Stars: Debbie Rochon, Christian James, John Kap, Jason Vail, Suzie Haines, Elizabeth Mears, Patrick G. Keenan, Kirsten Ray, Leah Wiseman, Nick Alexander, Mary Tabor | Written and Directed by Tommy Faircloth
Ahhhh, the early days of DVD. When anything and everything was released to capitalise on the burgeoning desire for people to buy discs but not pay the extortionate prices the big studios were charging. The “Music Zone years” as I like to call them, when you could walk into any of the companies many high street shops and buy DVDs for a fiver (about a third of the regular price of studio fare). From companies like Marquee Pictures, Prism Leisure, ILC Prime…
Why am I reminiscing about this? Well because it was also at this time that I was also busy buying up unwanted VHS tapes from people upgrading to the new-fangled disc format, snapping up horror films like there was no tomorrow (before I too succumbed to the shininess of DVDs). And that’s how I came across Crinoline Head. For those unaware, Crinoline Head was an old-school slasher movie that followed your typical slasher tropes. However it was the freaky artwork on the US tape I aquired that got me intrigued – it was the kind of cover that literally screamed WTF?!
So, jump forward almost a decade and Tommy Faircloth releases The Cabin, a brand new short film, on VHS. Now by this time – I’ll be honest – I’d forgotten all about Faircloth. His his second feature Generation Ax, which was released 6 years after Crinoline Head, passed me by and Crinoline Head had become nothing more than a footnote in my movie history. However I still had love for the VHS format… And so, it seems, did many other people. Which is how I found the art of the awesome Marc Shoenbach (aka SadistArt Designs), and in turn the news that Faircloth had come back to the horror genre with The Cabin, his first film in twelve years - a film for which Shoenbach had produced the artwork!
So what’s a man to do when returning to the genre in which he got his start? Make a sequel to his most famous movie of course! And so to The Doll, aka Dollface, aka Dorchester’s Revenge: The Return of Crinoline Head.
Picking up the story almost 20 years after the events of the first film, The Doll follows a group of college students (assigned a research project on local legends) researching Dorchester Stewart, better known as the infamous killer Crinoline Head, after discovering that their teacher – Mr. Donner – was a survivor of the original massacre. Returning to the scene of the horrific murders that happened in 1996, the group realise that the warnings of their teacher, that Crinoline Head – missing and presumed dead is anything but…
Released in the UK some three years after production, The Doll sees Faircloth re-team with his The Cabin actor Jason Vail (who was so, so good in Elias Ganster’s Gut) for a film that brings back the iconic killer in the best possible way – with a hint of black comedy and buckets of blood. You see, this is not a film that plays things straight. After all, how could you with a killer who where’s a crinoline skirt on his head?
The Doll is instead packed with some ridiculous humour and cracking one-liners (Rochon’s “I’ve got something you can vandalise and it ain’t property” and nearly EVERY sentence that follows from her character, Betsy, is all killer!), which are matched only by the myriad of innovative kills. Yes, for a genre that has been done to death, Faircloth shows that there’s still life in the slasher movie genre yet, unleashing some surprising kills – a number of which really help highlight the films darkly humourous side.
Yet for all it’s humour, The Doll is still an effective horror flick. Faircloth knows how to stage his action to maximise the scares, blending spooky visuals (though old mangled porcelain dolls are creepy enough to begin with), tense moments of silence and some well-placed jump scares. And to top it all off, the film has one hell of a kick-ass hard rock soundtrack featuring the likes of In For The Kill and Apparitions.
I know it’s been three years since The Doll/Dollface/Dorcheseter’s Revenge was filmed but, as a new-found fan of the sequel, I’m holding out hope for a third story in the tale of Dorchester Stewart.
The Doll is out now on DVD from New Horizon Films.