Directed by Maria Lease [Other horror films: N/A]
This is a film that I’ve known about for a long time, and has been on television plenty of times in the past, but I’ve actively avoided, if only because I likely thought it was some type of Child’s Play rip-off. After seeing it, it’s obviously not, but that doesn’t make Dolly Dearest any better of a film.
As far as the story here goes, I think it’s fine. I sort of like the idea of a family uprooting themselves from Los Angeles to Mexico on a business decision, but I don’t know if there was quite enough done with this to really make it a big part of the film. The supernatural aspects weren’t special – a little girl (Candace Hutson) slowly becoming possessed, multiple dolls also becoming possessed – but they were serviceable enough despite occasionally looking quite cheap.
Sam Bottoms (Up from the Depths and Hunter’s Blood) made for a decent, if perhaps uninspired, lead. I was more impressed with Rip Torn (A Stranger Is Watching) and his amusing relationship with Chris Demetral, who plays Bottoms’ intelligent and rather witty son. Lupe Ontiveros (who also had small roles in films such as Candyman: Day of the Dead and Dark Mirror) was good for some cultural flavor, and her religious beliefs clashing with the rationality of Denise Crosby (Pet Sematary). The cast is generally around average, with Torn and Demetral being my personal strong points.
For a cheaper-looking film, I thought a few of the deaths were decent, and the first major one was even decently atmospheric, if not a wee tad clumsy in execution. And while gore isn’t a strong point, there is a painful injury with a sewing machine to look forward to during another decent death sequence.
I do think that the final 15 minutes or so are a bit lacking. The final possessed form of the girl wasn’t particularly great, and while the dolls were never great, they look pretty bad during the conclusion. And speaking of the conclusion, something about it feels awfully rushed in a straight-to-video feel (which, believe it or not, Dolly Dearest isn’t).
Dolly Dearest isn’t a terrible movie, as there’s some solid performances and a little charm here and there, maybe even perhaps a fun plot point or two. It’s definitely unremarkable, though, and I think it’s below average, but I could see how this might have some fans out there. It just wasn’t for me.
This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Dolly Dearest.