Dolly Dearest is a 1992 entry into the killer doll and evil kid categories that for whatever reason doesn’t seem to be well-remembered. I would think that if you saw this as a kid, which is the reason most people who like 90s horror seem to like it, it would have been creepy. And if you’re a camp-loving adult, partially possessed Jessica (Candace Hutson) gives a great impression of a junior bitch-in-training. Reserve this kid (who is now a 30 something woman) a spot on Dynasty (in the distant past)!
The story goes like this: dad Elliot (Sam Bottoms) invests everything in a doll factory in Mexico, only to find the factory “needs improvement” and, by the way, there’s an archaeological dig out back that might wake up the evilest evil spirit ever. Wife Marilyn (Denise Crosby) tries to make the best of the situation as son Jimmy (Chris Demetral) meddles in the dig and annoys the local archaeologist, played by a relatively spry Rip Torn. Unfortunately, the dolls left over from the last factory owner are all possessed, and the one Elliot gives to daughter Jessica causes her personality to change. Just a bit, no levitating or anything, but she’s definitely becoming a nasty piece of work.
My favorite parts of the movie include the scene in which Elliot finds the body of the nanny/housekeeper (Lupe Ontiveros). I don’t know how they did this effect; I mean, it’s not an effect per se, more like acting, but she launches herself up out of the water at him while still looking perfectly dead. I also enjoyed seeing Jimmy reading a book called When Bad Things Happen to Good Kids in protest of the move from L.A. to Mexico, and the scene in which the factory employee has a heart attack and it looks like something is going to burst out of his chest. As much as you can enjoy a character having a heart attack who isn’t an evil motherfucker who had it coming, anyway. And Denise Crosby’s character’s wardrobe is to die for. Seriously, it’s fab. I even made some screenshots of her outfits!
I’m not claiming that Dolly Dearest is a lost classic, but I think it is an enjoyable genre offering and a nice snapshot of 1992, which happens to be one of my favorite years. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with the killer doll category when you’re looking for a fun horror movie. This one doesn’t look cheap or poorly edited, and the acting is good; in fact, Maria Lease seems to be a more than competent director and screenwriter. Which is more than I can say for at least 75% of the helmers whose work I review here! It’s too bad that, according to IMDb, she hasn’t done any more horror films.