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Dolly Dearest Reviews

A competent but redundant horror film, DOLLY DEAREST amounts to a gender switch on the CHILD'S PLAY films, only this time it's an ancient evil instead of Brad Dourif that possesses the titular plaything. The spirit is released when archaeologist Bob Larabe (Brass Adams) digs into what appear to be some ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico; as he tries to pry open a heavy stone door, it suddenly flies off and crushes him to death. The evil force (represented by an animated red doodle) then invades a nearby abandoned toy factory. But it's not abandoned for long; the Reed family arrives in the area shortly thereafter, with father Eliot (Sam Bottoms) planning to take over the place to put out his new "Dolly Dearest" line. When the family checks out the factory, young daughter Jessica (Candy Hutson) is entranced by the finished dolls left by the previous owner, and takes one of them home. Pretty soon, she's spending all her time with the doll, and her mother Marilyn (Denise Crosby) starts to notice she's acting funny. The girl is especially belligerent towards the family's maid, Camila (Lupe Ontirveros), who confides to Marilyn that she fears evil forces are at work. Marilyn scoffs at her superstitions, and Camilla announces that she plans to leave; but before she can, the doll electrocutes her in the house's basement while Eliot and Marilyn are out. Meanwhile, archaeologist Karl Resnick (Rip Torn), an associate of Larabe's, has traveled to the area to continue his friend's work. When he reactivates the dig, he finds that the ruins are not Mayan, but relics of the ancient, devil-worshipping Sanzia cult. Jessica's older brother Jimmy (Chris Demetral) has become fascinated by the ruins, and sneaks out of the house one night to "assist" Resnick at the site. At the same time, Eliot's assistant Luis (Will Gotay) is attacked by the other possessed dolls at the factory, causing him to have a fatal heart attack. Jimmy discovers the body and, when he is brought home, explains his interest in the Sanzia cult to his parents. This piques the interest of Marilyn, who is becoming distraught over Jessica's increasingly disturbed behavior, and the next day she goes to ask Resnick about the cult. He tells her of a legend that the cult tried to breed the offspring of the devil, a child with the body of a human and the head of a goat. The legend is confirmed when Marilyn goes to visit Camila's sister Alva (Alma Martinez), who lives in a nearby convent, but Resnick insists that the story has no basis in fact. Marilyn soon discovers the truth, however, when she arrives home and is confronted by the living, talking doll, which is indeed possessed by the devil-child's spirit and intends to corrupt Jessica and any other children it can claim. Attempting to shoot the doll, Marilyn is attacked by Jessica and drops her shotgun, but Jimmy takes up the weapon and blows the doll away, freeing his sister from its hold. Meanwhile, at the factory, Eliot is attacked by the other possessed dolls, but is saved by the arrival of Resnick, who has discovered the devil-child's corpse in the crypt and realized the legend is true. Marilyn and the children arrive, and while Eliot and Resnick lay dynamite in the factory, Jimmy goes to set some at the dig. The explosives he places destroy the ruins, and despite vicious opposition from the dolls, Eliot and Resnick manage to set enough dynamite to blow the factory and the dolls to kingdom come. DOLLY DEAREST might have gotten away with its derivative basic premise had the details been filled in with more imagination, but this is standardized, predictable stuff from beginning to end. From the opening scene, all the elements fall neatly into place: nuclear family to be terrorized; young child to be possessed; helpful scientist around to explain it all; and various supporting characters who are so obviously destined for nasty fates that it's hard to get worked up about them. This is especially true in the case of Camila, who knows supernatural evil when she senses it and is immediately earmarked to pay for her correct suppositions. The dolls themselves (created by Michael Burnett) are spooky-looking enough, and director Maria A. Lease's best effects are created by having the living toys scurrying around in the background. There are some tense moments as the plot unfolds, but the movie is uneven in its horrors; after developing the personal story of Jessica's possession, the story shifts to the multiple threat at the factory and loses some of its personal horror. And Lease is not averse to falling back on cliches as ancient as the evil spirits, like a cat that jumps out of a corner for a fake scare. The climax's suspense is muddled as well--the dolls are shown putting out the fuses on the dynamite laid by the heroes, but then the factory blows up anyway--and occasional dumb dialogue also gets in the way. The most groan-worthy line belongs to Crosby, once she learns the truth about what's happening to Jessica: "I'm not losing my daughter to some goddamn seven-hundred-year-old goat head!" (Violence, profanity.)