THE DEVIL'S DOLLS (2016)
Label: Scream Factory / IFC Midnight
Release Date: December 6th 2016
Duration: 85 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: Padraig Reynolds
Cast: Tina Lifford, Yohance Myles, Brandon Johnson, Brea Grant, Christopher Wiehl, Kennedy Brice, Kym Jackson, Samantha Smith
This half-hard Southern Gothic entry opens strong with a young woman being held captive by a homicidal maniac in a scummy warehouse, she escapes and a foot chase ensues with the killer, Henry Leonard Bale (Matty Ferraro), on her heels with a rather large power drill - this sucker rivals the one from 80s slasher Slumber Party Massacre! She winds up in the front seat of a police cruiser which is in the area, apparently the cops have been searching for her, and while the rookie cop (Graham Skipper, Almost Human) radios for backup the killer just walks up to the cop car and drives that drills full-bore right through his head with a nice red geyser of blood spraying all over the young woman, this is a Peter Jackson's Dead Alive sort of blood-geyser, and it's very nicely done.
Just as the killer seems about ready to finish the young woman off with the his drill he is gunned down by cop Matt(Christopher Wiehl) who arrives on scene just in the nick of time with his partner Darcy (Kym Jackson). It turns out that Matt's been chasing this serial killer for years, and it now seems that his reign of terror has ended, but as often happens in these low-budget horror flicks it is really just the beginning.
While cleaning-up the crime scene Matt finds a small wooden box in the killer's lair containing several hand-made "worry dolls", sort of voodoo looking stick figures, which he throws into a box in the back of his cruiser. Unfortunately
Matt's eight year-old daughter Chloe (Kennedy Brice) finds the box in the back of the car and makes off with them, selling them at her mom's antiques and crafts shop. And wouldn't you just know it, the objects are cursed and cause the usually fine folk of the rural Mississippi town to become murderous white-eyed weirdos with bad-skin and mean-tempers.
I like the idea, the cool promotional artwork, and the basic story has some nice Southern Voodoo sort of promise to it, but the execution is somewhat poor, beginning with a script and overall tone that pitch-shifted way too much for me to stay tuned into it, which is unfortunate because we had a great bloody opening, some nice murder set-pieces, and a decent setting, but what what it boils down to for me is a very bad performance from our main guy, actor Christopher Wiehl seems completely lost in the role, his line deliveries are weird and awkward, and not in a good way. Also, acting aside his character is one of the worst cops ever on film, everyone around him dies, and it is his own inept carelessness that the wooden dolls are even became a problem in the first place.
Also dragging this down is the weak voodoo element, it had promise but it doesn't really go anywhere, they thrown in an old black voodoo woman (Tina Lifford) who warns him about the dolls early on but her pleas fall on deaf ears, until the seemingly random and motiveless murders happen, he seeks her out and is more willing to accept something supernatural is happening. Technically this is a nice looking film shot in the scope widescreen, the Mississippi views aren't used to their fullest but what we do get is nice, and the special effects work is top-notch, beginning with the bloody driller-killer opening, and my other favorite kills uses a large pair of garden shears, a nicely executed kill for sure, and some cool makeup special effects, but this one just meandered too much from overwrought cop family drama to voodoo-slasher goodness, it's way too uneven. Not an awful movie, but coming from the director of Rites of Spring (2011), which I liked a lot, I was expecting something better, but this is just okay, a classic one and done watch for me.