Poor, poor Dolly Dearest (1992). This straight-to-video killer doll flick has long been lambasted as little more than an equal opportunity Child's Play rip-off- an obvious cash-in. But is it just Chucky in a dress? And is it as bad as all that?
No, yes, kinda, sorta, maybe. Dolly Dearest is nothing if not the perfect cheesefest to pop in when you're bored at 2am, and as we all know by now, I've yet to meet a killer doll movie I don't like.
A lovely whitebread American family moves to Mexico where hubby Elliot (Sam Bottoms) has bought an old doll factory in the hopes of flooding the market with Dolly Dearest, a doll that's simply so exquisite that Elliot knows that every little girl in the whole world will want one. I realize that little Final Girl preferred Star Wars figures to dolls, but still...sorry, Elliot, I just don't see the "craze" potential here.
Clearly, however, that's just me. Young Jessica is immediately taken by the doll and proclaims it her new best friend. She needs a new best friend after all, because Elliot has gone and stranded his family in the middle of the Mexican desert- and if that wasn't bad enough, the doll factory was built right next to an Ancient Indian Burial Ground!
Yes, folks, killer dolls and Ancient Indian Burial Grounds. Dolly Dearest has it all!
Soon enough Jessica is getting a little too attached to Dolly- she locks herself away in her playhouse for secret meetings with Dolly, she relates that Dolly has been talking smack about mom Marilyn (Denise Crosby), and she's even gone so far as to occasionally speak in tongues. Whatever has gotten into little Jessica?
As usual, the hyper-religious Mexican housekeeper knows the score (see also: Devil Dog, The Hound of Hell): the doll- if not Jessica her very self!- is possessed by the spirit of the Child of Satan! Marilyn, of course, thinks it's all bunk, and Camilla (Lupe Ontiveros) is left with no choice but to wield the strongest magic of all: Mexican Catholicism!
Camilla's meddling and mumbling irritate Dolly to no end, however, which can only mean one thing: it's time for the first kill. Through a series of plot contrivances, Camilla and Dolly end up alone in the basement together. Instead of necking or playing Dungeons & Dragons as you might expect, though, they do a dance of death! Dolly pushes Camilla down the stairs, stabs her multiple times, knocks her into a big pool of water (never mind why there's a big pool of water in the basement- just go with it), and electrocutes her. Despite all evidence to the contrary, when Elliot discovers Camilla's body, he chalks it up as an accident.
See, here's the thing: I don't care how sucky or lame a movie is overall- sequences where dolls walk around and scuttle about in the shadows are just plain creepy. It's an undeniable fact, like how women are bad drivers or how deaf people have a superhuman sense of smell.
Meanwhile, at the Departamento de Arquiologia...
Dr. Resnick (Rip Torn) (yes, I said Rip Torn) (why I act surprised to see Rip Torn in a piece of junk like Dolly Dearest, I'm not sure...I mean, he was in The Beastmaster and RoboCop III, you know?) (don't get me wrong, I love The Beastmaster, but that doesn't mean that it's good) is researching the so-called "Ancient Indian Burial Ground" next to the doll factory. Turns out the tomb belongs to the Sanzia cult, some real mean-types who wanted to raise a Satan Child of their very own. Somehow they made a creature with the body of a child and the head of a goat and fed it the blood of sacrificed children; when the Satan Child turned out to be...you know...bad, they killed it. All this mucking about in the tomb has released the spirit of the Satan Child, which has possessed all the Dollies in the factory and even Jessica. Like, duh.
Now that there's a bonafide scientist telling her all this instead of "the help", Marilyn buys it. Where does she turn for aid in her time of need, though? To Camilla's sister, who just so happens to be A Sister. Marilyn gets herself to the nunnery and pleas with Camilla's sister, who's a little reticent for a daughter of God, if you ask me. She scolds Marilyn about her "modern ways", whatever those are, and the only advice she gives is to pray. Gosh, thanks, sister. Marilyn decides to take matters into her own hands and yells "I am not losing my daughter to a goddamn 900-year-old goat head!", which, if you think about it, is probably the best line of dialogue in any movie in the history of ever- and not just because Marilyn was taking the Lord's name in vain in a convent. That Marilyn, she's got brass ones!
It's then time for a family-vs-Dolly showdown, and despite the whole Exorcist-wannabe religious angle to Dolly Dearest, it seems that Dolly isn't at all immune to a few blasts from a good ol' fashioned double-barrel shotgun and a few sticks of dynamite. Whoda thunkit?
This movie certainly has a bad rep, but honestly, it's not that bad. The blending of dolls-n-devils is interesting, if not carried out to a logical, satisfying conclusion. The effects aren't terrible, and there's plenty of Dolly running around action. Dolly Dearest's biggest fault (aside from the...uh...what's thinner than paper-thin? annoying characters and the lousy acting) is that there's simply not nearly enough killing- the only deaths, in fact, are hapless Mexicans: an archaeologist, Camilla, and the night watchman at the doll factory. Whether or not this flick ever reached heights of awesomeness, however, it'd still be seen as a rip-off of Child's Play. That damn Chucky sure cornered the market on homicidal dolls!