Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factory - DOLLS on Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Scream Factory - DOLLS on Blu-ray

DOLLS (1987; Stuart Gordon)
I really have to list Stuart Gordon as one of the formative cinematic influences on me when I was in high school. He and Sam Raimi both. I saw EVIL DEAD II and RE-ANIMATOR pretty close together and they took the top of my head off. I was totally unaccustomed to their mixes of humor and horror and had no idea how to process them, but I knew that I liked the films and they really stuck with me. They both were filled with a much more independent spirit than I was used to and that helped them stand out amidst a lot of studio fare that I had been ingesting around that age. Gordon had a particularly uncanny knack for finding the proper tone for an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation that I wouldn't completely appreciate until years later (when I fully realized he was the clearly the best at it).
Apparently, DOLLS was a film that Charles Band had Gordon "sneak in" between RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND (though FROM BEYOND would end up being released first). I guess it all started with a single poster image and grew out of that (not unlike things you hear about Roger Corman and AIP).  There are just certain fears and phobias that are quite niche and others that are much more universal. Some people are irked by clowns, some find snakes abhorrent but there are also many of us that have this thing about being creeped out by dolls. I can't recall if it goes back to POLTERGEIST for me, but dolls have seemingly always been an issue for me. Especially older dolls. The doll phobia phenomenon is clearly still around and in the zeitgeist at the moment with the release of movies like THE CONJURING and ANNABELLE and their subsequent successes. There's just something about these toys with their human features and wide-open, staring eyes that seem to be watching you relentlessly all the time you are in a room with them. DOLLS is essentially along the lines of a haunted house film wherein in a group of strangers must spend the night in the home of an odd toy maker and his wife. As the night wears on, they begin to discover they are in deep trouble as they are overrun by a veritable army of sadistic killer dolls. It's a pretty straightforward story, but the slow build is nice and the ultimate payoff of more and more doll scenes is worth the wait. What really makes DOLLS stand out is the effects work. The mix of puppetry, stop-motion animation and other practical effects really makes for a memorably visceral experiences. The neat thing about practicals and specifically this combination of them is that they allow for a pretty unique look and ultimately a remarkably unnerving overall impact.

Special Features:
This Scream Factory Blu-ray is one of their Collector's Editions and is thus stocked with some good supplements:
-An Audio Commentary with director Stuart Gordon and writer Ed Naha. These are both very interesting, intelligent and quirky/fun guys and their track is a neat informal conversation that I found to be quite enjoyable. This commentary is very scene-specific and so the two gents make their observations as they view the film themselves and things occur to them.
-A second Audio Commentary with some cast members is also included here as well. Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine and Ian Patrick Williams all participate and recall their experiences on the movie.
-"Toys of Terror: The Making of DOLLS" (39 mins) This retrospective features interviews with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Charles Band, Ed Naha, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon and several of the effects creators.
It gives a nice history of Gordon and Yuzna's beginnings with Charles Band and RE-ANIMATOR and how that led into the production of DOLLS.

Here's a clip of Stuart Gordon from the "Toys of Terror" supplement:

The new DOLLS Blu-ray can be found at Shout! Factory's site and other online retailers:

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