Starring: Russell Richardson, Jennia Watson, Freda Payne, Bill Davis and Tarnell Poindexter
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Producers: Charles Band and Kirk Edward Hanson
Rating: Six of Ten Stars
Young up-and-coming musician Kwame (Richardson) turns to his grandmother's book of voodoo spells to get revenge after New Orleans crimelord Big Pere (Davis) has her beaten to the point she's in a coma. Kwame inadvertently unleashes uncontrollable killing magic--in the form of a ragdoll--that not only goes after Big Pere's gang but also those whom Kwame loves.
"Ragdoll" is a fun little flick that features all the "typical" Full Moon elements, including a killer puppet. If you enjoy that special atmosphere that hovers around most of the best features that have the name Charles Band in the production credits, you're bound to enjoy this movie. In fact, it may represent the last gasp of Band's Golden Age as far as the film's he's helmed. Although the VERY low budget is evident throughout the film, the magic is present to a degree that we won't see again until "Doll Graveyard" (and, even there, it's stronger in this film). Of course, it may also be that the film ends up as strong as it is because it is helmed by one of the most talented editors and directors who has worked with Band, Ted Nicolaou.
The film succeeds primarily due to strong performances from Russell Richardson (the handsome lead, playing Kawme), Jennia Watson (the very attractive love interest, Teesha) and Freda Payne (the target of the gangster attack that triggers the events of the film and whose skill with sorcery will be Kwamie's and Teesha's only chance of survival). Their acting talents go a long way to making us buy into the danger and threatening nature of the killer puppet in this movie, which isn't anywhere as impressive as the Demonic Toys or Andre Toulon's puppets, and which sounds like a cat that's either angry or in heat. The film's climax also wouldn't be anywhere near as suspenseful if not for the skills of these three actors.
There were only two things that got in the way of this film rating perhaps a point higher that I am currently assigning it.
First, the film could have done with a little more of a denouement than it has, or perhaps a brief reappearance of the Shadow Man, the devil-figure with whom Kwame makes the deal that unleashes the "killing magic"; his take on the turn of events would have been interesting. I like the fact the movie ends when it's over--with no "surprise shock ending" or the likes tacked on--but a little more of a wrap up would still have been preferable.
Second, for a film with a running time that barely breaks 80 minutes, a lot of tme is taken up by acts performing songs. There are three rap songs and two pop/soul tunes of mediocre quality included in the film, and, knowing Charles Band's love of using movies as promotional vehicles for other ventures (and other ventures as promotional vehicles for his movies), they are undoubtedly there in what was a failed attempt at branching out into a Full Moon pop music venture. (I suspect "The Horrible Dr. Bones" and "Blood Dolls" were part of that same scheme.)
An over-abundance of average pop music aside, "Ragdoll" is a fun flick that should prove entertaining, especially if you add it to the line-up of a Bad Movie Night.