There almost seem to be some good ideas for a horror film imbedded in the muddled direct-to-video Doll from Hell (Ikenie, literally Sacrifice, 1996), but it's far too much a mess at every level for a full dose of entertainment to seep through, though there's perhaps a half-dose to be squeezed from it.
A teenage girl, Erika (Juko Sakaki), is picking flowers in the garden of a mansion. An old dollmaker (Rie Kondo) in his den is working a life-sized doll. They are innocently unaware that a group of punk criminals with a boombox are tramping through the words.
Kawaguchi, an injured man with briefcase of drugs & flowery shirt, is hobbling through the forest mist. He limps out of the woods & finds the dollmaker's mansion.
The youth gang he is attempting to rob of drugs are not far behind. These are bad-ass kids who stole the drugs from yakuza. As soon as they catch up to Kawaguchi, they gun him down.
One wonders if the teenage Erika, who is nearby in the garden, is deaf or what, since she didn't notice the gunfire; but no, not deaf, just another of the film's many inconsistencies. The gang begins to torment Erika & her dad, no particular reason, they're just not nice youths.
Slitting the girl's throat & pooring acid on the old father's face, can't help but wonder why anyone would bring a bottle of acid along on a woodland hike.
The griefstricken facially burned father makes it into the mansion where by black magic finishes the manniquin which he places in a coffin. He then disembowels himself so his own blood will bring the manniquin to life.
The doll becomes a spookily beautiful avenger. The smooth doll-face vaguely resembles Erika, & is energized by some portion of her soul.
Rather too conveniently, the gang left the place to continue their pointless hike. This permitted the old dad to bury his slain daughter & finish his sorcerous work. But as there are no other mansions in the woods, the gang comes back to spend the night, in order to be picked off one by one by the Doll from Hell.
The confused editing apparently wants it to be a "surprise" that Erika had a twin sister, Yurika, played by the same actress. So for a while we're left to be very puzzled who the perfectly all right teenager is since we saw her throat slit. Dad never encountered her while burying Erika & animating his manniquin, so it frankly just doesn't make much sense, but there Yurika is, quite suddenly.
Only after Yurika appears without explanation does the doll in the coffin come to life.
Both killer-doll & avenging twin sister are storming through this blithering, absurd, poorly photographed film.
There's no reason the doll would pluck eyeballs to survive, but internal logic is not as important as varying the gore gags, so she plucks out an eye.
The manniquin at least really is spookily beautiful. It's all too obviously just a simple mask & not much else to create the illusion of a doll or living manniquin, but the mask is sufficient, the one element of the film that was done right. And this could've been a pretty decent sleezy film with just a bit more of the doll & lot less of everything else.
The doll remains animated by draining blood from the living. It's a menace even to Yurika. The last of the bad guys, the only one with even a marginal streak of decency, saves the sister & then "reasons" with the doll most absurdly.
Pulling some of the plot-line from the confusingly written & badly edited story makes it sound more promising, when really it all adds up to a truly awful film. But so what; I'm not that hard to please. I liked it.
The Doll Master (Inhyeongsa, 2004)
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl