An ancient spirit animates a small army of dolls in this horror opus that manages a few scares but has a hard time living up to its clever title.
This one starts off sloppy but gets better. It begins in Mexico with a close-up of a sign warning that this area is closed by the department of Agriculture(which is misspelled -thanks Morehead State for those Spanish classes)). The camera dips inside this site, which turns out to be a crypt , and settles on a guy who apparently feels free to ignore misspelled warnings. He presses forward and accidentally releases a series of spirits(actually red beams of light) which zap him and proceed to the factory next door.
Turns out that factory was just purchased by an American businessman, Eliot Wade, who plans to reopen the company and take over their line of creepy faced dolls. He is joined by his wife Marilyn, precocious son , Jimmy, and impressionable(read as high strung) daughter Jessica. They also have a new Casa’ to move into that comes complete with a maid who is also an expert on an ancient evil South American religion called Sanzia.
While Dad gets started with the factory his nerdy son is quick to dive into local folklore about Sanzia. Mom begins unpacking and Jessica receives the first Doll from the factory. It doesn’t have any spare outfits but it does rock a Sanzian spirit nestled deep inside. This plastic monster is quick to show Jess who’s the boss. Before you know it the kid is lying to her parents and spending all her time in a huge doll house in the yard plotting to rule the world.
Before you know it Jess is tossing the maid around for rocking rosary beads and distracting others while the doll goes about on a kill crazy rampage. Here the film perks up. The first victim is that nosy maid who gets done in proper with a flip down the basement stairs, followed by a pair of scissors jammed into her shoulder, and finished off with a full scale electrocution.
No one thinks twice about this messy homicide(huh?) and the only mention made of it is that the family came to collect the body. The message is clear-life is cheap south of the border my amigos. Meanwhile an archaeologist, Rennick, shows up at the dig site and is befriended by Jimmy.
This leads to a tender moment of bonding over horror stories about the gruesome rituals associated with Sanzia. Jimmy learns that these guys worshipped a devil/goat child and were known for turning their children into evil disciples . That noise is the clue truck backing up to the movie. Turns out the dig site sits on a crypt built by followers of the obscure blood cult.
It takes a few more deaths before everyone catches on but give mom credit for reporting that Jess was being controlled by the doll. It is surprising to the extreme that she figures it out her tycoon hubby doesn’t believe her despite the electrocuted maid they fished out of the basement.
It all leads to a fiery finale that finds dad and Rennick trying to blow up the factory with dynamite while the Dollies run around like a pint sized army of evil “Smoky the Bears” and pulling out the fuses. There is no final shot of a Dolly crawling away so it’s safe to assume that Mexico is safe -for now.
This one tries real hard but is done in by long stretches where nothing happens. That’s too bad because the Doll is genuinely scary. It starts off with a banal smirk but soon adopts a permanent sneer that compliments its beady eyes.
The toy also boasts a chirpy sing sing-song voice that is in direct contrast to its nasty disposition. It is often essayed by a well rendered puppet but is played in the action scenes by a talented ,and tiny, thespian, named Ed Gale, best known for starring as ‘Howard the Duck” in one of Marvel Comics most bizarre flicks. Rip Torn also shows up to cash a quick paycheck and perform a search and destroy mission for a Mexican accent. Worth a look ,and a quart of Tequila wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Best Lines: “It had the body of an infant and the head of a goat.”
“Turkey manure is the best.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.