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Not too long ago I reviewed Charles Band's rather terrible Decadent Evil, and I felt a little bad for trashing one of my favorite schlockmeister's new babies so thoroughly. So I'm happy to admit that, all things considered, Mr. Band's subsequent feature, the appropriately titled Doll Graveyard, is a noticeable step up ... even if it's also a low-budget horror flick that's laden with terrible dialogue, unconvincing performances, and an overall air of chintz.
Returning to the well he dug with titles like Blood Dolls and the Puppet Master series, Mr. Band delivers a rather insubstantial little flick -- minus the end credits, it runs just over an hour -- that delivers just enough "terrible toy" goofiness to warrant a weekend rental from the faithful horror geeks. (If there's nothing else on the shelves that strike their collective fancy, anyway.)
The plot could not be any simpler. Literally. The flick opens a hundred years ago as we meet a little girl with a mean daddy. He forces the little moppet to bury her beloved dollies in the backyard, but -- whoops! -- the little girl stumbles right into the grave and, we presume, dies. Dad, for his part, promptly buries the kid.
Flash forward to good ol' 2005 where we meet a bickering pair of teenage siblings; He's a nerdly fan of action figures and she's a pain-in-the-ass older sister who's pissed because she has to babysit. When Dad hits the road, we get a bunch of partyin' teen-types: a slutty blonde, a demure sweetie, and two horny jock-jerks.
Cue lightning storm. And, thanks to the century-old power of Dead Little Girl, up pop the Killer Dolls! One's a German soldier with a really pointy helmet, one's an ugly baby doll with a bear-trap mouth, and one's a rather racially-unflattering Africa-voodoo doll. There's also a Samurai dolly, but he's among the (relatively) less-violent toys. Some of the dolls kill some of the kids, several stupid things happen, end credits roll.
We're not talkin' The Tempest here. But Mr. Band seems only halfway-committed to his return to the horror market. For example, a few of the kills dig deep into Gore Country, but there aren't nearly enough doll attacks to satisfy anyone who'd actually purchase a DVD called Doll Graveyard. Including the poor little dumb kid who accidentally falls to an untimely prologue demise, Doll Graveyard delivers a body count tally that you could count on one hand -- even if that hand was missing a thumb and a pinky.
And what's with the mini-movies, Mr. Band? We all know that you love and appreciate your old-school horror fanbase, so why do you consistently deliver flicks that only reach 70 minutes in length because your end credits scrolls are cranked down to the slowest speed possible? Is it too much to ask that you get your Full Moon screenwriters to bang out a script consisting of three entire acts? They don't have to be masterworks, but honestly: a 62-minute movie is not what the genre fans are looking for. Even if that 62-minute movie does have some half-decent FX, a few cool splatters of gore, and a handful of enjoyably ooky death-dollies.
Video: The flick's presented in a fairly solid Widescreen format, which looks a whole lot better than you might expect from a movie that looks like it cost half a million to produce.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0. Kinda flat and tinny, but perfectly audible all the same. (Wait till you hear the Zombie Doll mumble!)
Extras: First up is a 17-minute featurette entitled Doll Graveyard: Behind the Scenes, which delivers precisely what you'd expect: cast interviews, on-set footage, and lots of praise for everyone involved. There's also a 10-minute blooper reel, a website promo, and a 3-minute Message from Full Moon Features, which is just more of Mr. Band hawking his upcoming releases and nationwide horror tour. (For more information, head on over to www.fullmoondirect.com) Rounding out the undernourished platter are a bunch of trailers for Doll Graveyard, The Gingerdead Man (ha!), Monsters Gone Wild!, When Puppets & Dolls Attack!, Decadent Evil, and Petrified.
Doll Graveyard earns a Rent It, but only if you're a loyal veteran horror geek, and you think a few cool dollies and a (very) small handful of goopy kills are worthy of your 62 minutes. It's a small-but-noticeable step up for the earnestly resurgent Charles Band, and I do hope that the hilarious-looking Gingerdead Man represents yet another improvement.