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Blood Dolls: Not your average killer doll movie.
I'll be honest with you guys. I'm about to go out on vacation and have been super busy helping organize what goes on backstage at an opera all week. So while I have lots of stuff I want to talk about, I just don't have the time to give those movies, comics, and what-not the attention they deserve. And yet...I feel I should write something. So get ready to read Jared as he writes on auto-pilot (and writes about himself in the third person) about a film that he's seen many, many times. This'll be a short article, but hopefully it'll convince one or two of you that you need to see this as well as entertain the rest of you while I'm off in Italy trying not to run into the Pope.
Blood Dolls, made in 1999, is another puppet-based horror movie from Full Moon, the company owned and organized by puppet-based movie maker Charles Band. He's brought us the Puppetmaster series, Ghoulies, as well as almost every "killer puppet" movie that wasn't Gremlins. If you're familiar with the site you've already read my rant about Charles Band and his film, The Gingerdead Man. I've already mentioned him on the site and as promised, last time wasn't the...err...last time for me mentioning him. So why am I talking about Blood Dolls?
Because I LOVE this movie. It's not a bad movie, but it's not a good one either. But you know what? This is probably the weirdest movie in my collection. Sure, some films might have stranger things existing in isolation, but Blood Dolls is pretty much jam-packed with weirdness. It's like someone wrote down every crackpot idea they ever had and then dared someone to include EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE IDEAS in a movie. If you look at the poster (and the title, now that I think about it), it looks like this film is going to be about some creepy guy in a suit and his killer toys. And while there are killer dolls (of blood) in this movie, they aren't why this film is strange. They're part of the equation, but really....they're a footnote to the weird. There's also the fact that narratively and maybe even structurally-speaking, this film is pretty unique. I'll explain why when the time comes, but for now get ready for weird as I walk you through the opening scene of Blood Dolls. Keep in mind everything I'm about to throw at you shows up in the first four minutes of the film.
"Hello Jim, my new legal assistant. We're going to visit my biggest client, Virgil Travis. He's a bit of an eccentric millionaire so don't freak out if things get a little weird. This is his mansion and, well, just don't wet yourself in terror if a clown answers the door."
Oh dear Lord, Virgil the millionaire has a clown butler. His name is Mr. Mascaro and he is possibly my favorite character of all time. I say possibly, because my favorite character "of all time" tends to change so much that it doesn't mean what it should. Instead of being zany and silly, he's deadpan serious. No jokes...just this stern "father will beat you if you step out of line" seriousness that's somehow scarier than all the cackling madmen you usually see in horror movies. He's also a priest who follows the Divine Spirit: that thing that "you can never escape from no matter how far you run no matter how well you hide." More on him later.
Oh what's this? Virgil has a band by the name of "The Baby Girls" in a cage in his living room. This particular band does the music for the entire movie (literally singing in the background of many scenes) and to be honest the music is pretty good. It's all sort of dark "chick rock", if you can excuse the term, with a touch of rage Goth. Or something. I suck at describing music. Point is there's a hot girl band in a cage. That's worth at least three weird points. It's also worth 1 purity point if you're one of the girls in the cage, but the less said about that the better. Moving on:
Pirate. Midget. In a tuxedo.
While I know he's not really a pirate, any character that has an unexplained eye patch invariably strikes me as belonging to the scurvy seadog demographic. So what is the wee pirate's job?
In case you can't tell by the cattle prod he's holding in the 2nd picture, his job is to electrocute the girls in the band into playing the right song. The volume control is a switch that electrocutes them into playing lower. Holy crap. Girls in a cage being electrocuted by a midget? I've had dreams less weird than this. By the way, the midget (or dwarf...I don't know the P.C. name anymore) is indeed Phil Fondacaro. Chances are you've already seen him in a movie. God knows he's appeared many times on the site already. He was in Dollman vs. Demonic Toys, Romero's Land of the Dead, Troll, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (May you never, ever see that cinematic abortion in your lifetime), Evil Bong, that episode of Tales from the Darkside written by Clive Barker, and a lot of television shows that had a need for a dwarf. Phil Fondacaro is this weird status quo in horror movies for me. No matter what I watch or where I go, I always end up running into him. Though, admittedly, I've never seen him electrocuting girls in a cage before. Thankfully.
"Oh Jimmy, did I forget to mention that Virgil the millionaire wears a weird mask all the time and no one's seen his true face?"
"Oh Jeez I should have also mentioned that he's CRAZY and installed a robot hand armed with a drill into your chair? That's my bad. Sorry."
At this point in time the Asian lawyer is the only one in the room that's not a: midget, clown, girl in a cage, or a freak in a mask. As such, Virgil decides to open up and take off his mask:
...revealing that he has a tiny apple-size head. Of all the things you might have been expecting, a tiny head the size of your fist was not what I was expecting. Apparently Virgil was an experiment his mother created...and while he's incredibly intelligent she forgot to make his head in proportion to his body. Or something. All I know is that we have a villain that has a tiny, tiny head.
The hell. Could this get any weirder?
Of course it can. This is when Virgil puts the lawyer in the compression machine that apparently turns people into killer dolls that do his bidding.
And there's the first four minutes of the movie. I've NEVER seen so much weirdness back-to-back before. Of course the whole package of strange definitely overshadows the film's supposed stars, the dolls. Speaking frankly, the film doesn't really have a lot to do with them. The dolls end up killing a couple people but they're actually on-screen less than any other character. It makes sense when you think about the cast. What's more entertaining: a bunch of dolls with knives or a Clown butler with a bible and a semi-automatic rifle teaching us about religion?
And yes, one of the dolls in a big pimp, but I still stand by the previous unfair comparison.
The murders in the film, unlike most goofy horror movies, are pretty standard. Well, standard for "killer puppet movies". I guess. The exception is the "bondage wire" murder, pictured above. Here another eccentric millionaire (being controlled by his wife, don't ask) gets left in an embarrassing position until puppets come and murder him while he wears a cheetah-print thong.
So why is this film worth watching? Is it, like Mount Everest, simply watched because it challenges us with its mere existence? The answer lies in the plot. You see, most films have a protagonist. Even if the film is about the monster, there's always a goofy hero or group of teenagers that save the day or at least represent the forces of "good" as much as such a thing can be quantified. The thing about Blood Dolls is that there ARE no good guys. Virgil the apple-head is the closest thing we have to a main character and he's OBVIOUSLY the bad guy because he's turning people into puppets and murdering people with robots with power tools. Of course the people he's killing are ALSO evil, but evil in a greedy money kind of way. But they're less evil than he is. To put it in stereotypical American terms, this movie is like watching The Devil fight Hitler. You don't want either side to win but you can't pull your eyes away. There really needs to be more movies like this. The complete eradication of the required "good" character means the movie is classically flaws (from a critical standpoint) but since it's still completely enjoyable I'm not sure how the classic plot model holds up. I guess I'm just happy to see a bizarre interesting story unfold without having to worry about moral judgments. The story is some sort of weird romance/love story between two very evil people. One, an apple-headed freak and the other, an evil scheming she-bitch. For some reason I'm reminded of Poppy Z. Brite's book "Exquisite Corpse" which is a love story between two homosexual homicidal necrophiliacs (yes you read that right). It's a good story but your moral compass just gets pretty screwed up by the end. But enough babble. Since I've got to be on a plane in a matter of hours, it's time for me to back up a previous statement.
Mr. Mascaro, played by William Paul Burns, is the very best thing in this movie. I don't know if he wrote his own dialogue for the film, but man is he ever creepy in the most hardcore of ways. William is some sort of old-school actor that's appeared in a few random things over the years. And by "years" I mean decades. How many other actors can boast that they were on the original Mary Tyler Moore show AND several episodes of the saucy Red Shoe Diaries? William gets the best lines in the film...let me give you an example:
Mr. Mascaro: :grabs security guard by the next and places his lips just against his ear as he whispers to him: "In my experience there are two kinds of people. People that piss themselves when they die and people who don't.
"The question is, which one are you?"
Guards: "Uhg." :sound of Mascaro snapping guards neck like a twig:
Mr. Mascaro: :looking down at the body in disgust:
I'm sure that doesn't convey the hardcore-i-tude that it does in the film, but at least I tried. Speaking of quotes from Mr. Mascaro, I'll let him explain the alternate ending in the movie.
"One moment please, ladies and gentlemen...boys and girrrrrls. By all rights we should be showing the end credits right now....but we have a bit of an awkward problem. You see, we came up with two endings for this story and we couldn't decide between them. What you just saw, a minute ago, that's one: Moira is tortured, the girls and dolls get away, and the rest of us all die. OK. I can see the cynical appeal. But being as I am a fundamentally spiritual person, I prefer the following, rather different, ending to our proceedings."
The first ending of the film is as close to a "Hollywood" ending as you can get. All the evil characters die (read: ALL THE CHARACTERS DIE more or less) and the girls in the cage escape with the dolls who we're meant to believe were cute and not evil unto themselves. They hop in a van and escape as all the other characters go up in flames/choking on poison gas. In the original ending, Moira (the evil she-bitch I mentioned earlier) sees Virgil's true face and freaks out. Virgil declares that, since he'll never know love, he'll kill himself, her, and all his staff. The girls escape. The end.
The other ending..which is in many respects the "true" ending as it happens at the freaking END of the film (both endings are shown back to back...there are no DVD extras dividing them). Wondering what happens?
True love prevails as Moira sucks faces with the apple-headed millionaire. The entire cast of freaks rejoices as the forces of evil are united and happily married. The end. Evil not only wins but finds love and promises to make evil babies to fill the world with. And you know what? This ending makes you HAPPY for the characters.
I told you. Moral compass totally screwed up.
Tangent: I hate snagging pictures from other sites, Toymania posted a great one of the Toys from this film:
I find it super-amusing that despite the fact that they're completely unimportant to the movie, the dolls get their own toys. I guess that's what happens when Charles Band makes a movie. You know, because he likes toys. Oh and the only reason I've posted the above picture is to show you that yes, that is a big freaking pimp. And you can buy him if you want.
Well, I've got a plane to catch. Sorry for being so brief but hopefully I've given a few of you something to hunt down. I don't recommend movies very often, but Blood Dolls is this weird OMG WTF/that's so cool hybrid that needs to be seen. You know, because I can't be the only freak out there.
In closing let me leave a message for Mr. Mascaro in case he ever googles himself:
Oh Mr. Mascaro, if I had a womb I would totally fill it with your awesome clown-babies.
If you didn't kill me first.
Copyright 2007 Jared von Hindman or maybe just Jared Hindman. It depends. Any images used that are not Jared's are used via Fair Use review purposes and belong to their respective owners....who are nice people that don't want to sue me.
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