Blu-Ray Review- Dolls
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: November 11th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 77 Minutes
From the Child’s Play series to newer offerings such as The Conjuring and its recent spin-off Annabelle, Dolls have seemingly always been a staple of the Horror genre. It’s rather curious as to why, frankly, these children’s play-things have terrified the masses for so many years. They’re meant to be so cute, cuddly, and trust-worthy…but perhaps that’s ultimately where the fear lies. How could these harmless inanimate gifts of porcelain and rubber harm the little people most near and dear to us? Or terrorize their superstitious parents? It’s a genre plot device that seems so silly, but has proved incredibly successful over the years. Much like clowns, who were meant to be so innocent and harmless, dolls in general have a tainted, horrifying aura surrounding them because of their cinematic counterparts. In 1987 Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) released Dolls, a polished and entertaining entry in the subgenre that never takes itself too seriously.
In the film, 7-year old Judy Bower (Carrie Lorraine), her father David (Ian Patrick Williams), and her nasty step-mother Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy Gordon) arrive at a seemingly deserted mansion in the English countryside after their car becomes stuck in the mud during a thunderstorm. Upon arrival, they soon learn that the mansion is owned by the elderly Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke (Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason). Gabriel and Hilary are welcoming to their guests, and are soon joined by three more stranded strangers; the punk-rock thieves Isabel and Enid, and the likeable sad sack Ralph (Stephen Lee). Guy explains to his stranded visitors that he used to be a toymaker before he retired, but he still lovingly crafts the children’s toys when he’s able. The mansion is littered with them, lined neatly on the shelves of nearly every room, much to the delight of little Judy. But things soon take a turn for the worse, as the Hartwicke dolls come to life throughout the stormy night, and slowly begin hacking and slashing the weary travelers to death.
Stuart Gordon’s Dolls is injected with brilliant dark humor, some insanely cool special effects, and a cast that clearly understands the genre and gives it their all, making for an enjoyable horror film that is scary, silly, and cleverly self-aware. The film’s technical merits are worth nothing as well, with some impressive lighting techniques, art direction, and set design. It may take a certain brand of Horror fan to appreciate Dolls, with its over-the-top humor and corny nature, but I found it to be a heck of a lot of fun.
Simply put, Dolls looks great on Blu-Ray. The print is in terrific condition, with plenty of detail and authentic color reproduction. The natural film grain on display looks beautiful, and textures on skin and clothing are nearly tangible at times. There are no signs of DNR or other intrusive practices to speak of, which is always a bonus on catalog releases. The only seemingly out-of-place distraction is the appearance of what looks like tiny glitter flakes that fall vertically in some select scenes (most notably in the Bower’s mansion bedroom). It’s a rather small imperfection, but worth nothing as I can’t be certain that it was intentional. Otherwise, this is a wonderful transfer!
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is very effective and suits the eerie atmosphere of the film well. The dialogue always comes through crisp and clear, and the wonderful score envelops and surrounds you throughout. The dramatic high points, especially profound during the dolls’ mayhem, is perfectly captured on this dynamic track. Well done!
Scream Factory has given Dolls their Collector’s Edition treatment by including some extra fun features for fans of this little Horror gem. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentaries (2)– There are two commentaries on this Collector’s Edition, the first with Director Stuart Gordon and Writer Ed Naha, and the second with cast members Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine, and Ian Patrick Williams. Both tracks are insanely entertaining, but I especially loved hearing Mr. Gordon discuss his film along with his screenwriter. We get to hear some detail on the production, effects, and cast throughout both, with a slightly different flavor and atmosphere depending on which you’re listening to.
- Toys of Terror: The Making of Dolls– Running over 38 minutes, this brand new documentary from Scream Factory and Red Shirt Pictures features select cast and crew members discussing the film’s legacy, production, cast, and much more. Much like the documentaries on past Scream Factory releases, this is wonderfully entertaining, with plenty of fun stories for fans of the film to enjoy. I especially enjoyed hearing from the crew about filming on location in England and on the same famous soundstages where films like Barbarella and Red Sonja were filmed (which numerous cast and crew found leftover props from). The special effects discussion concerning the marionette work and lighting involved to achieve the doll scenes is fascinating.
- Theatrical Trailer- This original theatrical trailer for Dolls runs about 2 ½ minutes and provides viewers with a fun and surprisingly gory look at the kind of film they’re getting themselves into.
- Film-to-Storyboard Comparison- This fun featurette runs over 8 minutes and includes select scenes from the film itself along with a “mini-screen” storyboard comparison. Scenes include: Teddy’s Revenge, Rosemary Takes a Dive, and Punch’s Little Secret. It’s interesting to see how the filmmakers planned these difficult sequences through storyboarding and how they actually played out on camera. Great stuff!
- Still Gallery- This still gallery runs over 4 minutes in length and plays automatically when selected; featuring several production stills, theatrical posters, and select advertising from the film’s theatrical campaign.
- More from Scream Factory- Vintage trailers for other titles in the Scream Factory line are presented here including Pumpkinhead, Phantom of the Paradise, and Sleepaway Camp.
This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features a newly commissioned slip-cover design from artist Nathan Thomas Milliner. The coloring, detail, and overall atmosphere than emanates from the new art is outstanding! On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis, a list of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. Inside the case is the Blu-Ray disc as well as the iconic original theatrical poster design with the “They Walk. They Talk. They Kill” tagline banner available as a reversible wrap.
Stuart Gordon’s Dolls is injected with brilliant dark humor, some insanely cool special effects, and a cast that clearly understands the genre and gives it their all, making for an enjoyable horror film that is scary, silly, and cleverly self-aware. The video quality on this brand new Blu-Ray edition is stellar, sporting an incredibly clean transfer that retains the authentic film grain and boasts an impressive amount of detail. The audio track also suits the film well, delivering the dolls’ mayhem and the creepy score in fine dynamic form. As per the usual, Scream Factory has done it again in the area of special features, with the wonderful documentary Toys of Terror among other fun extras. It may take a certain brand of Horror fan to appreciate Dolls, with its over-the-top humor and corny nature, but I found it to be a heck of a lot of fun. This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory comes highly recommended!