A low-budget variant on “Child’s Play,””Dolly Dearest” is a scary horror film about a devil doll. Pic received theatrical exposure in the Midwest in January ahead of its video release.
Denise Crosby and Sam Bottoms move with their two young children to Mexico to set up a doll factory, little suspecting that the decrepit facility is near an archaeological dig that recently has set forth supernatural forces.
The dolls are animated by spirits dating back to the Sanzia tribe, which lived many centuries ago in the region. Crosby’s housekeeper (Lupe Ontiveros) senses the danger but is murdered by daughter Candy Hutson’s cute little Dolly.
Aided by Mark Snow’s spooky and suspenseful musical score film builds to a well-staged climax. Unlike the big-budget Chucky of the “Child’s Play” films, Dolly’s movements are suggested rather than shown, with use of quick shots of a live action double (Ed Gale). Even so, the effect is convincing enough.
As the young heroine who comes under her Dolly’s spell, Hutson is an impressively precocious adorable/hateful character. Rest of the cast, including Rip Torn as a local professor, have less interesting assignments.
Some clutzy dialogue is film’s chief drawback. Serious mood is also undercut by corny reversion to the genre cliche of having the Dollys shout dumb one-liners during the final reel.