Dolly Dearest - Dolly Dearest(Blu Ray & DVD) [Vinegar Syndrome - 2020]Dolly Dearest is an early 1990’s example of demonic doll shenanigans- think a female-focused Chucky, but with more gothic horror tropes, a sprinkling of god-fearing locals, and low rent Indian Jones escapades. From the folks at Vinegar Syndrome here is a duel Blu ray & DVD of the film, featuring the companies normally classy scan, and two cast interviews.
Dolly Dearest appeared in 1991 the same year as Childs Play 3- and while it’s clearly influenced by the murderous adventures of Chucky, there are some distinct twists & flavors to help Dolly Dearest stand out from more the straight rip-offs. It was the one & only feature film directed by veteran exploitation crew-woman and actress Maria Lease- and she does a good enough job- creating some neat tension, setting-up some effective stalk & slash attacks, and pacing the whole thing well enough.
The film focuses in on the Wade Family- husband Elliot (Sam Bottoms), wife Marilyn (Denise Crosby). And their children Jimmy(Chris Demetral) a bookish cocky kid that looks like a younger bespeckled version of Johnny Depp's Glen on the first Nightmare on Elm Street, and Jessica(Candace Hutson) a blond-haired spoilt princess. The family moves to Mexico, as Elliot has brought a rundown doll factory- across from the building is a uncovered crypt which turns out to be the resting place of an evil Maya cult called Sanzian. And just before the family makes it to their new home/ factory- red tentacles of light infect the only dolls the factory produce- which are red-dressed, neatly cut fringed girl dolls….and as the family settles in one of the dolls entrances young Jessica, and fairly soon members of the families staff are dying in bizarre accidents- we have a brutal knife stabbing then election in a basements water pit, sewing machine hand rips & batterings, and triping then scissor stabbings.
The ‘doll’ action kicks in with-in the first half-an-hour with the dolls rushing legs & outstretched arms been rather unsettling. As each dolls get more possessed their faces become more winkled & leering, with devilish chucking & weird little old lady voices. There are some good tense built ups with the stalking moments, and we get some neat creepy gothic touches like a doll part littered cobweb basement, a eerie garden playhouse, and thunder rain & lightning. We get subtle gore & creative enough deaths- though nothing mind-blowing. Around the midway point, we get Rip Torn turning up as the grumpy-come-camp archaeologist Karl Resnick- and he gets involved in slight bumbling & lo-fi Indiana Jones action in the on-site tomb, as well as trying to save the family. I must say I got more from Dolly Dearest than I was expecting…I thought I was going to be getting just another run of the mill demon doll caper, but instead found an original enough take on the genre with some neat & unique touches, some nicely tense atmosphere, and a good dollop of horror camp…so it’s a pity that this was Ms. Lease one & only film, as it would have been neat to see what she would have done with other genre themes/ concepts.
Moving onto this new double-disc release- we get a nicely clear & well colour defined new 2k scan of the film. On the extras front we get two interview- first is from female mum lead Denise Crosby, this runs just over the fifteen-minute mark. The second is with Ed Gale- who was the little person who played the dolls- this runs at eight-minute, and of the two this is the most interesting of the two- as he played Chucky in the first Childs Play film, so he discusses the differences between the two dolls & how he played them, on set stories, and he shows us one of the dresses he wore in the film. We lastly get reversible cover with two different variant poster artwork.
With this release of Dolly Dearest, the guys over at VS have mined another one of the better films from the 90’s- the decade that largely forgot how to make horror films. If you dig killer doll movies you really need to check this out, as it most certainly one of the better takes on the genre- and VS have done a great reissue of the film.Roger Batty