Six people are stranded at a mansion in the English countryside — David Bower and Rosemary Bower (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, wife of Stuart Gordon), two totally selfish and uncaring parents, and their daughter Judy. Plus, we have nice guy Ralph and two British punk rock hitchhikers, Isabel (played by Bunty Bailey, who starred in two landmark music videos for the band A-Ha) and Enid.
The mansion is owned by Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke (Hilary Mason, the blind psychic from Don’t Look Now), toy makers who fill their home with their creations. As Judy had to give up her old teddy bear by her evil stepmother, they give her a new doll, Mr. Punch.
We soon discover that the dolls are alive and love to destroy humans — the eviler the better. The two girls try to steal antiques and get their faces smashed in and shot by toy soldiers before becoming dolls themselves. Rosemary is attacked by the dolls, then leaps out a window to her death. Her body is brought back to the house, leading David to believe Ralph is a killer.
Meanwhile, Judy reveals to Ralph that the dolls are alive and talks them into saving his life. David attacks, knocking out his daughter and the man he blames for his wife’s death, but the dolls save them. Mr. Punch battles David but is destroyed.
The old owners of the house reveal themselves and explain that the house tests people. Either they pass — like Ralph and Judy. Or they fail, like everyone else, and are turned into dolls. It just depends on who believes in the power of childhood. David now becomes Judy’s new doll, Judy picks Ralph to be her new dad and she leaves for home.
Meanwhile, we see all the evil folks as dolls on the shelf as new people get stuck outside the house and the cycle begins again.
Dolls is a Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Castle Freak) film and feels like a test run for the Demonic Toys movies. There are some moments of great invention, like the giant evil teddy bear and the eyeballs popping out of the punk girl. It was a theatrical release that actually didn’t do well, but found new life on video — where a young version of my wife found it and rented it just about every day.
Interestingly enough, the house where the movie was filmed once belonged to Dino De Laurentiis. It was an actual two-story house, but the outside of the house featured remnants of other De Laurentiis films, including Barbarella!