Written/Created by: Matt
Originally posted on 1/29/03.

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Another 'brilliant' synopsis of Dolly Dearest, from the IMDB comments board:
"One of the worst movies i have EVER seen, I can't believe that i sat all the way through thinking to myself "it'll get better, it'll get better"...but it didn't get better! The characters were so underdeveloped and just plain annoying! to the people who think they'd like this film...YOU'RE WRONG! TRUST ME!!"

1992's Dolly Dearest was universally panned by critics, for two reasons. The first complaint: it's an obvious ripoff on the Child's Play series. The second complaint: it sucks. While there's few who could argue with the latter statement, I didn't get much of a Chucky vibe from this flick. It's just a sad truth that no horror movie can include possessed dolls without being compared to Child's Play, which probably explains why there aren't many films of this type. I mean, if you can't hold your own in the realm of critical acclaim against freakin' Child's Play, you probably shouldn't be making movies to begin with.

Actually, I thought it was pretty clever. Not good, but fairly interesting from a conceptual standpoint. I watched it pretty late and managed to stay awake, which is more than I can say for 90% of the movies I review here on X-E. At the risk of formulating a sentence that annoys the fuck out of people who hate italicized words, Dolly Dearest is more like a cross between Child's Play and The Exorcist, and it's pretty obvious that the person mainly responsible for this tripe was a big fan of both those films. I considered the similarities more of a tribute that a direct ripoff, though. If you think I'm coming on too strong in my defense of a film this, don't worry. We're just not up to the really stupid parts yet.

The flick was a disastrous direct-to-video failure, and I'd be surprised if more than twelve people have ever sat down to watch it without being forced to at gunpoint. If nothing else, the video's box art was promising. It pictured the sinister Dolly doll sitting in a rocking chair, holding a knife with her legs spread all slutty-like. That was enough to sell me on the idea, and fortunately, there was enough idiocy within the movie's ninety minutes to warrant this review. Well, not really, but I bought it and watched it, so you're just gonna have to suffer along with me. Here's the review...

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The setup isn't unusual - city folk move into the country for Daddy's new job. We've seen it in a thousand movies, but its never come off quite so annoyingly as in Dolly Dearest. See, Elliot Read had to relocate his family so he could mass-produce a line of dolls that will make his company rich. The toy factory he bought to do this was, for reasons never fully explored, in the middle of a haunted Indian burial ground out in the desert. I know that the rent must've been lower, but that's pretty far off the beaten path if you ask me. Oh well.

He's got two kids, Jimmy and Jessica. His wife is named Marilyn, and you'll probably recognize her as Tasha Yar from Star Trek: TNG, or conversely, the woman with the drippy dead eye from Pet Cemetary. Yep, that's Denise Crosby herself. I don't think I've ever had more pity for an actor as I've had for Denise, who was both talented and pretty enough to make it past all the b-level shitfests she stars in. The saving grace is that she's probably still taking home a good coin from her Star Trek connections, through convention appearances and whatnot. Still, when you see her in action, you can't help but feel that she was just one good role away from becoming a much larger star. Poor Denise. Must suck to know you're a good actress and still be forced to list Dolly Dearest as one of your career highlights.


When Elliot gets to the factory, he's shocked to find it in terrible condition. Shocked might be an overstatement, actually, as he just kinda shrugs it off and never mentions the tens of thousands he lost again. I think it's important for people in movies about killer dolls to keep a positive outlook, so Elliot's my new hero. Or at least, he would've been if his nose didn't defy human physiology by being located very close to his left ear.

The factory was almost completely destroyed, but still had a collection of pretty dolls in perfect condition. Jessica begs her daddy for one of the beauties, and Elliot is more than happy to oblige. After all, he just dragged his daughter out into the middle of the haunted, vacant desert where she'll have no friends or social life forever and ever. The least he can do is give her one of the damn dolls, right? Obviously, this proves to be a major mistake later.

'Dolly' is, of course, possessed by a devilish spirit. We get a few glimpses of movement here and there, but only enough to realize that the doll's alive. The film is working from a budget of like ten bucks, so they keep the money scenes to a minimum. A real low minimum. Actually, it doesn't have any money scenes. I think they used the ten bucks to bet on Cloverhoof at the OTB. Apparently, they lost.


The devil possession doesn't just affect the doll. Jessica is all Satanic now, too. She becomes absolutely obsessed with Dolly, to the point where she won't spend time with anyone but her new toy. It's worse than that, though. She's acting all creepy now. Like, there's one scene where the family passes a priest while driving, and Jessica responds by screaming as if someone's trying to shove a cactus up her cunt. Other than that, it's just your usual signs of demonic possession: yelling at her parents, pushing around the maids, masturbating with crosses, all the regular junk.

Meanwhile, let's meet the final cast member, RIP TORN. I can offer no explanation for his decision to star in Dolly Dearest other than the possibility of someone spiking his drinks on a daily basis for six months straight. Rip plays Dr. Karl Resnick, a curator who's exploring the nearby caves for any paranormal memorabilia. Little Jimmy, in the absence of anyone else his age in a 200-mile radius, take a shine to Karl and becomes his quasi-assistant. This leads to many sideplots that I'm going to leave out of the review, partly because they don't directly bring us closer to any death-by-doll scenes, but mostly because I wasn't paying any attention.


Jessica's behavior becomes increasingly agitated and violent, and Marilyn is understandably concerned. Even though Jess clearly names Dolly as the driving force behind her current demeanor, everyone else thinks she's just using the toy as a crutch so she can be a total bitch without any ramifications. On occasion, Jessica speaks in voodoo tongues, but even that isn't enough to sell her family on the idea that the doll's possessed.

In all honesty, some of the scenes are pretty disturbing to watch, way more upsetting than the actual murder sequences. Jessica caresses Dolly to the point where they seem like lovers, and at least fourteen minutes of the film are devoted solely to shots of Jesse kissing the doll's plastic forehead. Even if they don't know Dolly's possessed, it's kind of odd for Jessica's family to accept this behavior as 'normal.' I mean, if you're a parent, and your kid is spending her every waking moment tonguing Barbie's ass, wouldn't you be a little worried?

After this, Dolly finally comes alive, and kills off the family's maid. It's a pretty interesting death scene - Dolly stabs the woman eighty times before pushing her into a pool and electrocuting her. Everyone decides later that it must've been some sort of terrible freak accident. Right. Stab wounds and electrocution in the abandoned greenhouse in the middle of the night...the quintessential freak accident. From this point on, Dolly takes a more active interest in her movie, killing everyone who isn't related to the title stars. Following the hallmark rule of horror films, she starts with the Mexicans.


One of the factory workers makes the cardinal mistake of insulting a possessed toy, so Dolly uses a sewing machine to mangle his hand, and the powers of the occult to give him a massive heart attack. It's here that Dolly Dearest shines, as we learn that all of the dolls - not just Jessica's - are possessed by Satan. So now, matters are worse. There isn't just one Dolly to deal with, there's actually a dozen of 'em. For whatever reason, the rest of the dolls decide to remain in the factory. I guess because the script called for them all to be in one place so the movie's climax explosion scene would carry more weight. Oops, I spoiled the ending. I'm sure the suspense was killing you.


Jimmy, somehow, ends up in the factory as well. The dolls don't make any big attempt to kill him yet, but they screw with his head by sticking their tongues out and giggling when he's not looking.

Meanwhile, Jessica has totally degenerated into a malicious mess. She refuses to speak to her mother unless it's to threaten her life, and seems to be on the fast track to total annihilation. Or something. Finally, Marilyn realizes that all this trouble might have something to do with the fact that Dr. Karl and his crew have been unearthing Satanic artifacts across the street from the house. Way to go Marilyn. You get a gold star.


Dr. Karl isn't convinced until he hears about all the troubles that've gone on since he started digging. He becomes even more convinced later after finding the baby devil's remains in a nearby cave. I mean that literally, by the way. There's a scene with him unlocking an ancient coffin and finding a dusty plastic skeleton adorned with goat horns inside. I'm surprised Rip Torn didn't change his name in 1993 just to separate himself a little further from this role, but then again, he was in Robocop III. Rip's been desensitized to the effects of shitty roles for decades.

When Marilyn returns home, Dolly reveals her true colors. No longer hiding in the shadows, Dolly explains that Jessica belongs to her and that there's no way to stop their rampage of destruction. Then she laughs. The laughing part is important, because it sounds almost exactly like the noise Pac-Man makes when eating dots. I got a much bigger kick out of that than anything else in Dolly Dearest. Well, except for the fake goat-headed skeleton. That was kinda neat.


Just before Dolly can kill Marilyn, Jimmy returns with a shotgun and blows her away. Good thing there was a loaded shotgun in the middle of the living room! I find it a little curious that a doll possessed by Satan can be defeated so easily, but I'm glad that we were spared from the usual forty-five 'false finish' deaths that movies like this typically utilize.

Anyway, Jessica is free of Satan's hold after Dolly dies, and returns to her usual self. Oddly, her 'usual self' isn't much different from the possessed version, but they uncrimped her hair to aid the change's fluidity. Still, even though they've killed Dolly, there's a whole big squad of other Dolly dolls hiding in that stupid factory.


Despite Marilyn's pleading, Elliot decides that he can't leave until all of the evil dolls are destroyed. Some might call it heroic, but I think it had a little more to do with the guy having absolutely no storyline for the entire movie's duration. Elliot was getting a little tired of being a background character, wandering in the shadows, searching for a piece of stray cheese. Dr. Karl joins in the fun, and the two of 'em go back into the factory to deal with all those scary dolls.


After a lengthy chase scene, they finally succeed in blowing up the place. Dolly and all her minions are destroyed, and presumably, this is enough to send Satan's spirit back to the fiery pits of Hell. The family shares a group hug and heads home, shaking the whole experience off like a bad dream. I dunno, I think I'd at least take a swig of SoCo after something like that.

Overall: Dolly Dearest is inoffensive for the most part, and not an entirely bad way to spend 90 minutes. Don't get me wrong, every chapter of the Child's Play series is much more entertaining overall, but this one's a nice sleeper if you're just looking for something to put on when you're too lazy to flip through the channels. Plus, there's something strangely cathartic about seeing Rip Torn dig up the devil's remains while wearing an oversized helmet. 6 outta 10, but realize that most of that '6' stems from the fact that I expected a whole lot worse. Compared to almost every other movie on the planet, Dolly Dearest is more like a negative six million.

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