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Doll Face (2021) Review

When a film’s credits list the director as “Alan Smithee” or some equally obvious pseudonym, that’s usually a bad omen. Doll Face (not to be confused with the TV show) has an even bigger warning. The opening credits are name tags on various dolls. The one reading “Written & Directed by” is on a crying doll, the name smeared and illegible. The story behind that is probably more interesting than the movie because it’s on a level with Annabellum: The Curse of Salem and Elves.

A young woman by the name of Marmalade (Alix Villaret, The Ghost Beyond, V for Vengeance) is having a meeting with Mr. Finnigan (Steven Paul, Slapstick of Another Kind, Emanon) and Mr. Toboggan (David E. Rezaieh) of the law firm Toboggan, Toboggan, and Toboggan. It seems her grandmother (Yvonne Maverick, Grinder) has left her condo and fortune to her. All she has to do is agree to take care of all of her dolls and sign on the dotted line. And don’t worry about the fine print.

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It doesn’t take long before the dolls start turning up in nooses. This means Marmalade has to call The Doll Fixer (Tim Dax, Slaughter Daughter, Catch of the Day 2: You Die at Dawn!) a homeless guy who repairs dolls and who looks as creepy as his name sounds.

Billed as a horror-thriller, Doll Face is neither horrific nor thrilling. It’s an absolute mess that has no clue what it wants to be. The opening scene for example is played as a very broad comedy. The lawyers are over-the-top parodies, the kind of shysters you might see in a Three Stooges or Marx Brothers film.

Alix Villaret’s voice is dubbed in, and very obviously so. In a meeting with her therapist Dr. Feverheart (Jeremiah Benjamin, Things 4, The Love Witch) her lips don’t move when she answers him. The rest of the film is the same, there’s no attempt to make it look like she’s speaking. This is distracting, and not in a good way, to say the least.

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There’s lots of footage of the doll’s faces at night with unintelligible voices whispering in the background. Stuart Gordon made that work in Dolls. Here it’s just boring and repetitive. Eventually, the plot involves a homicidal, life-size toy soldier and the curse of Spunkneck (Lenny Rosenberg, Nun’s Deadly Confession) an insane doll maker. But any attempt at being scary is counteracted by horrible attempts at humor and intentionally over-the-top acting.

Even worse are Doll Face’s attempts at being titillating. There is a long shower scene and a bath scene, neither of which show more than some leg. Then there’s the scene where a doll crawls under Marmalade’s covers as she sleeps. This is followed by writhing and what looks like moaning although we don’t hear it. That’s right, the one time her mouth is moving we hear nothing.

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I will give Doll Face credit for something, it has two of the worst endings I’ve seen this year. There’s the utterly stupid and predictable resolution to the main story. Then the film’s length gets padded out with an absolutely inane coda that seems to be there just to get the film to feature-length.

Whether Doll Face started out as an attempt at fantasy or absurd comedy that got reworked in an attempt to pass as horror or was always this bizarre I don’t know. Certainly, interference by producers and/or distributors would explain the writer/director removing their name from the film. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, I couldn’t find anything about this film online to explain what happened either. This is unfortunate because, as I said at the start, I’m sure it’s more interesting than the film itself.

Doll Face is available to stream via SP Distribution. You can check their Facebook page and website for more information.

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