Doll Graveyard (2005)

Starring Jared Kusnitz, Gabrielle Lynn, Kristyn Green, Anna Alicia Brock

Directed by Charles Band

Doll Graveyard marks Charles Band’s latest attempt to recreate the success of his Puppet Master franchise and was actually the second new feature to come from Band’s new production company before The Gingerdead Man (which I dug the hell out of and after Decadent Evil (which I most certainly did not). Ultimately, Doll Graveyard rather fittingly falls somewhere in between. It isn’t particularly bad, but there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about either.

Los Angeles, 1911: Young Sophia is playing with her really ugly dolls when she accidentally breaks something in the house. Dad is a cruel, mentally abusive man so he proceeds to lecture her on how pathetic she is before punishing her by forcing her to bury her beloved dolls in the backyard. In the process, Sophia has an accident and dies. Dad, being the evil prick that he is, figures that since there’s already an open hole he might as well just toss his daughter in and bury her alongside her precious dolls.

Los Angeles, present day: Young teenage Guy and his older sister DeeDee now live in the house with their hardworking father. Guy is a dork that likes collecting rare action figures. DeeDee decries her brother’s dorkdom and longs to hang out with her cool friends. First, they both have chores to do around the house. While cleaning the backyard, Guy unearths one of Sophia’s dolls. Meanwhile, dad finds the old pocket watch that belonged to Sophia’s mean-spirited father and it starts having an effect on him.

So basically this family from 1911 managed to leave behind artifacts that went unfound for 90 some odd years and all feature various forms of possession and you can pretty much guess where this whole storyline is going to go long before it ever gets there.

With dad out on a big date, DeeDee invites over her two girlfriends Terri and Olivia, one a totally spoiled teen queen and the other a closet geek that secretly thinks Guy and his action figure collecting is cool and sort of has the hots for him, for a girls night only party. Then the drunken, oafish boyfriends crash the party and decides that the first order of business needs to be to torment guy; first by destroying a rare action figure he’d just bought and then by tying him up so he won’t come downstairs while they all party. While Guy struggles to get free, he keeps hearing the ghostly voice of a young girl telling him that they’re coming to protect him. The dolls then all come to life, including the ones still in the grave that proceed to rise zombie-style; all the while Sophia’s spirit attempts to take possession of Guy.

What follows is the usual slasher movie clichés involving partying teen characters trapped in a house while being stalked, in this case by the possessed, decaying dolls.

Band’s newest menagerie of murderous puppets, I mean dolls, all seem to be based on ethnic and racial stereotypes this time out. First and foremost is Samurai, a ghoulish looking Samurai warrior with a samurai sword that might be tiny yet still proves quite effective at slashing full-sized people. Another resembles a WW1 era German Kaiser, complete with a tiny pistol and traditional pointy helmet; the point being especially pointy if you catch my drift. Next is Ooga Booga, which looks like a zombified African tribesman (albeit with inexplicably green eyes) with a bone through its nose and a long sharp spear that’s perfectly suited for popping out eyeballs. And last, but not least, is a baby doll that looks like an ordinary little girl doll except for its demonic red eyes and especially nasty overbite. Each gets just enough screen time to show us their various gimmicks but that’s about it.

For me the biggest problem with Doll Graveyard is that it can’t really make up its mind who you’re supposed to be rooting for. The dolls and the spirit of Sophia keep claiming they’re just trying to protect him but while most of the others express varying degrees of jerkiness to Guy none of them really deserve to die for it. I also never really understood why it took them so damn long to try and just get the hell out of the house, and still they never actually did so except to go into the backyard where the grave was. And don’t get me started on the anti-climactic ending. It isn’t a true wrap-up; the film just concludes in a most unsatisfying manner.

For some, just seeing the various dolls in action will be more than enough to satisfy them but it just wasn’t enough for me. Unlike The Gingerdead Man where I actually liked the supporting characters, everyone here is just stereotypical slasher movie fodder. The new puppets, I mean dolls, are somewhat neat but the barely there story is just too flimsy and, well, ultimately proves pointless. Like most of Band’s recent productions, the film clocks in at only 71 minutes yet still managed to begin feeling a bit long to me due to the weak plot and characters. By the end of Doll Graveyard I couldn’t help but think that perhaps it may be time for Band to put all his killer dolls and puppets back into the proverbial toybox and start focusing on some new non-toy themed horrors because the whole toy thing just feels totally played out.

2 out of 5

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Jon Condit