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7 Deadly Sinns: Killer Dolls!

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Dolls! Oh, how I hate them. Their flat little frozen faces might appear to say nothing, but they’ve never fooled me! Sure, they don’t move; at least when you’re looking directly at them. They sit still and polite, dressed in their Victorian gown, clown suit, or whatever ridiculous garb they hope is charming enough for them to seem harmless. Don’t be fooled! Dolls wouldn’t only kill you if they could; they’d fry your liver with onions and feed it to your cat. Dolls would steal your mail and forward any porn to your mom.

Dolls are, in every single way, evil incarnate and deserve nothing more than be melted down into small itsy bitsy plastic lumps and force fed to death row inmates prior to execution in order to better expedite their quite necessary trip to hell. Egads!

7 Deadly Sinns

There have been many instances of wonderful killer toys in films over the years, and here I want to spotlight seven that, I feel, deserve comment. This summary was inspired by a recent anniversary by a rather well known murderous doll, and therefore there is no better film to head up this list.

7 Deadly Sinns: Killer Dolls (click for larger image)Child’s Play (1988)
It’s been over 20 years since a particularly vicious red-headed orphan brought national attention to the problem of killer dolls. Chucky skittered into the screen, wielding freckles, a charming smile, and a heart-warming pair of light blue overalls; not to mention a bloody knife, black magic voodoo, and seething murderous rage. The first Child’s Play was a hit back in the late 80’s, started up the well known franchise, and is now an outright horror genre icon.

Child’s Play had a strong undercurrent of tongue-in-cheek comedy, but it also played out fairly straight (at least, as much as can be imagined considering the subject matter). The Chucky we’re first introducted to is one mean son of a bitch; sure, he might crack a joke here or there, but for the most part, he’s all rage and cruelty. It’s a shame he didn’t stay that way. The subsequent films in the franchise somewhat fell into the same trap as A Nightmare on Elm Street as the writers began to rely more and more on cheesy puns and one-liners for their villain’s dialogue. The original Chucky didn’t necessarily have to tell jokes to be funny; the irony of having a soul of pure hate bound into a cuddly little buddy was a good enough punch-line that made the doll best played straight and mean.

The emergence of Chucky was effective in his time in part due to a surge in popularity of dolls, particularly those rather loathsome Cabbage Patch Kids. It’s arguable that the film rode the cultural backlash against these poisonously cute stuffed dolls. The population was so tired of the flood of cutesy dolls that someone had to cut them down a notch and show them for the vile little shin-kickers they are. For that pleasure, you have no one better to thank than Don Mancini, the man behind the original conception of Chucky. Don has been quoted that this was intentional; he was tired of seeing commercials for dolls of the Cabbage Patch variety and he felt the need to strike back.

It is in honor of this mighty mini-villain and his twenty years of infamy that this list was even constructed. Killer dolls aren’t typically the sort of evil critters that manage any sort of box office success; however Chucky is top of the heap in national notoriety and an outright genre icon. Thank you Chucky, as well as Mr. Mancini, for all the good times!

7 Deadly Sinns: Killer Dolls (click for larger image)Devil Doll (1936)
Tod Browning might be commonly known among modern horror fans (as well as fans of the Ramones) for his classic film Freaks; however, the man’s fairly prolific directorial career also spawned a lesser known film featuring human dolls up to no good. Devil Doll tells the tale of an escaped prisoner (played by Lionel Barrymore, Drew Barrymore’s great uncle) who discovers a method of not only shrinking human beings to a fraction of their height, but also controlling their movements with the simple power of his mind. With his tiny doll-like slaves, he sets out to exact a terrible revenge upon his old cohorts who’d originally sent him to the big house on a bogus frame-up.

Admittedly it is Barrymore himself who steals the show from the dolls, simply because the man appears in much of the film in drag. He sneaks back into town in a ridiculous old grandmother costume and sets up shop as a creator of dolls, which is all a front to launch his revenge. His old woman acting has a definite humor to it, with his bad wig, stuffed chest, and the absurd high octave blithering. There is so much Mrs. Doubtfire in Barrymore’s performance that it just must be that Robin Williams used this character as an inspiration for his own performance. Someone go ask him.

While the film does attempt to lay on the tension and intrigue (in an old-fashioned way, of course), the humor doesn’t end with a Barrymore’s gender bending. The human dolls are completely under the control of Barrymore, which makes one raise an eyebrow when they suddenly see the attractive female doll lying around in her slip. Every time he invokes the tiny hottie to life, she stretches girlishly and appears to get rather come-hither and friendly. What kind of mental instructions is Barrymore sending? We’ll never know, but I could hazard a guess.

This film differs from the others on this list in that the dolls of ruin here are truly miniaturized people instead of animated dolls. One of the other comic absurdities is the original purpose the mad doctor, who teaches the miniaturization method to Barrymore, had in even coming up with this strange science. It’s economic! With everyone only six inches high, there will be more food and general resources for everyone to share. Why, it’s just taking environmentalism to the next logical conclusion; to save the world, we should all just get small. Steve Martin concurs with this message.

7 Deadly Sinns: Killer Dolls (click for larger image)Poltergeist (1982)
Poltergeist was a smash hit back in its time and still carries a punch to this day. While the film does have a well known, and often discussed, Spielberg-esque family quality to it, it’s also true that the aggressive ghosts and roller coaster scares are still a hell of a good time over 20 years later. The hordes of invisible malcontents living in the home attack the family in many forms, some tangible, some not; and one of the more memorable is that of one significantly creepy clown doll.

If that charmer Chucky could be called the Ted Bundy of the evil doll kingdom, then this painted villain has to be John Wayne Gacy. The setup for the possession of the hideous clown doll is a brilliant piece of contextual horror constructed around the classic fears so many children have in the middle of the night. Flashes of lightning through a night time window, things bumping around in the darkness, things disappearing where they shouldn’t, fears of what might be lurking underneath the bed; it’s all great scary stuff that most of us with a pulse can readily identify with.

If any fans desired to somehow recreate this horrific scene, it can be done! Supermongrel Studios sells life sized replicas of the Poltergeist doll for the low, low, price of $1200 (the evil version being $200 more). Someone pick me up one for my birthday; I have an empty rocking chair just waiting to stick the ugly thing in.

7 Deadly Sinns: Killer Dolls (click for larger image)Chinga: “X-files”, Season 5, Episode 10 (1998)
Fans of Stephen King should have no problem recognizing his influence in this episode of “X-Files”. It is set in a small town in New England, contains quirky humor, an assortment of King-like common townsfolk, and also includes the often King requisite of a nasty old woman who is a dedicated religious zealot. Scully visits this small town in a half-hearted attempt to get a real vacation, only to have her relaxation spoiled when a demonic doll begins a telepathic assault upon such everyday types as friendly Dave the Butcher. The common townsfolk suddenly find their own bodies in a state of treachery; they use their own fingers to gouge out their eyes, knives to slit their wrists, and broken records to tear out their own throats.

The doll itself has found an escort and champion in the form of a young autistic girl who seems only too willing to throw petulant commands at the shocked adults of the town, and to have those commands backed by the threatening authority of the evil doll. Whenever the girl doesn’t get her way with her crazy demands, then all hell breaks out. The mind-controlling episodes are marked by the creepy doll’s catch phrase of “Let’s have fun!”, which heralds each bloody event with an almost celebratory sense of play. It’s never really explained if the girl was always a horrific brat, or if the doll is somehow channeling its malignant evil through the child; though I think the latter can be assumed. The end product feels structurally similar to the classic “Twilight Zone” episode ‘It’s a Good Life’, in which bratty Anthony Fremont sends anyone who doesn’t oblige his childish whims to the horrid dimension known only as the cornfield.

The episode has a lot of humor going for it, mostly in the shots of a bored Mulder, back at work without Scully, trying to fill his time until she gets back by watching porn, bouncing basketballs around the office, and obsessively sharpening a year’s supply of pencils. Also worth a chuckle is that writer Stephen King was unaware the word “Chinga”, the name he gave the episode as well as the doll, is also a rather vulgar word in Spanish on par with the f-bomb. “Let’s have fun?” Bah! Given the title, the doll’s catch phrase should have been “¡Chinga tu madre!” Once the meaning of “Chinga” was realized, Fox changed the title in foreign markets to “Bunghoney”, a nonsense term that, ironically, sounds even fouler if you sit and dwell on it. Funny stuff.

7 Deadly Sinns: Killer Dolls (click for larger image)Dolls (1987)
One of the more obvious films in any conversation of evil dolls has to be Stuart Gordon’s cult classic from the fun filled 80’s, appropriately and quite simply named for the evil things it features. Dolls is a catchy blend of 80’s horror camp and comedy, with just a touch of child-like fantasy thrown in for good measure. The story follows a young mildly retarded girl on a road trip with her unloving father and evil step-mom (okay, maybe not really mildly retarded, but pretend she is and it makes the film even funnier). Severe weather out in the country brings the trip to a halt and the dysfunctional family, in desperation, commits forced entry to break into an old and mysterious home in an attempt to escape the storm. They soon encounter the home’s occupants, being an old and equally mysterious couple who seem kindly enough; though they do have a rather strange and voluminous collection of weird and disturbing dolls.

Other travelers in the night, caught up in the storm, soon arrive in the form of a good hearted young man and two not-so-well-inclined young women. These two girls are the first to get into trouble in the doll infested home, as the Madonna clone (enjoyably hammed by Bunty Bailey, also notable for playing the girl in that old Aha video “Take On Me”) of the two is intent on investigating the house for old jewels and “ant-y-ques”. The two soon find that the dolls are far more than simple decorations; they are guards, enforcers, and outright killers. The doll’s fragile restraint quickly crumbles as they get a good taste of blood, and soon many of the visitors come in contact with their horribly pointed teeth, tiny little stilettos, and miniature firearms.

There is a certain rather appealing subtext in how the dolls protect the little girl, as well as each other, from the evils of the adult world. The blood thirsty dolls have a soft spot for all youngsters, as well as for adults who remain, at least somewhat, children at heart. While the teeth gnashing little stabbers do go a little crazy, it’s also true that the bulk of their victims in the film do have it coming and represent the fouler sides of growing up; the final effect being the creepy dolls are champions of childhood, lashing at the oppression and immorality of the adult world in order to preserve the innocence of youth. Great film!

7 Deadly Sinns: Killer Dolls (click for larger image)Magic (1978)
You just can’t have a list like this and not have a representative from the evil ventriloquist dummy club. These can be some of the more insidious from the evil doll collection, pretending on the surface to be friends and companions but secretly yearning to pull the strings of their masters. Corky Withers, played disturbingly well by the legendary Anthony Hopkins, gets his strings tied into knots by wooden dummy sidekick Fats in this murderous thriller from the late 70’s.

Corky Withers has managed to hit it big with his straight man jokes and magic tricks backed up with a wise cracking wooden dummy. Burgess Meredith dryly plays his agent, who manages to get the oddball Corky a gig in the big leagues. Corky, faced with the prospect of having to undergo psychological analysis as part of the contract, flees to the hills to visit a long lost crush Peggy Ann Snow, played by Ann Margaret (and played in a rather mousy way – a far cry from the sexually charged bean and chocolate rolling dynamo she was two years earlier in Tommy).

It is in the wooded hills that Corky seriously cracks up and Fats the dummy begins to assume real power. Fats is a jealous doll, you see, and Fats really doesn’t like too many of the others crowding in on Corky’s time. As Corky sinks more and more into insanity, the doll takes charge, and eventually there are some bodies to be sunk in the local lake.

Magic is arguably one of the smartest evil doll films ever to come rolling out of the toy shop. This is a film set firmly in the real world; the influence of Fats the doll plays out solely in master Corky’s own mind. The subject matter describes the spiraling descent into shivering and sweaty madness, and the manipulation, murder, and psychosis that accompanies such a fall. Anthony Hopkin’s portrayal of a disturbed artist caught up in a powerful fit of schizophrenia is definitely worth a look.

7 Deadly Sinns: Killer Dolls (click for larger image)Trilogy of Terror (1975)
There is no doll like the infamous Zuni fetish doll which launched into nightmare in the third and final story of the Trilogy of Terror. This tiny little warrior, with its crazy needle teeth and insane jerky mannerisms, immediately terrorized the world of every child who saw the thing on ABC back on March 4, 1975, including myself. I admit, it’s true; the thing is dated to the point that it’s almost laughable now. The little bastard’s rabid frenetic nature is so over-the-top that it’s hard not to giggle at its antics. But seeing it back in the 70’s as a little wide-eyed tow head? Ho, boy!

I was so terrorized by this wild gibbering monstrosity as a child that I developed a strange fear the damned thing would somehow get me in the shower. I was stricken by horrific visions of it swinging out of the medicine cabinet or popping out of the towel hamper while I was in the tub washing my parts. It created such a pit of worry that I finally took to bathing with the medicine cabinet wide open so I could see clearly in it, and the towel hamper sitting out in the hallway on the other side of the closed and locked bathroom door. For years, my bewildered parents kept asking me, “Tristan, er, why do you put the hamper in the hallway every time you take a shower?

I’d freeze up and refuse to answer the question. I don’t think I ever did. They’d never understand that I was absolutely sure that the damned doll would somehow materialize amongst our damp linens and leap out to stab at my kneecaps. Now, if they’re reading this, they finally know. Mom? Dad? It was all because of that damned evil Zuni fetish doll. I hope you understand.

I wasn’t the only one to be affected. A few years ago, I attended the yearly Comic Con in sunny San Diego. One of the vendors was selling a Zuni fetish doll replica, which I immediately tagged to buy as my last purchase of the day. As I approached the vendor on the way to the door, there was a large sweaty guy already at the cashier, buying one himself. I heard him speak and it was a rather familiar voice: Guillermo del Toro! The sight of one of my favorite people in the whole world also buying the very same doll that terrorized the showers of my youth made me giddy. “Hey! I’m here to buy one of those things myself. That doll scared the crap out of me as a kid!

Oh geez,” he said sincerely, “it scares the crap out of me now!” I love that man. Go see this old film if you’ve been so denied in the past.

Tristan Sinns

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Reviews

Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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Jordan Peele Is Open to the Idea of Get Out Sequel

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Recently we shared the baffling news that this year, the Golden Globes were considering writer-director Jordan Peele’s psychological horror-thriller Get Out a comedy.

Hurm. While that bit of news still doesn’t make a bit of sense to me, today we have an update on Jordan Peele’s possible sequel Get Out 2. Which is always welcome.

Deadline was recently speaking with the filmmaker and Peele told them that although he still hasn’t cracked the sequel, if he comes up with a fresh spin he would have no problem revisiting the first film.

“I haven’t decided anything yet,” Peele told the site. “I am allowing the creative part to bubble up, and not force it. I know if a follow-up is meant to happen, it will. I’m open to figuring out what it is. But I also don’t want to let down the original and its fans. I simply would not do something like that for the cash.”

Good to hear!

I don’t know about you, but if Jordan Peele does decide to revisit the world of Get Out again in the future, I will be there. After reading these comments, I have faith the man will not return unless the story deserves it. Money be damned!

Unless… the sequel is called Sell Out… Ooohh. Snap. All jokes aside, in this world of sequels and remakes, it feels pretty damn good to hear a filmmaker talk this way.

What do you think of a Get Out sequel? Do you think the first film needs a continuation? Make sure to hit us up and let us know in the comments below or on social media!

You can buy Get Out on Blu-ray HERE.

Synopsis:

Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.

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Joe Dante’s Matinee Starring John Goodman Blu-ray Special Features Announced!

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One of my favorite childhood movies was director Joe Dante’s Matinee starring John Goodman. I watched the flick all the time and still make sure to give it a peep as often as I can. In fact, I just rewatched the movie last month. Still holds up too!

As I’ve grown up and watched more horror movies, I have come to call this film “Popcorn for the whole family.” And visa versa, have labeled Popcorn as“Matinee for the 80’s slasher crowd.” Both of these statements as completely apt by the way.

It is with this love of the film in mind that I wanted to make sure to pass along the news that Shout! Factory is planning to release Matinee on Collector’s Edition Blu-ray January 9th, 2018. And it is a beauty.

You can check out the full list of special features below along with the Collector’s Edition cover art. Then make sure to let us know what you think of Matinee below!

Matinee hits Collector’s Edition Blu-ray via Shout! Factory January 9th, 2018!

PRE-ORDER HERE

Synopsis:

John Goodman is at his uproarious best as the William Castle-inspired movie promoter Lawrence Woolsey, who brings his unique brand of flashy showmanship to the unsuspecting residents of Key West, Florida.

It’s 1962, and fifteen-year-old fan Gene Loomis (Simone Fenton) can’t wait for the arrival of Woolsey, who is in town to promote his latest offering of atomic power gone berserk, Mant! But the absurd vision of Woolsey’s tale takes on a sudden urgency as the Cuban Missile Crises places the real threat of atomic horror just 90 miles off the coast. With the help of Woolsey’s leading lady, Ruth (Cathy Moriarty), the master showman gives Key West a premiere they’ll never forget. Anything can happen in the movies, and everything does in this hilarious tribute to a more innocent (and outrageous) time in American cinema.

Bonus Features:

NEW Master Of The Matinee – An Interview With Director Joe Dante

NEW The Leading Lady – An Interview with Cathy Moriarty

NEW MANTastic! The Making Of A Mant

NEW Out Of The Bunker – An Interview With Actress Lisa Jakub

NEW Making A Monster Theatre – An Interview With Production Designer Steven Legler

NEW The Monster Mix – An Interview With Editor Marshall Harvey

NEW Lights! Camera! Reunion! – An Interview With Director Of Photography John Hora

Paranoia In Ant Vision – Joe Dante Discusses The Making Of The Film

MANT! – The Full-Length Version Of The Film With Introduction By Joe Dante

Vintage Making-Of Featurette

Behind The Scenes Footage Courtesy Of Joe Dante

Deleted And Extended Scenes Sourced From Joe Dante’s Workprint

Still Galleries

Theatrical Trailer

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