Wednesday, March 20, 2013

This Is A Thing That Exists!: The Haunted Dollhouse

In the past on this blog I've mentioned my perhaps out-sized love and appreciation for the company currently known as Full Moon Features, as well as its long time producer and schlock master Charles Band. The Full Moon movies of the 80's and early 90's were, for better or worse, my first real introduction to horror and fantasy as a kid just by virtue of being so easily accessible at my local video store, and even though I have long since developed a better understanding of the classic horror canon, I can't shake the nostalgic glee I get whenever I see that little lunar logo show up on a DVD. This some might say misplaced passion is what led me to pick up The Haunted Dollhouse, a recycled anthology film centered around the subject that made Band famous, killer dolls, and after watching it, the only thing I can say about it is that this, is a thing, that exists!

Now, normally, I try to avoid highlighting newer movies in this section, as This Is A Thing That Exists! is supposed to be reserved for those lost classics that are so utterly perplexing that I just can't wrap my head around them. Its for movies that I can't recommend, and yet can't recommend enough, so insane that notions like good and bad do not apply, and you need to see them just for the experience. I've decided to make an exception here not only because of just how much this movie broke my brain, but also because the individual segments aren't actually new. The Haunted Dollhouse is really made up of three past Full Moon movies edited down to roughly half hour segments, strung together by their common theme and a few seconds of bad CGI, with only one of the segments taken from a movie I've seen. The result is that all the bits that I assume made these movies make sense have been removed, leaving only the most insane out of context experience I've had since, well, that last one of these I wrote about the talking cat voiced by Eric Roberts.

The first installment is called The Protectors, but it is taken from the film Skull Heads. It follows a group of thieves posing as a film crew out location scouting, who set out to rob a house filled with the most bizarre family you will ever meet, and instead run afoul of a cadre of diminutive supernatural creatures. Because this is an 80 minute movie condensed to a 30 minute segment while still trying to tell a complete story, you would expect the pacing to be a bit distractingly quick, and that every scene that was kept would be absolutely crucial to the narrative. You wouldn't expect for example, an extended stretch focusing on a mentally challenged butler jerking off onto a maid, only to be thwarted by the master of the house, only for him to reveal his own lecherous intent, even though this element and two of these three characters have almost no bearing on the plot. And when I say one of them does bear on the plot, I mean that only because he is randomly turned into a zombie in the last five minutes, just before the segment ends with exactly no resolution whatsoever. I've never seen Skull Heads, and based on this, I don't want to, but not because I think it will be bad. I don't want the awkward brilliance of this abbreviated version to be ruined in my mind by seeing all the stuff they cut out.

The second installment is called Worry Dolls, taken from the film Dangerous Worry Dolls, which I also haven't seen. It follows a woman incarcerated in some sort of private prison or halfway house who is raped by a guard and turns to a finger sized magic totem for help, which proceeds to crawl inside her head and turn her into a killer. As fucked up as The Protectors is, this is the segment that convinced me to place this here under the This Is A Thing That Exists! banner. It starts with a man in a mask wearing a strap-on dildo over his crotch raping a woman, and then gets weirder from there, culminating in, among other things, the revelation that this man was not in fact really a man, but a woman in disguise...for some reason. Its implied that our fractured heroine took the same strap-on on and raped him/her to death off screen due to the influence of the skeleton creature crawling out of the giant pimple in her forehead, right before she attacks the warden, who naturally paid this she-man guard to rape women prisoners and film it for a porn website she had on the side, killing her with a giant portable battery and jumper cables the warden just happens to keep next to her desk, in case anyone might randomly decide to murder her, and wish to do so with electricity. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

The third and final installment is called Dangerous Toys, taken from the film Dollman Vs. Demonic Toys. This was the one movie I'd actually seen prior to this compilation, and the one where I finally realized what was going on here. I would imagine that for those fans who had seen all of these movies and knew that this was a re-hash going in wouldn't be as shocked as I was by the insanity created from these edited segments, but for someone who had no idea, this must be the most bizarre movie going experience possible. If for instance you did not know that there were movies called Dollman or Demonic Toys, let alone a crossover sequel between them, then all of a sudden being thrown into this world of tiny alien detectives, women shrunk by aliens (also from a different movie called Bad Channels), and evil baby dolls from Hell, you would be understandably confused. Even more so if they had seen Trancers, but none of the other movies, as Dollman is also played by Tim Thomerson. I liked the movie upon which this segment was based, but strangely, because I had seen it before and recognized where the cuts were made, this was for me the least enjoyable piece of the anthology.

The fact that this movie makes no attempt whatsoever to establish any context for these stories, seemingly deliberately making them as obtuse as possible, is The Haunted Dollhouse's greatest weakness, and its greatest strength. Granted, I assume that at this point Full Moon figures it has its fan base and only really needs to cater specifically to them, so providing any inroads for non-fans probably isn't high on their to do list for something like this (even though generally I would think that would be the point of any compilation like this). And yet, I think any die hard fan of these particular movies would invariably be disappointed in The Haunted Dollhouse. Its like they made a movie to get new fans interested in what Full Moon has to offer, but thought people with no experience with this company would dig on fan service without first actually being fans. The result is a haphazard amalgamation of strangeness and absurdity that I highly recommend, but only if you are not otherwise prepared for it.

So, I guess what I'm saying is, ignore all the shit I just said that spoiled the movie, and just come across it yourself and watch it. Yeah, sorry, didn't really think this one through.

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