Charles Band's attempt to recapture the glory days of Full Moon, & the terrifying beauty of the Puppet Master puppets, falls painfully short of success in Doll Graveyard (2005).
The title is great, but very little imagination went into anything else, & really there isn't even a doll graveyard. There's a grave of a little girl, buried with her dolls.
The prelude is set in the Edwardian era, though the furnishings look like the 1970s. Sophia (Hannah Marks) is playing with her weird dolls & becomes terrified what her father will do when she breaks a vace. She has an appalling father who is very threatening & delights in emotioinally torturing his kid.
He forces her into the garden where he demands she bury her beloved dolls, during which activity he accidentally kills her (very unconvincingly too), burying her with her toys.
Band obviously feared a realistic kill because it's a child, & the film is hardly more than a kiddy film to start with. Still, it could at least have been implied abuse rather than insipid & unlikely accident killed the girl. She just falls down, & dies for no reason.
If Charles Band & company didn't have the nerve to use physical child abuse as a reason for her spirit being so nasty afterward, then they shouldn't've gone for this theme at all. It's cowardly filmmaking that sets a tepid mood the film never overcomes.
The dolls are very unlikely toys & it's never explained how the child got them. Sophia was shown playing with four dolls. One is a samurai with white hair, scowly face, & kabuto helmet.
One is apparently named Ooga Booga & he's designed as an inferior homage to "He Who Kills," the Zuni warrior doll of Trilogy of Terror (1975). Third is a spike-helmeted German soldier wearing an exaggerated World War I Prussian pickhube or pickelhaube helmet, the doll being a parody of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
The remaining doll is the only one an Edwardian child might actually have possessed, a girl-baby with curly hair & fancy dress. She alone is greatly "changed" by being buried for a century, her sweet face turning into a crack-mouthed jack-o-lantern. The other dolls were ugly from the start.
Design-wise they're not entirely bad, but nothing special. And the puppetry is the worst imaginable, as the dolls are minimally articulated. The samurai blinks & that's about it. So there's a lot of "looking around a corner" type shots of dolls being held by someone behind a wall, door, or piece of furniture. They move so minimally there's never a moment they seem alive, let alone dangerous.
A century after Sophia's burial in the garden, a boy digs up one of the dolls, the samurai, who seems not much worse for wear once Guy (Jared Kusnitz) brushes him off.
The other dolls will later dig themselves out of the grave, no reason for it ever given, no reason they didn't do it before a century passed, & no reason nobody ever finds the bones of Sophia.
Guy is a friendless dweeb who buys collectible toys off e-bay. Such a dork would in reality have plenty of friends, & they'd be dorks too, but never mind. His father Lester (Ken Lyle) is a nice guy though he's played by the same guy who was Sophia's evil dad Cyril.
When widowed dad has a date, he leaves Guy with his older sister Deedee (Gabrielle Lynn) as babysitter. The door is barely closed behind Lester before his daughter proves her irresponsibility. She immediately calls up two girlfriends to come over to booze it up & smoke dope.
Unbelievably enough, the nicer of the two girls, Terri (Anna Alicia Brock), is attracted to Guy & knows little-boy stuff but doesn't smoke dope, & is the only virgin among the girls. The skankier of Deedee's two friends, Olivia (Kristyn Green), calls up two boys, Tom (Scott Seymour) a rapist in training, & Rich (Brian Lloyd) who is porking Deedee.
The first thing the boys do upon arrival is bully Guy & tie him up. This apparently sets off the samurai doll & causes the other dolls to arise from the grave.
It'll turn out Guy has a vague control over the dolls but not sufficient to keep them from killing the two guys. Rich gets his groin stabbed by the German soldiers spike-hat. Tom gets an eye gouged out by Ooga Booga. Mostly all this is pretty lame, like when Terri just holds the baby doll against her cheek when its supposedly biting her.
When Guy becomes possessed by the ghost of Sophia, he & the dolls just want to kill everyone, though Deedee keeps trying to get Guy to fight his way out of Sophia's angry control.
When their nice dad comes home from his date, he's possessed by Sophia's evil father. So Sophia-possessed Guy wants the dolls to kill the possessed dad. This encounter is what passes for the "big" scene, but it's not much for a climax.
After plenty of pathetically ineffective puppetry & nonsensical danger, the dolls are merely reburied in the garden & everything's back to normal. Except for the coda which indicates Sophia is still possessing Guy.
It's not a terrible outline for an entertainingly crappy movie, but the lackluster puppetry completely destroys all value. It's just a bad, bad movie, & the only reason I didn't give it a "turd alert" up top is because its innocuity makes it as hard to condemn as it is to praise. Like a lot of Full Moon stuff, this one's safe for children or boring for adults.
Continue to the next evil doll:
Doll from Hell (1996)
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl