Devil Dolls (DVD)
Directed by Charles Band, Ted Nicolaou, Peter Manoogian
Never let it be said that Charles Band doesn’t know how to squeeze nickels until they shit quarters.
For the past several weeks Redbox’s website has been listing the March 6th release date for a new Charles Band movie called Devil Dolls. I could find nothing about this movie on the official Full Moon website and no listing on IMDB. That’s especially strange coming from a man who sends out email to hype the date when the world will get its first look at a new Puppet Master for a Puppet Master sequel that still doesn’t even have a filming start date yet. All I knew going in from the Redbox description was that Devil Dolls is an anthology film and that one of the doll heads on the cover looks an awful lot like the evil baby doll from Demonic Toys.
You don’t suppose Charles Band just chopped three of his past killer doll movies down to a half-hour each and re-released them as an entirely new anthology film, do you?
You better believe that’s exactly what he did.
New opening credits and some really cheap looking animation wrapping around the segments are all that is new here; the rest is reduced and recycled previous material. The nickels have shat quarters once more.
Chapter One is entitled “Doll Cemetery”. Or as it was called when I reviewed the full length version back in 2005: Doll Graveyard.
I've got no problem telling you I completely fast forwarded through this entire segment. I found it to be an underwhelming poor man’s Puppet Master knock-off seven years ago, and condensing it to a half-hour wasn’t going to suddenly make it fun. Read my review of Doll Graveyard, and you’ll understand why.
It’s about a kid named Guy who unearths some turn-of-the-century action figures in his backyard that Puppet Master to life and try to kill his sister and her friends when they have a party in the house. The original version felt long at 71 minutes. Minus 40 minutes of filler, I can only hope it didn’t still feel long. I wouldn’t know because I moved on.
“Voodoo Doll” is the name of Chapter Two. Ragdoll was the name of the feature version released all the way back in 1999. I had never seen this one before so I did not fast forward.
Ragdoll came along back around the time Band was trying to create a line of horror films that appealed to the urban market. A predominantly African-American cast in a true-to-form Band-ish killer doll tale with a voodoo twist. Up-and-coming rapper Kwame refuses to sign a record deal with a local gangster wanting to be his manager, and the thug sends his grandma to the hospital. Kwame does makes a deal with “the shadow man” (aka Black Satan) to get revenge; that revenge comes in the form of a murderous ragdoll that’s sort of like the Aunt Jemima version of Trilogy of Terror’s Zuni Doll.
Because there’s a halfway decent story here and some enjoyably hammy acting bolstering it, I can’t help but wonder if this one might actually be better in its original full-length form. As is, it plays less like a true short film and more like a film that has obviously been shortened. There is no flow, no natural build-up to anything, just a series of plot bullet points and kill scenes.
While the unholy ragdoll is more outrageous looking than terrifying, I can’t say anything I saw it do fell into either category. The Butterfly McQueen of Charles Band’s puppetverse just doesn’t deliver the goods when it comes to toy-on-human violence, and isn’t that what we’re really tuning in for?
Hmm, maybe chopping it down to a half-hour really was for the best.
The third and final tale is the terribly retitled “Treacherous Toys”. Yep, it’s Demonic Toys.
The moment it begins there is a very noticeable change in the film stock. I mean it was actually shot on film. 20 years ago! Ragdoll is over 10 years old, but the way it was shot doesn’t differ all that much to how Doll Graveyard looked when it was shot 6 years later. Demonic Toys was released in 1992. Some of you reading right now were still in diapers. Some of you weren’t even born yet. Tracy Scoggins was middle-aged when she starred in this movie; today she qualifies for AARP. That’s how long ago this was. It shows its age in every single frame.
I myself had not seen this one since it was first released. Back then I watched each and every Full Moon movie and looked forward to new releases with bated breath. I’d watch the movies, the Video Zone segments after the films, and would have ordered merchandise from the catalogue had I had the money. I still remember what my reaction was at the time upon first watching Demonic Toys: disappointment. I liked the concept in spirit more than I actually liked the actual movie. Enjoying it more for nostalgic purposes than actually liking what I was actually seeing on the screen is how I can now describe revisiting the film 20 years later in a condensed format.
Pregnant cop. Fast food delivery guy. Security guards. A warehouse mostly filled with empty cardboard boxes. A satanic kid. Classic childhood toys brought monstrously to life murdering people. The third writing credit of a then fledgling screenwriter named David S. Goyer. He’s gone on to pen both better and worse than this.
My assumption is that Devil Dolls is not aimed at hardcore Full Moon fans since all that’s being offered up here is unsatisfying small doses of movies they should already be quite familiar with. If the idea is to appeal to a new audience and make some new fans, honestly, I don’t know if these are the three I would have chosen. More likely this anthology exists as an easy way for Charles Band to make a few quick bucks without having to do much more than press some DVDs.
I paid $1.28 to rent Devil Dolls from a Redbox, and about $1.28’s worth of entertainment is what I got.
2 out of 5