Just because you can make a movie doesn’t necessarily mean you actually should. This is a sentiment I’ve felt many times after watching some real flops. For some reason, the horror genre seems to be plagued by them. It got to where there’s a whole sub-genre known as “B-horror.” These are typically films that are campy, cheesy, and over-the-top to the point of being comical. They usually have cult followings and are beloved by a few die-hard fans that find some form of charm in their short-comings.
The problem comes in when some filmmakers try to make B-horror films and fail, miserably. That is the kind of film Doll Factory is. They tried so hard to make it a campy B-horror film that they skipped right over it being “so bad that it’s good” and landed in it just being so bad.
The film begins in the 70s with a couple of cops trying to banish an unseen evil along with another man who is reciting some sort of chant. We then fast-forward to modern times on Halloween night during a party. A group of teenage jerks is standing around judging everyone, including their own friends. They get bored and decided to leave the party in order to carry out a séance at a local abandoned factory. Doing so unleashes the evil spirits residing there. The evil dolls go about town collecting souls by murdering the townspeople. It’s up to Mark, Kay, and her brother Melvin to find a way to stop the evil sorcerer Yegor from carrying out his plan.
Kay – Meant to represent the typical heroine of the story. She’s intent on saving the town from Yegor and his dolls.
Mark – Typical “popular” guy type. He’s reluctant to do much of anything but goes along with it because of Kay. He complains a lot and acts like a jerk 90% of the time.
Melvin – Kay’s nerdy younger brother. He enjoys video games, fantasy role-playing, and apparently porn. He doesn’t believe Kay and Mark at first but joins them after he encounters the dolls.
Sheriff Bart Barclay – A racist, homophobic, grouchy old Sheriff. He was part of the initial group responsible for stopping Yegor the first time.
Darius Grumley – A crotchety old man from “the hood.” He was the other survivor from the initial group who stopped Yegor the first time around. The book used to summon Yegor can only be read by him, and apparently one of Kay’s friends.
Yegor – An ancient sorcerer that’s been resurrected by the group of teens. He tried to collect souls back in the 70s, but he was stopped by Bart and Darius.
Acting and Character Chemistry
The acting wasn’t very strong in the film. The entire cast was made up of newcomers, but I think they did their best with what they had. Everyone basically played giant stereotypes that are way outdated. Which was fine in old B-horror films from the 80s, but they don’t work well. Darius is meant to be an old ghetto black man while Bart is a backwoods red-neck that hates gay people. Melvin is also supposed to be your stereotypical nerd, but in a time when being into nerdy things isn’t a big deal the characterization falls flat. Most of the cast is thrown in there to be killed off, and there’s no character development.
Furthermore, the chemistry just wasn’t there between any of the characters. Mark was constantly cold and distant with Kay the entire film despite the two of them being a couple. Sure, they were having issues, but I just didn’t buy them as being together. Even Kay and Melvin felt like two strangers, despite them being related.
For the most part, the cinematography was decent. Up until the parts with special effects, the film quality was surprisingly good. Sadly, this was tarnished by the crude and low-quality “special effects” used. The dolls themselves were obviously re-purposed baby dolls, and any time they’re shown you can tell someone his holding them from the bottom and moving them around. Almost like a very low-budget puppet show. The make-up was bad too. For instance, you could see the pink from the area around Yegor’s eyes which made it obvious he was wearing make-up. He’s supposed to be a rotting corpse, make me believe it!
Also, there was a point when the dolls blew up a house. To show this, the filmmakers added some flames and showed door frames and windows flying off. However, once the initial blast subsides you can clearly see the house is fully intact. It was just such a bizarre design choice and I felt like it would have been way better had they just left it out of the film completely.
There’s not much to be said about the soundtrack. It sounds like they used royalty-free music they found on YouTube. Nothing interesting stood out to me.
As stated before, the problem with this film is that it’s trying too hard. It’s listed as both a comedy and a horror film, which can work. However, you have to balance it just right or else it becomes a mess, which Doll Factory is. The jokes are dated, not delivered well, and just can’t seem to land right. In fact, the only part that made me chuckle was the bit with the reporter. As for the horror aspect, aside from some lackluster gore it really didn’t feel like a horror film. There was nothing remotely spooky about it.
Look, I’m a huge fan of B-horror. Give me a good Puppet Master, Hellraiser, or Child’s Play film and I’m happy. However, I feel like the entirety of Doll Factory can be summed up in one word, lazy. I just don’t feel like very much thought or energy was put into it, and the end product suffered greatly for it. Doll Factory was made in my home city and starred people from it as well. I wanted to really love this film, but I just couldn’t stomach it.