An American family relocates to Mexico to resurrect a derelict doll factory. What they don’t know prior to their arrival is that the factory is located adjacent to a Sanzian gravesite that is under excavation. During the archeological dig that is taking place, an ancient spirit is set free and it finds a new home in one of the dolls that are being manufactured next door.
This 1991 film is a blatant and unapologetic attempt to capitalize on the ‘killer doll’ craze that Child’s Play set in motion. Unfortunately for viewing audiences everywhere, Dolly Dearest does not measure up to the vastly superior Child’s Play.
Maria Lease served as co-writer and director on Dolly Dearest. This marks her one and only feature film directorial effort. It’s easy to see why Lease hasn’t helmed a feature since. She is willing to settle for lackluster performances from her cast. Also, she appears unable to create any sort of ambiance.
The screenplay is bland. It doesn’t do anything more than cobble together recycled pieces of other, better films. The entire picture adheres to a very obvious formula. Everything that happens is easily predictable long before it actually transpires. Dolly Dearest makes multiple attempts at foreshadowing but ultimately just gives away what the audience hasn’t already succeeded in predicting.
The body count is low because the script tries for slow burn. But like most of the other elements of the film, it doesn’t work. Since Dolly Dearest never builds any significant tension, the attempt at slow burn falls flat. Since there are very few onscreen deaths and no atmospheric qualities to speak of, the end result is a film that drags badly. It is paced so poorly that the viewer is almost certain to lose interest by the second act.
The doll effects are poorly done. Many of the scenes where the dolls move are implied or occur off camera. But the instances where the dolls do come to life on screen are very choppy and badly executed. The stop motion style camerawork looks dated and the dolls that are used in the motion scenes look completely different than the dolls used in every other sequence. The effects employed in Dolly Dearest are nowhere near the quality of the animatronic techniques that are used in the 1988 film Child’s Play.
Dolly Dearest is full of unintentional humor. Its one saving grace is that it has a few moments that qualify the film for ‘so bad it’s good’ status. There are a variety of scenes where the acting is so forced and so exaggerated that it’s actually comical. The scenes where Jessica talks to her doll are painfully overacted and quickly break any tension that the film manages to establish. The tantrum that Jessica throws when her mother tries to take her doll away is so grating that it makes me really glad I don’t have children.
If you are in the mood for some killer doll action, check out Stuart Gordon’s Dolls or Child’s Play. Dolly Dearest is a waste of time. It will not hold your attention for 94 minutes of your life it requires you to surrender. If you insist upon watching this heap of crap, I wish you the best of luck.
Director(s): Maria Lease
Writer(s): Maria Lease, Rod Nave, Peter Sutcliffe,
Stars: Sam Bottoms, Denise Crosby
Studio/ Production Co: Patriot Pictures
Length: 94 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Killer Doll Film