If the name Charles Band means nothing to you, then I suggest you’ve come to the wrong web site. Having started his career in the early 70’s, he now has over 230 production credits to his name and shows no sign of slowing the relentless pace at which he offers up his genre creations. Via his Full Moon Features/Wizard Entertainment labels, this prolific jack-of-all-trades has released a whole bloody heap of horror, sci-fi and action titles of varying quality, but Band has managed to hold strong in the face of modern day uber-budget creations and secure a loyal troupe of followers.
One characteristic that has become a trade mark of Charles is his love of films featuring puppets as the main protagonists. Not dissimilar to his Puppet Master movies, Band’s latest incarnation of evil plastic comes in the form of Doll Graveyard, a movie which once again uses the innocence of childhood toys, turning them into diminutive, revenge fueled killers.
Lonely young Sophia (Hannah Marks) sits playing with her dolls in the hall way of her house. Getting carried away with excitement, she accidentally knocks over a precious vase which smashes to the floor, attracting the unwanted attention of her monstrous father. In a cruel punishment, he makes his daughter dig a huge hole into which he demands she throw her four loving toys. Despite the dolls modest size, she happens to dig the hole just large enough to fall into and, after breaking her neck ends up lying as dead as a dead thing. Stricken with grief, her father shovels soil into the hole until neither her motionless corpse can be seen.
Jumping forward to modern day LA, the Fillbrook family move into the same house. Young Guy (Jared Kusnitz) is a loner who likes nothing better than admiring his collection of action figures, so when he discovers the buried figure of a Samurai warrior in his back yard, he is overjoyed. His excitement is short lived, however, as the spirit of Sophia possesses Guys sole and sends the Samurai and his three odd chums on a murderous rampage through the house and its teenage occupancy.
Despite the very low concept which fuels this film, it is a worthy contender as far as b-movie horror goes. Trust me, there really is some crap out there and this doesn’t come close to being a terrible. Full Moon are experts, and by that I mean they know their place in the cinematic food chain and, instead of rolling out pretentious drivel which tries to elevate its status with heavy dialogue and over blown story threads, it keeps the experience simple for the genre fans. Let’s face it, if you wanted intelligent horror you would watch Doll Graveyard. I mean, just look at the cover, what are you expecting?
As a way of balancing out my veiled compliment, I must now redress the balance by saying that watching Doll Graveyard free online does have some annoyances… First and foremost, the movie makes attempt to inject originality. The director himself has already gone through the ‘puppet’ stage of his career but he doesn’t seem to have got it out of his system yet and, although the puppets are mildly amusing for a few scenes, they are simply too immobile and unrealistic to be taken as serious personalities. I guess it helps when the inevitable line of real Doll Graveyard action figures comes out, the less real on the screen they are, the happier fans who buy them will be, but I felt that each time the dolls were ‘acting’ they appeared clumsy and not at all scary.
Watch The Doll Graveyard Trailer
One thing that did work for me was the noises that accompanied each of the killer dolls. Whether intentional or not, I couldn’t help giggling at the funny sounds as they attempt murmured communication right before they attack. The variation of miniature murders is pretty good, and like the Puppet Master characters, each has its own brand of aggression. Samurai guy obviously has his sword, German soldier has his pointy helmet, African warrior has a very sharp spear and the classic china-doll-gone-bad has pretty nasty looking teeth which she puts to gory use.
The film lines up the human characters like cans in a shooting gallery, clearly defining those which should live from those that should be slaughtered horribly. Practically all are so obnoxious that I found myself screaming at the screen while watching Doll Graveyard, urging the dolls to speed up their sloth like assault on the horrible teenage idiots within. Gabrielle Lynn plays DeeDee, Guy’s bitchy older sister, who won’t be told what to do by anyone in authority, and has the grace and charm of a stick of celery. DeeDee invites a couple of friends (typically against her father’s wishes) for a party and we are introduced to yet more horribly annoying characters. Amongst the group are sexy Olivia (Kristyn Green) who plays a stereotypical cheerleader type whose promiscuity makes her the local bicycle, and Terri ( Anna Alicia Brock) who is the only other character who has an appeal to the viewer.
Crashing the party, and padding out the male cast are Scott Seymour and Brian Lloyd who play Tom and Rich respectfully. Despite the ensemble characters being nothing more than your average crowd, the cast do a pretty good job of acting out their shallow roles and look convincing in their roles. The final cast member to get a mention has to be Brian Lloyd who plays the evil Victorian father and Mr. Fillbrook. Lloyd plays the Victorian father role to a tee, but his Fillbrook role left me dazed and confused. Initially appearing only briefly, he latter turns up after the mayhem has been ensuing for some time only to claim that he is Sophia’s father (evil daddy!). Perhaps best not to ask what was going on there, but as far as crazed dads go, Lloyd is great.
So its clichéd, has uninspiring characters and also has a few odd moments which are left a little unexplained, so its crap then? Well no, it isn’t. As I said earlier, there is much worse horror fodder out there and this does have good moments you should watch which unsurprisingly surround the scenes . The production values are kept high thanks to the accomplished shooting of long time genre cinematographer Thomas Callaway and the editing ensures the film flows along sensibly thanks to Danny Draven. The films course is kept steady by the expert directorial hand of Charles Band and in essence, the only real thing that lets the full movie down is the unimaginative story which never tries to be original, scary or even, dare I say fun.
The DVD does have a nice set of features to accompany the main presentation including a 17 minute ‘Making-of-Feature’ which offers interviews with Charles where he attempts some kind of rational regarding the story. Special effects wizard Chris Bergschneider also chats about bringing each of the dolls to life and shows few of the methods used to achieve the final result. Along with that, there is also an 8 minute ‘Blooper Reel’ with amusing moments which include a few scenes which appear not to have made the final cut. Ever the business man, Charles also gives a special 4 minute message about the upcoming films and toys which fans can look out for in the next few months.