FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Feb 23, 2006

A Doll's House

OK, before I get to the meat in today's bloggy stew, I need to let you all in on a little secret...something that's been nagging at me for days now. Let me set the scene...

I am Of An Age where people begin to sprout grey hairs. All of my friends that are also Of An Age have grey hairs- particularly the men, who have pepper-with-a-pinch-of-salt beards. Rachael, who is eight years younger than me, has several. Not many, but enough to cause her to pick through my hair in an effort to find greys to match her own. It makes me feel like we're monkeys and she's picking bugs out of my fur, so I'm always quick to slap her hand away. Still, she's yet to find a grey- any potential suspects turn out, inevitably, to be blonde. Watching everyone around me age while I remain young and spry has made me cocky, I'll admit it. I'm Peter fucking Pan! I will never go grey! I'm Dorian Gray without that ugly painting in my attic!

You all know what's coming at this point, right? Time for some good, old fashioned schadenfreude. That's right...but it's worse than you'd think.

My head has betrayed me. Betrayed me with trickery! I want to punch myself and/or box my ears!

Under the harsh fluorescent lights of the bathroom at work, I was inspecting myself in the mirror. Excuse the interruption here, but when I gain massive amounts of power with a combination of money from lottery winnings and Empowerment and Improved Self Esteem! from the guidance of Tony Robbins and/or The Starting Over House and/or inspirational watercolors by Sark, I will promptly ban fluorescent lighting when used in conjunction with mirrors. Who decided they were a good combo? Everyone looks bad in the mirror under fluorescent lights. Everyone. My blonde hair looks green and my skintone, when not blindingly white, takes on a beautiful, flattering shade of pinkish grey. I try to console myself by calling it "corpse chic", but even a cool moniker like that can't hide the ugly. My second order of business when I'm driven mad with power has to do with people who clip their fingernails in public, but I haven't the time to go into my plans right now.

Wait, where was I? Ah yes, inspecting myself. Looking closely, I found a grey hair, sproinging up right in front- terribly bold, it was. OK, I can live with one. But then I found another. And when I looked underneath the top layer of hair, I found a fucking grey hair slumber party going on, right under- or over- my nose. This is why I say that my hair has betrayed me. Suddenly my head turned into one of those deep dark pits in the forest, covered with leaves and used to trap people! You think it's just innocent, lovely leaves so you just keep on walkin', only to find yourself 10 feet under the earth and all busted up and dead.

While I'm miffed to find out I'm not invincible, the grey hairs themselves don't bother me as much as my head's subterfuge. Aging is one thing, but rather than doing it gracefully it's all too sudden- I feel like I went to bed Dakota Fanning and woke up Baby Jane Watson. Next thing you know I'll be blogging about Murder, She Wrote.

Actually, I confess- that's not too much of a stretch. For some odd reason, I have a weakness for TV shows in which the geriatric set solves crimes, whether it's Murder She Wrote, Matlock, Columbo, or even Quincy, ME. Although Quincy's righteous ire does wear thin with me pretty quickly. The dude goes zero-to-Chernobyl in every fucking episode! He's always all apoplectic, getting in people's faces and yelling shit like "If another kid hepped up on goofballs dies, his blood will be on your hands, Mayor!".

See? I am blogging about Murder, She Wrote! Jesus, I hate the word 'blogging'! And why's it so cold in here? Where are my pills? I need more juice!

At this point you're probably wondering just how much crack I've smoked today. First of all, crack is so 2001. Goofballs are where it's at. Second, the point of all of this rambling was to let you know that in a desperate bid to regain my youth, last night I drank the blood of 20 virgins decided to stay up wicked late and watch a movie- whether I had to get up early the next day or not! I'm so young!

I watched the 1987 flick Dolls, directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond). There was no way I wasn't going to enjoy the hell outta this movie- I love love love killer dolls and the movies about them. From the Zuni tribal doll chasing (I heart) Karen Black around the house in Trilogy of Terror to the clown pulling poor Robbie under the bed in Poltergeist to Pinocchio taking his revenge in...umm...Pinocchio's Revenge, I will enjoy any killer doll movie across the board, even if they suck. They absolutely fill me with a terrified glee every single time. I like them most when the dolls are silent killers- Chucky needs to shut the fuck up. I want to hear the ominous pitter patter of little feet. I want to see the doll disappearing quickly around a corner. I want to see actors going mano-a-mano with a doll, and I adore it when filmmakers try to fool us by using a child actor as a doll stand-in on longer shots (Attention filmmakers: that never works. But please, keep doing it anyway).

Given the fact that I loved this movie before I pressed 'play' on the remote, exactly how does Dolls stack up? Well, in a word or two: it's fucking awesome. I'm a huge Stuart Gordon fan, and he really delivers the goods with this macabre fairy tale.

A motley crew end up bunking at Hartwicke Manor for the night during a particularly violent storm. There's the Bower family: neglectful, golddigging dad David, the evil-as-evil-can-be stepmom Rosemary, and the precocious (but never cloying), imaginative child Judy. Also staying the night are Ralph Morris, a travelling salesman, and the two thieving "punks" he picked up hitchhiking, Enid and Isabelle. You know they're punks because one of them dressing like Madonna circa the "Lucky Star" video and the other wears purple boots over red socks- they're hardcore! Kindly, elderly dollmaker Gabriel Hartwicke (Guy Rolfe, of Puppet Master fame) and his wife Hilary (Hilary Mason of Don't Look Now) feed everyone and show them to their rooms for the night- and then the real fun begins.

There are hundreds of dolls scattered around the sprawling manor, and I'm not talking some wimpy-ass Raggedy Ann type dolls, either- I mean the creepy porcelain-faced Victorian style dolls. The next thing you know, they're coming to life and exacting brutal, bloody justice on all the bad people in the house. This movie was made in the days before CGI, and it's all the better for it, in my opinion. Gordon and crew use fantastic stop motion and marionettes to stab, bludgeon, shoot, and even saw the victims. Yes, there's plenty of blood spilled- this is a Stuart Gordon film, after all. I absolutely loved every second of it; there's nothing like a pissed-off doll clenching its fists and narrowing its eyes to make me happy.

My only real complaint about Dolls is that it's so damn short: it clocks in at about 75 fast minutes. Executive producer Charles Band of Full Moon Pictures started his toy jones with Dolls, and later went on to produce and/or direct such cult favorites as Dollman, Demonic Toys, Robot Jox, and of course the Puppet Master series.

As I stated earlier, Dolls is a fairy tale- one that's more twisted (and funny and creepy) than ususal, maybe, but a fairy tale nonetheless. The lesson is to stay young at heart- even if you've got sneaky grey hairs showing up out of the blue.

Is there anything better than this?


Rachael said...

I do not have grey hair. I have Revlon colored hair. So there.

And by the way, monkeys like to be groomed. I learned that in class today. So there again.

Chris Hopper said...

Dolls kicks ass! It is a great movie. I think I still have a Fangoria fold out poster of it somewhere.
Don't let the grey get you down. I got my first when I was 16. That was a surreal experience. I think we can all agree, Quincy Rocks! And for those who have not figured it out about Murder, She Wrote... old lady enters town, someone is murdered... seems a little convenient.

tismey said...

Dolls in horror films scare me. And ventriloquists dummys. How do the dolls in Dolls compare to the scary biting dolls in Barbarella?

I loves me some Quincy, Columbo and Diagnosis Murder. Murder She Wrote I'm not too hot on, but give me some Banacek any day of the week - George Peppard and the same story every single time? Now THAT's what I'm talking about!

Anthony said...

I must see "Dolls". I loved Karen Black in "Trilogy of Terror"!
Pay no attention to that evil floresent lighting in the restroom... it's unnatural, it's like blacklight, we all look like the cast of "Dawn of the Dead" in that light!
You are right on about Quincy.

warrenzone said...

funny, I'm trying to make my hair grey as possible. It's bleached and I poor this purple water that old ladies use into my hair after a shower. it burns a little and turns grey/white. I have fears too. my hair falling out!

I like Dolls a bunch.

Chadwick H. Saxelid said...

Rockford all the way. By being the oppostie of everything Rockford, Carl Kolchak became just as cool in his own Everyman Way.

Quincy rocked big time, as well. Let me also give a shout out for Columbo and, a lost cheese classic, the WALKING TALL TV series, with Bo Svenson as Sheriff Buford Pusser. When I was a kid, there seemed to be nobody cooler than Bo Svenson.

B.A. Slattery said...

Seems like the grannies are coming out of the woodwork to talk about their favorite early-afternoon detective shows. Oh, how sad are we?

(I've never even heard of Quincy.)

Stacie Ponder said...

What's that sonny? WHAT'S THAT? Hush up now, we're talking about our stories!

And you've never heard of Quincy? It's Jack muthafuckin Klugman, dude! Jack Klugman getting all righteous on yo ass!

(Ok, yes, I'm sad...maybe a little)

And I've never seen Barbarella. Now that's sad.

Marty McKee said...

It's true--you do not want Klugman getting medieval on your buttocks. I own the first season of QUINCY on DVD and I'm waiting for Season Two..what's the holdup, Universal??

I'm eagerly awaiting the episode where Quincy gets into a fight on his swingin' bachelor boat...with ninjas! Best. QUINCY. Ever.

Steve said...

Stacie, would you say Puppetmaster is the bet "dolled up" movie?

Stacie Ponder said...

It's hard to say! I haven't actually seen a Puppet Master movie in quite some time- I think I stopped after #2. But Dolls woould be pretty damn hard to top, although it could be tied for favorite with the Trilogy of Terror story. Karen Black + killer Zuni fetish doll + 1970s TV movie is about as close to perfection as one can get in my opinion.

Talking Tina said... name is talking tina, and i love you very much.
That was a great Twilight Zone episode!

Anonymous said...

When I finally started going grey (last year), I decided that I'd go to a professional, get a fabu haircut and dye and then went a shopping rampage to make myself then next contender for a 70s Made for TV Movie. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE WOMEN WERE SOPHISTICATED, BRIGHT, CHARMING AND IN THEIR 30s. It's been a great inspiration for me. Stefanie Powers anyone? How did I end up? Well, I have some truly obnoxious yet stunning jewelry and a wardrobe full of belled slacks, knee length skirts and sweater vests. In other words, I've been in heaven.

Oh, and yeah, Dolls rocks!

Amanda By Night

jason said...

anonymous, my lady's starting to have age-related wardrobe trauma. She wants to dress age-appropriate but still stylish. So I suggested exactly what you said you're doing: the 70s Made for TV Movie look, and she went for it in a big way. Soon it will be all turtlenecks and knee-length skirts and scarves in the hair, and it will be awesome. Plus, with my greying temples and extensive turtleneck collection, we can pretend we're 70s TV detectives. Supernatural detectives.

Also, the punk rock episode of Quincy is the best hour of television that has ever been or will ever be. Punk brings out Quincy's righteousness like nobody's business.

Kaijinu said...

I always loved this movie. I dunno, it speaks to me as a fairy tale....