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Film / Dolls

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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 film was 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!"
  • Berserk Button:
    • A relatively subtle one, but look into Hilary's face when Isabelle holds roughly a doll and especially when she calls the toys shit.
    • The dolls have one in the form of people trying to steal from their owners, or those who try to hurt innocent children. The latter is especially prominent in Mr. Punch where Judy is involved.
  • Big Damn Heroes: An Ax-Crazy David is about to strike the killing blow on an unconscious Ralph when Mr. Punch intervenes with a well-thrown knife.
  • 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.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: David appears at first to be less mean and rude than Rosemary his irritation and indifference to Judy notwithstanding. By the end when alcohol brings the real him to the surface he is reduced to a violent and physically abusive sociopath (perhaps the cruelest in the group) who tries to murder Ralph, hits Judy and takes savage delight in destroying toys. One could argue that there was foreshadowing to this side of his when he angrily told Rosemary to shut up and immediately took it back and also when he used a Slasher Smile while trying to control his anger with Judy.
    "Mommy's not here sweetie".
  • Body Horror: People are transformed into dolls and the process is quite horrific.
  • Cheerful Child: Judy, which is quite an accomplishment with guardians like these. Imagination always helps a child though.
  • Creepy Doll: Attacking someone in an old house while indulging in evil laughter.
  • Dramatic Thunder: The whole story takes place during and because of a thunderstorm so a lot of them happen during dramatic moments.
  • Evil Laugh: The dolls chitter and giggle constantly.
  • Friend to All Children: Gabriel, Hillary, and the dolls do not take kindly to anyone who would hurt a child.
  • Here We Go Again!: During the end credits, we see another family show up, this one with TWO kids. The moment you hear the mother say "shut up" is where you know that some new dolls are going to be added to Gabriel and Hilary's collection...
  • Hostile Hitchhiker: Isabelle and Enid take the help of others for granted, as seen they mock and insult Ralph who took them and and jumped at the chance to rob him.
  • 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.
  • Manchild: Ralph. He still loves playing with toys and is implied to by a child at heart.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: Ralph. He is pretty much the scapegoat for the other travelers who without proof or even good reason decide that he is the killer. Hysterical Woman Enid started it.
  • Morality Pet: Judy to the dolls, Gabriel, and Hilary. The mutual compassion shared between the young girl, the dolls, and the older married couple protects Judy and illustrates the dolls and their owners are not soulless monsters.
  • My Little Panzer: The soldier toys are toys with the might of soldiers. Shocking, I know.
  • 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.
  • Obviously Evil: The Hartwickes did not need their magic powers to see that Isabelle and Enid were bad news from the start. Their punk rock dress was not the reason as much as their extremely horrible, abrasive and ungrateful behavior and tendency to more or less intrude and ask about valuable old shit all the time. They practically scream low-life thieves. This also makes Ralphie a Horrible Judge of Character.
    • Rosemary is of a different kind. She is mostly freezing cold, with a permanent scowl on her face and almost incapable of speaking a sentence without making nasty remarks.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Screaming Woman: And they have a damn good reason to, not that anyone hears them.
  • Shout-Out: Judy is given a Punch doll (not the one her father gets turned into), as it goes together with her name.
  • Villainous Breakdown: David shows a disturbing Slasher Smile as part of his where he stops pretending to be civil and allows the vicious animal inside him to take control after the murder of Rosemary. Ever since he drank there were more and more hints and red flags about this behaviour.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: With the exceptions of Ralph and Judy, the others in the group do not feel the least bit obliged towards the kindly old couple who offered them a house to spend the night. Even David who feigned politeness called Gabriel an old fart behind his back.
    • Isabelle and Enid have this as their way of living, as they count on people helping them to take advantage of them.
  • 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.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Judy gets extremely angry when the dolls try to kill Ralph and calls them out for being so horrible to him. Granted, he was attacking them, but because he's been put through an increasingly frustrating and terrifying experience and knows the dolls did something to the other adults. However, instead of turning on Judy as you'd expect, the dolls appear to truly listen to Judy and stop hurting Ralph. This is an indicator that they're not just a bunch of miniature psychopaths who hurt anyone they can for fun.
  • 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.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The dolls really get a kick from tormenting and maiming everyone except Judy. It's hinted anyone pure enough has nothing to fear, since Judy reassures Ralph that the toys will leave him alone for being a "dressed-up child".


Example of: