Doll From Hell (1996)

Rating: C-

Dir: Shinobu Murata
Star: Yuuko Sakaki, Rie Kondoh, Hôka Kinoshita, Tomomi Nishizaki
a.k.a. Ikenie

Erika (Sakaki) lives with her doll-maker father in a remote house in the country. She’s fading away due to an unspecified illness: probably cancer. It’s always cancer… Her father tries to cheer her up by making a life-sized doll in her image, though Erika suspects it’s as much for himself as her. This Disease of the Week TVM is rudely interrupted by the arrival of a gang of young thugs, chasing one of their number, who absconded with a suitcase full of drugs (which they apparently nicked themselves). They end up slitting Erica’s throat, and mutilating her father by pouring acid on his face, leaving him for dead. Because we all carry a carboy of concentrated acid around with us, for disfigurement purposes, don’t we?

Using an occult book which is conveniently to hand, as well as his own blood, he imbues the doll with a life-force before croaking. The gang, meanwhile, have to come back to the house after recovering the suitcase and killing the thief, because the contents were switched out. This is a perfect set-up for the living doll to take revenge on those who destroyed her and her family – even the slightly sympathetic one. Well, in between their frequent bouts of gratuitous and noisy sex, which would make Friday the 13th teenagers proud. This is, after all, a straight-to-video Japanese work from the mid-nineties, so female nudity goes with the territory.

In an odd-ish twist, the doll appears to drink the blood of her victims, though her fingertips, which had me wondering whether or not I should file this one under V for vampires. In the end though, it isn’t significant enough to merit such a classification: it’s not as if it gives her additional powers or even new skin as in Hellraiser. Which isn’t a vampire movie either. The main problem is we don’t see nearly enough of her in action: likely under ten minutes tops. Even given the short running time of sub-75 minutes, that leaves an awful lot of screen-time to be filled by intra-gang bickering, creeping around corridors, and the previously mentioned gratuitous sex, all of which are considerably less interesting.

Case in point, during one attack, Erica-doll embeds her vampiric hand in the wall after her target ducks out of the way. Except, she then turns her other body parts 180 degrees individually, such as her head and her feet. While the target is WTFing at that, she kicks them in the crotch. Could have done with more of this, and less of the other stuff, such as the gang member with an unexpected connection to Erica. This raised as many questions as it answers, personally, and like most of the non-doll elements, felt not particularly well thought-out. A lack of any notable climax was also disappointing, with the creature just kinda wandering off like Frankenstein’s monster, after unleashing a single tear of blood, and walking into the ocean. The tacked-on, pseudo-Carrie last shot was no help.