All Talk, No Action
When it comes to horror films, the two creepiest tropes are usually the most over-used. Between unsettling children and murderous dolls, a plethora of horror films have dived into both of these ideas with varying degrees of success. Dolls is an interesting Indie title in that respect because it does have some original ideas and executes them reasonably well. The plot builds nicely and there’s just enough mystery and intrigue to keep you watching until the end. The issue therein comes from the pay-off to that build-up, which never hits the right climactic note and feels lacklustre and under-developed because of this.
The story begins with an intriguing prologue before thrusting us forward in time to Robert who inherits his Mum’s old house after she died. Bringing his daughter Sammey along for the ride, this struggling children’s author and recreational alcoholic finds out that the attic dolls he’s been writing about may not be so innocent after all. For the first hour or so of this 80 minute film, most of the drama comes from the familial tension between Sammey and Robert rather than the dolls themselves. As we reach the final act, things do become more interesting but aside from a few set pieces and nicely timed jump scares, there’s really not much else to get excited about.
As expected from a film like this, the acting does leave a lot to be desired. Sammey in particular isn’t great in her role if I’m honest and some of the over-acting is distracting, especially late on in the film. However, given the actress portraying her is only 19 this nuance is something developed over time so it’s worth giving her the benefit of the doubt here. Across the entire picture there’s a heavy dose of expository dialogue and while some of it is hidden reasonably well, at other times it’s quite heavy handed and sloppy.
Dolls does well with its musical score though with the usual array of mysterious piano chimes and unsettling chords filling most of the film’s run-time. The dolls themselves are certainly unique in design and although ugly, their rustic look does help them stand out next to other recognisable dolls, even if they’re a far cry from resembling anything genuinely terrifying.
Dolls is not a scary film. It’s also not a particularly gory or gruesome one either. The story itself has some good build-up and it’s here where the film deserves some props. Unfortunately, a rushed, disappointing ending and an abundance of expository dialogue hold this back from being a better title. It’s always difficult when you go up against dolls like Chucky or Anabelle, and even more so when you decide to call your film Dolls. However, this horror is not a complete train-wreck and does have some redeeming features but it’s also not a particularly memorable or exciting film either.