Dolls (1987 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byStuart Gordon
Produced byCharles Band
Brian Yuzna
Written byEd Naha
StarringStephen Lee
Guy Rolfe
Hilary Mason
Ian Patrick Williams
Carolyn Purdy Gordon
Cassie Stuart
Bunty Bailey
Carrie Lorraine
Music byFuzzbee Morse
Victor Spiegel
CinematographyMac Ahlberg
Edited byLee Percy
Distributed byEmpire Pictures
Release date
March 6, 1987
Running time
77 minutes
United States
Budget$2 million
Box office$3.5 million

Dolls is a 1987 Italian-American Dark Fantasy horror film directed by Stuart Gordon, produced by Charles Band and Brian Yuzna and was written by Ed Naha. It stars Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams and Bunty Bailey. In the film, during a harsh thunderstorm, a group of six people arrives at the mansion of an old puppetmaker and his wife. The film eventually reveals that the puppetmaker's puppets in the house are actually cursed immoral people who had been killed and imprisoned in puppet bodies for years in order to pay for their crimes.

The film was released on March 6, 1987 and was a commercial failure, grossing $3.5 million worldwide against a budget of only $2 million.[citation needed]


A violent thunderstorm strands a couple and child in the gothic English countryside: little Judy, who is traveling with her selfish, uncaring father, David and her rich, callous, arrogant stepmother Rosemary. David only has Judy due to a court order and barely tolerates her presence. After their car is stuck in mud and the rain begins, they find a mansion. After breaking in, they are found by the owners, a kindly older couple, Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke. Rosemary threw Judy's beloved teddy bear into the bushes while out in the rain, so Gabriel gifts her a new doll, Mr. Punch. They are invited to stay and while eating, Isabel and Enid (two British punk rocker hitchhikers) barge in with the person who picked them up, Ralph. Gabriel reveals himself to be a talented toy maker; their house is filled with dolls, puppets, and many other beautifully detailed and handmade toys. The Hartwickes invite the stranded travelers to join them to stay as guests until the storm ends and show them to their rooms.

Isabel has thievery on her mind and before taking Ralph's wallet and car, she plans on stealing the Hartwickes' antiques. Enid just wants to get through the night. Isabel sneaks out and while casing a room, is brutally attacked and beaten by the dolls and thrown into the hallway in front of Judy. Unable to ask for help, she extends her hand and before Judy could assist, she is dragged to the attic. Judy goes to Ralph's room to tell him what happened and since she woke him up, he thinks she's dreaming. However as she turns to leave, he notices blood on her slippers so he agrees to accompany Judy. However on the way downstairs, some of the dolls trip Ralph and he falls down the stairs. He's fine when he gets up except for a bite that he believes is from a rat. They arrive at David and Rosemary's room and Judy tries to tell him what happened, but they along with Enid accuse him of attacking Isabel and being a pedophile. Upset at the treatment of her new friend, Judy runs off with her father behind her. While looking for Judy, Ralph runs into Gabriel who tells him that it's not blood but paint that he and Judy stepped in and Isabel probably got lost in one of the halls in the large house. Satisfied, he continues his search for Judy, finding her in the kitchen along with Punch. She continues to try to convince him, but he doesn't believe in the dolls until Punch himself speaks up.

Rosemary is ambushed and attacked repeatedly by the toys before accidentally leaping to her death (thinking she was jumping over them) out of a window. Enid goes looking for Isabel and finds her-at the end of her doll transformation, but still able to attempt to warn her to "go back." She is then attacked by a legion of toys and eventually shot to death by toy soldiers. Rosemary's body has been taken to their bedroom, where, covered in a sheet, her death is not yet noticed by David. A locked room opens itself to Judy and Ralph. Ralph asks if they are Judy's little people and she informs him that they are. Encountering the dolls gathered together, Ralph ends up getting caught up in a trap the toys set for the other adults and is nearly hurt badly until Judy convinces them to save him since he is her friend. Afterwards, they are stuck until the dolls decide what to do with them. David, fresh out of the shower, tries to talk to his wife, but finally finds her dead. Believing Ralph murdered her, David prepares to kill him. Now safe, Judy and Ralph run into the workshop where an angry David finds them. Ralph attempts to tell him what is going on, but David has taken leave of his reason. Ralph has learned the truth about the dolls and refuses to use them to fight, but David doesn't believe even after being attacked by a Punch doll. During their fight, the other dolls drag the unconscious Ralph and Judy away to safety. Mr. Punch is destroyed by David with a mallet after a fierce struggle.

David is then confronted by Gabriel and Hilary. It is revealed that Gabriel and Hilary are actually a wizard and witch couple who see toys as the heart and soul of childhood and believe toys will be around for as long as children (or even those with the hearts of children) want them. They also believe that the bitterness adults feel can turn to love if they surrender to the goodwill that toys provide. They explain that people come to their house every now and then and spend the night. When this happens, they test their visitors to see if they can change or were good from the start, giving them a sporting chance to save themselves. Some people like Ralph (people who are able to see the love and respect of childhood) and children (like Judy) are saved/spared and leave the house with a much better perspective of life. However, the ones like David, Rosemary, Isabel and Enid who refuse to change their ways can never leave, since they must play a new role in the world of children. It is shown that that new role is to become a child's toy when David is (apparently painfully) transformed into a doll to replace Mr. Punch.

The next morning, Ralph and Judy wake up and are convinced by Gabriel and Hilary that the night's events were all just a dream, and receive a letter saying that David is leaving Judy behind because he never was a good father to her and that she will be much happier living in Boston with her mother. The letter also states that her father and stepmother are moving to another country and changing their names, and have also taken the two girls with them, but have left enough money behind for Judy and Ralph to buy plane tickets back to Boston. Ralph and Judy then leave the house together after being bid farewell by Gabriel and Hilary, who invite them to come back whenever they want. As they get into Ralph's car, Judy is overjoyed to find her lost teddy sitting in the front seat, but then decides he would be happier living with the dolls and gives him to the old couple as a gift. As they drive off to the airport, Judy, who has grown quite fond of Ralph, tells him that he will really like her mother and hints to him that if he would like to stay with her and her mother, he could be Judy's new father. Though Ralph does not answer, he seems interested in the idea.

The film ends with Mr. and Mrs. Bowers and the punk girls sitting on a shelf as dolls. Just then, another car with another family with a set of obnoxious parents suddenly arrives, and their car gets stuck in a mud hole yards from the mansion.


Cancelled sequel[edit]

Stuart Gordon was, at one point, very interested in directing a sequel to this film. The initial storyline would have followed Judy and Ralph back to Boston in which Ralph would have indeed married Judy's mother and they would all become a family. Until, one day Judy would receive a box sent from England which would contain the toy makers, Gabriel and Hilary, as dolls. The sequel never happened.


Critical reception for Dolls has been mixed to positive, and the film currently holds a 62% approval rating at review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. Ain't It Cool News reviewed the DVD, calling it "a movie that really stands above the type of film you might expect from this era, with this subject matter."[1] Roger Ebert's review of the film was mostly negative, writing "At some point Dolls remains only an idea, a concept. It doesn't become an engine to shock and involve us," though he also conceded that the film "looks good" and "the haunted house looks magnificent.[2]'s Jeff Colebank listed the toymaking couple as one of the "13 Best Horror Movie Couples", stating that Rolfe was "the creepiest toymaker of them all".[3] Allmovie's review of the film was mildly favorable, calling it "a serious-minded, lovingly-crafted modern fairy tale that only misses classic status by a few clumsy, low-budget moments."[4]

Home media[edit]

Dolls was released to DVD by MGM Home Entertainment on September 20, 2005, as a Region 1 widescreen DVD and by the Scream Factory division of Shout! Factory (under license from MGM) on November 11, 2014 as a Region A widescreen Blu-ray.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Movie A Day: DOLLS (1987) Toys are very loyal and that is a fact. Ain't It Cool News
  2. ^ Dolls Roger Ebert
  3. ^ The 13 Best Horror Movie Couples (serial murder edition)
  4. ^ Robert Firsching. "Dolls (1987)". Allmovie. Retrieved July 1, 2012.

External links[edit]