Death Doll (1984)
Cast: Andrea Walters, William Dance, Jennifer Davis, Philip Boatwright
Director: William Mims
Synopsis: another example of the old adage…Never judge a video by its cover!
When a film opens with a title sequence (including muzak) that suggests the production values of a z grade porn flick its usually time to hit the eject button post haste. You know you are on even more dodgy ground when you check your most non-discerning Movie Guide and find that there is nothing listed under such a title at all – definitely time to make a quick decision. However the fact that the remote control was nowhere to be seen and that movement was a seemingly Herculean task – one was stuck with watching Death Doll hoping that at least the running time would be mercifully short.
The first thing that came to mind was that it was obviously a super-cheap, straight-to-video (at best) nonentity of a film featuring a bunch of actors that nobody heard of ever again. The film begins with a vacuous couple arriving at a kooky antique shop where they come across an old gypsy fortune telling machine consisting of a glass case with a gnarled witchlike puppet figurine inside. Once a dime is deposited a sinister voice from the within the puppet demands that you raise your palm to the glass.
Once you’ve done that, it mumbles out a couple of sentences usually warning about terrible things to come. When the (pregnant) woman is told about how her baby is going to bring bad luck she is stunned because she had only just got the news of her pregnancy that very afternoon. The husband mocks his wife when she starts to imagine clairvoyant dummies yet when he puts in his own dime and deliberately doesn’t raise his palm to the glass; the dummy stuns him with a reminder to hold his palm up to the glass!
After the dreadful title sequence, this opening scene comes as a bit of relief even if the acting is as hammy as could be. There is a flash forward and we find that sadly Bobby, the husband is dead having succumbed to some “freak” mystery accident, but he has left a small fortune for his wife in the inheritance. The Mrs. is busy trying to pick up the pieces of her life but finds bizarre, murderous events catching up with her. Somebody seems to be after her, shadowing her night and day and then in a particularly unnerving incident the occupant of the apartment that she recently vacated is brutally stabbed to death. Sensing herself to be a marked woman she takes refuge with her sister-in-law and her brother-in-law who seem to be sympathetic and understanding even though they both hold her somewhat responsible for their brothers’ mystery death.
The wife is somehow drawn to the fortune telling doll and returns to the shop to be told some more alarming prophecies – again the doll utters words that seem to be chillingly appropriate. Now the race is on for her to find out who the murderous, shadowy figure is before he or she gets to her. Could it just be the fortune the maniac is after or is he/she just a whacko with a doll fixation considering he/she leaves a crumpled doll by the victim each time he/she strikes? Is it the distinctly dyke like sister-in-law with an axe to grind or perhaps her brother who has a distinct touch of the Norman Bates about him?
All is revealed in a less than hair-raising climax complete with obligatory lurching back to life of supposedly dead bogeyman for one final lunge. Oops, sorry did I spoil it for you? Oh well, not to worry as Death Doll is a pretty dreary affair even if things improve marginally after the dire title sequence – and indeed they do, if only just.
The film was written and produced by Sidney Mims while the director was William Mims (who unsurprisingly died soon after creating this turkey – but we have just received an e mail from William Mims who says “And I am not dead as reported (That was a actor by the same name) but you will be happy to know that I am no longer in the business” (Take note IMDB!)) and they both clearly had no budget to work with as the actors appear to be total amateurs and the production costs virtually zero “I financed the film myself, which broke me” – says William Mims of his Death Doll experience.
The film plays like a glorified home movie with an appalling 80’s style background score and absolutely no element of style or innovation to the camerawork or framing. There are many awful and even cheap films that still manage to look great but this one is pretty rotten inside and out. It’s a predictable and tedious film – shoddy and horribly cheap – even so the scenes of the fortune telling doll are strangely compelling as is some of the rotten acting. This Doll is strictly for die hard fans of horror obscurities and perhaps close relatives of the Mims.