Gabriel forges a letter claiming that David and Rosemary abandoned Judy and that she is to go back to live with her birth mother in Boston, never to see them again. At first Judy is slightly sad, but she gets over it, and then Ralph takes her away back to Boston, wherein it is implied he will marry her birth mother.
  • Body Horror: People are transformed into dolls and the process is quite horrific.
  • Creepy Doll: Attacking someone in an old house while indulging evil laughter
  • Evil Laugh: The dolls chitter and giggle constantly.
  • Insistent Terminology: "Elves."
  • Killer Teddy Bear: Subverted with Judy's teddy bear. While it does attack Judy's parents after Rosemary throws it in the bushes, it's just Judy's imagination.
  • Living Toys: The dolls stalk the house looking for bad people.
  • Man Child: Ralph. He still loves playing with toys and is implied to by a child at heart.
  • My Little Panzer: The soldier toys are toys with the might of soldiers.
  • Noble Demon: Gabriel and Hilary. The two of them don't plan to turn any visitor that comes to their house into dolls, but they certainly don't have any qualms about letting the dolls have their fun with people who try to rob from them or seriously abuse their hospitality, or about disposing of cruel and downright rotten people. Their mercy extends solely to innocent people who have not provoked the dolls and are really pure at heart.
  • Not So Harmless: Gabriel and Hilary, especially Hilary, who simply appears to be senile.
  • Old Dark House: The old couple's house where all the characters end up taking refuge.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: It is hinted the things inside the dolls are fairies. Very different fairies.
  • Punch and Judy: Judy is given a Punch doll (not the one her father gets turned into), as it goes together with her name.
  • Reality Ensues: At one point during the climax, David is being threatened by the Mr. Punch doll with an electric drill... which gets unplugged the second he finds the extension cord.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gabriel and Hilary give one to Judy's father as he's slowly turned into a replacement Punch doll all on how badly he treats Judy and the fact that as long as there are sad children who are treated with disdain and cruelty, toys will always be there.
    Gabriel: Being a parent is a privilege, David. Not a right.
  • Was Once a Man: Several dolls used to be human. David turns into a punch doll at the end.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Gabriel and Hilary.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Rosemary is a bad mother and Judy's by marriage, but since David is equally awful, the "lack of blood bond" part of the trope is downplayed. Considering the ending, though, the "birth mothers are better" part is played straight.