Dolly Dearest (1991)
Cast: Sam Bottoms, Rip Torn, Denise Crosby, Candace Hutson, Chris Demetral
Director: Maria Lease
Nutshell: Cheap and cheerful Chucky rip-off merges The Omen and The Exorcist with Child’s Play to achieve some hokey and fun results.
Dolly Dearest is essentially a Child’s Play knock off but quite an enjoyable and surprisingly nasty little entity directed by that rare specimen: a female director, and a female horror movie director is even more of a rarity.
The film focusses on an American family who move to Mexico so that Daddy can start his fledgling business manufacturing dolls for little girls. Unfortunately, unknown to him, his factory happens to stand on some ancient Mayan burial grounds and an evil spirit has just recently been unleashed by an archeologist who was recently found crushed by a massive rock door. The evil spirit (in the form of some irate red blotches) has since found its new abode and that is within one of the dolls waiting to be sold as the first manufactured batch from this cursed factory. The little cherubic six-year-old Jessica goes wandering around and discovers the rather hideous looking dolls and begs her daddy to let her have one before anyone else can buy them. Daddy duly obliges not knowing that he is opening the doorways to a She-Bitch version of Chucky who wastes absolutely no time getting down to business and whittling down the population of the community within hours of arriving in her new home with the little girl.
The first indication that all is not quite as should be is when the brat Jessica goes into convulsions at the sight of a Priest blessing the house as is customary in these parts. Clearly, they hadn’t watched The Omen from 1976 when Damien, Spawn of Satan, suffers similar spasms upon arriving at a church. They should have known.
Predictably, the first to be offed by stabbing and electrocution is the local Mexican House helper, she being typically religious and sensing that all is not right with Dolly and child. She pays a heavy price as Dolly doesn’t mess about.
Matters take a turn for the worse as little Jessica starts to morph into Dolly’s lookalike and further mysterious deaths start mounting up alarmingly. Jessica’s tantrums take on a terrifying turn as her voice suddenly booms in a masculine rage as she lashes out against her mother for daring to take Dolly away from her. Mrs. Wade is now convinced that the murdered housekeeper Carmelita, was actually right in warning her about an evil force but her husband beats down all suggestions as crazy talk.
A desperate mother must now rely on her own resources to fight the forces of evil in the form of the demonic Dolly in order to save her young daughters life. Her investigation leads her to uncover the curse of the Death Child that infests the land upon which the doll factory stands. However, she is also informed that it is now too late to stop the Devil Doll and that her daughter has been lost forever. A determined mother returns home to take up the battle against Dolly and with her young son helping out, they momentarily have the upper hand but then it emerges that this Dolly is not the only one possessed with the spirit of the Death Child but the entire batch of factory processed Dolly’s are similarly possessed.
The Wade family must battle for survival against an entire uprising on Dolly Dearests and there is much mayhem and horror before this diabolical concoction of The Omen, The Exorcist and Child’s Play reaches its horrendous climax and though this knock-off quickie straight to video cheapie is as predictable as they come, it still manages to entertain in a reasonably solid manner.
Dolly herself is a star and in this pre-CGI age, impressing with her hideous looks and her facial contortions and the fact that she does look pretty real. In fact, Dolly more than holds her own and causes some surprisingly nasty situations such as having a sewing machine needle gouge through the palm of a hapless victim and in this age of Crocosaurus Vs Sharktopus maybe it would be an excellent time to revive two gloriously malevolent dolls as in Annabelle Vs Dolly Dearest in a love triangle where they are both vying for Chucky’s undying love. Hollywood, as bereft as it is for any original ideas would probably lap this one up. If it happens, we will be claiming royalties for making such an inspired suggestion.
Dolly Dearest is what it is…a shameless patchwork job of three far superior horror movies and yet despite its derivative nature it does manage to entertain on its own steam and provides quite a few laughs and a few juicy jolts as well. It might not be a classic but it is most certainly a mildly enjoyable opportunistic slice of horror hokum.