There is probably no monster lower on the horror icon totem pole than the evil doll. Even as a timid kid during the time of Poltergeist and Trilogy of Terror, while maybe a tad creeped out, I still looked at possessed dollies and thought, "Meh, I could probably take em'." I bet if you asked most people, who they'd rather fight, a vampire, werewolf, the living dead, alien, witch, standard psycho, or a devil doll, odds are most would cite the pure physics of "Me big. It small" and choose to go mano y mano with the doll.
Throwing a slight wrench into the above theory is the Japanese, direct to video, 1995 horror Doll from Hell (aka. Ikenie, or ‟Sacrifice‟). The film's malicious moppet is life size, a mannequin, so it becomes a bit harder to punt than, say, Chucky. Still, in one scene, a good whack knocks one of the mannequin's arms off, so I still like my chances.
A gang rips off a briefcase full of drugs from some yakuza, but one of their wayward members tires to break away and stashes the cache in a doll makers house. This doll maker is celebrating the birthday of his terminally ill daughter Erica, and the two of them get attacked by the gang, which is made up of a standard culture clash group of thugs, two punkers including the hardass female leader, a slick guy and his two nympho bimbos, a sniveling nerd, and the silent, aloof, cool guy, who is the only member with any kind of crisis of conscience. Erica ends up dead and the doll maker is scarred by acid and out for revenge.
Like most doll makers, he is also into black magic. Seriously, didn't you know Aleister Crowley originally came up with the idea for the Cabbage Patch Kids? He performs a suicidal ritual that brings the a birthday gift doll he made of Erica to life. The gang figures out they've got a wringer and the drugs must have been hidden in the house, so they enter it only to be picked off one by one by the devil doll and Erica's twin sister, who shows up and right off the bat goes murderous with vengeance.
Doll from Hell is typical low budget, direct to video horror. In other words, not terribly original and incredibly nonsensical. It exists in that strange, b-film world where there is dopey logic in terms of time and space. For instance, apparently beyond the woods and the doll maker's house there is absolutely nothing, it is just that isolated. The police are never called. The doll maker self treats his severe wound and buries his daughter in the front yard. When the gang blows away their traitorous member, they travel roughly ten feet to discover, lo' and behold, a huge mansion. The unfortunate Erica is in the front yard, unawares to the gunshots that were just fired mere yards away from her. Likewise, they are so far away from civilization, the gang has no apparent transportation and camps out in the woods. Its clearly done for two reasons: woods are a cheap place to film and it gives them an excuse to go back to the house, yes, another cheap place to set a horror film.
The director tries his best, I guess, which includes some Bava-esque lighting choices, but, as is the case when most low budget productions try to be Bava-esque, it ends up looking like they just shoved a green or red light bulb into a lamp. They also played at being cute with an homage to the ending of Carrie, which would be novel if, like the Bava-lighting, so many unoriginal film makers hadn't ripped-off the same device countless times before. Despite the gratuitous kills, the gratuitous tits, and the passable fx work on the actual mannequin, its just too cliched and imaginatively weak a horror affair. Doll from Hell was made prior to the supernatural, fright wig ghosties, J-horror wave, and, for all the gripes one might have over how beating a dead horse that genre of films has become, it has at least gone down in history as being more inspired than this kind of horror flick.
The DVD: Media Blasters.
Picture: Non-anamorphic Widescreen. As a shot on video horror, Doll From Hell is not the worst I've seen and especially the interiors in the last half of the film are fairly well done. The image quality is limited because of the source, but unfortunately the massive strike against this DVD is the terrible quality of the transfer. This DVD has horrid combing. The image stutters and trails with the slightest camera or character movement, almost to the point that you'd imagine they were missing frames of film.
Sound: 2.0 Stereo. Japanese language with optional English subtitles. Adequate audio quality, clear dialogue, cheesy fx, and unmemorable synth score. Nice subs.
Extras: Trailer. -- Making of Featurette (6:27).
Conclusion: Doll from Hell is the kind of throwaway horror film that I doubt any fan would find memorable. Beyond that, the transfer on this DVD is a very low end affair to the point of being distracting and downright annoying, so beyond a rental for the desperate, I cannot recommend it.