- on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 10:31
- by Loron Hays
We are entering the season of the horror film, Ghouls and Boils. What fun! With each minute ticking past the dog days of summer, the public’s tolerance for all things disturbing grows. And I LOVE it. We’ve already had our fair share of frightfully good releases, though. There was Don’t Breath earlier in the season and, just last week, we saw evil incarnate return to the woods with the release of Blair Witch. Now, it’s time to get our hands good and bloody with IFC Midnight’s The Devil’s Dolls, a film about a serial killer’s murderous rage and the voodoo-kissed trinkets that pass it on. It is the perfect film to soak up that excess crimson spillage this season.
Directed by Padraig Reynolds (Rites of Spring), this southern-set stab at Gothicism flexes its muscles with a solid and splatterrific opening. It is one of the most energetic moments of the film and, as it introduces us to every aspect of the movie in a very quick manner, it deserves to be recognized. Director of photography Adam Sampson explores almost every angle of the abandoned mental institute this sequence is shot in and around, pronouncing each hallway with graphic intensity.
A young girl is tied up. It is apparent she’s been abused. She’s frantically trying to break free. There is a symbol that has been carved into her skull. Once free, she starts running down a corridor littered with debris. A lone man sits in another room. He’s taking weird trinkets out of a wooden box, crying over them, and then places them back in the box. The sound of the girl escaping brings him to his feet. The chase that follows brings both the target and the killer out into the open and, suddenly, straight into the Officer Doyle’s (Graham Skipper of Almost Human and The Mind’s Eye fame) squad car. What happens next is what can only be described as a bloodbath.
When the dust settles, there are only two detectives standing, one named Matt (Christopher Wiehl who co-wrote and produced the film) and his partner Darcy (Kym Jackson). They are warned by a mysterious stranger not to disturb the serial killer’s trinkets. The advice is unheeded. When Matt’s daughter discovers the small charms, Chloe (Kennedy Bryce) turns them into fashion flair and sells them at her mother’s store. Unfortunately, their power and influence are misunderstood. And the innocent will pay the ultimate price.
Pulling off a voodoo-themed movie these days is hard to do. Few films have followed in The Serpent and The Rainbow and Venom’s steps due to just how financially unsuccessful these voodoo-laced movies are. Studios seem to balk at the idea and are more inclined to give us alien hauntings than they are anything to do with the darker side of that particular religion. This is unfortunate for fellow horror hounds trouncing after yet another worthy bone to chew on as there are many, many stories to explore in the area. After all, American Horror Story proved that, when done effectively, there is still a lot of gas left in the tank when it comes to voodoo.
Thankfully, Reynolds accomplishes interesting things with the voodoo-centered story. The random kills as the customers wearing Chloe’s charms become possessed with the same evil driving the actions of the serial killer are shockingly brutal and unexpected. He and his DP get inventive with a bathroom scene that could have been happy as solely a Kubrick knock-off. Instead, whether because of the location or by the design, they pull off an elaborate escape sequence thanks to two bathroom doors and a window.
The movie literally takes no prisoners and puts targets on everyone’s back. This, to me, elevates the tension. Reynolds isn’t afraid to take out characters and raise the stakes for Matt as he races against unholy Hell to save his daughter. Even standout performances from Tina Lifford as Della and Brea Grant as Becca provide no guarantee of survival.
The Devil’s Dolls achieves much on its low budget, but it doesn’t quite slide into must-see territory. The audience for this puppy is a limited one. Horror Hounds like myself will be pleased with the end results. Others will just be satisfied that it doesn’t suck. And, for them, I guess that’s enough. Anyway…
…some people should never play with The Devil’s Dolls.
MPAA Rating: Not rated.
Runtime: 85 mins
Director: Padraig Reynolds
Writer: Danny Kolker, Christopher Wiehl
Cast: Christopher Wiehl, Kym Jackson, Tina Lifford
Tagline: The Devil's Dolls
Memorable Movie Quote: "You ever seen this symbol before?"
Theatrical Distributor: IFC Films
Official Site: http://worrydollsmovie.com/wd/
Release Date: September 16, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: A serial killer's curse unleashes a season of slaughter in the backwoods of Mississippi. According to an ancient Guatemalan tradition, parents teach their children to allay their troubles by telling them to handmade "worry dolls" just before bedtime. But when several of these talismans—which once belonged to a notorious mass murderer—find their way into the hands of unsuspecting residents of a small Southern town, it sets off a grisly wave of bloodshed. The latest from Rites of Spring director Padraig Reynolds is a voodoo-slasher shocker bursting with scarily inventive kills.
No details available.