Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Killer dolls make a return in Band's best of the 2000s.

Doll Graveyard (2005)
Starring: Jared Kusnitz, Gabrielle Lynn, Anna Alicia Brock, Kristyn Green, Ken Lyle, Hannah Marks, Brian Lloyd, and Scott Seymour
Director: Charles Band
Producer: Charles Band
Rating: Six of Ten

In 1910, a little girl (Marks) is accidentially killed by her abusive father (Lyle) and buried with her dolls in the backyard. 95 years later, one of the dolls is unearthed after a storm and cleaned up by a dorky young collector of action figures (Kusnitz). That night, the vengeful spirit of the girl animates the rest of the dolls and they go on a rampage during an illicit party thrown by his older sister (Lynn) while their single, back-in-the-dating-scene-again is out of the house.

"Doll Graveyard" is the best Full Moon movie of recent vintage. The script is decent and straight-to-the point, the acting is pretty good, the film is suspenseful, and the staging and other technical aspects are all well-handled.

Unfortunately, it's still a far cry from the films that Charles Band helmed in 1990s, a period that is increasingly starting to look like his Golden Age.

The first and biggest problem with the film is that the "straight-to-the-point" strong suit mentioned above is also one of the film's weaknesses. It's too straight-to-the-point. The film would have been far more effective if we'd gotten to see the characters in their normal, every day lives. We should have seen the kids at school, we should have been told what happened to their Mom, we should have seen what their Dad was like before the dolls attack--and before he found a certain item in the backyard. (Hell, we should have seen him FINDING the item in the backyard.)

At a running time 71 minutes, there was plenty of room for expansion in this film, and it would have been far better if we had gotten to know the characters a little better. It would have heighted the suspense and the humor, and it would have made this a much better movie. Of course, it would have required two or three more locations, which would have meant many thousands of dollars more for the budget. I understand why the film is structured the way it is, but I don't have to like it.

A second problem with the film is the ending. The ending is weak and badly conceived. Does Dad live or die? What's the deal with the spirits? (And what about those dead bodies? Someone's going to jail for murder, because the cops sure aren't going to buy "the dolls did it!")

The third and final problem is that the killer dolls here are little more than retreads of murderous toys that Charles Band has already done with more punch in previous movies. The Samuari doll and the Prussian officer doll are retreads of Blade and Tunneler respectively from the "Puppet Master" movies, while the cutesy doll is very similar to Baby Oopsie from "Demonic Toys" (except more nonsensical... why does a demon possessed doll with a porcelain head suddenly develope the ability to gnaw on people?)

For all these complaints, however, "Doll Graveyard" still is a highly entertaining film, if you like that Charles Band brand of weirdness.

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