‘Was it a nightmare? Or was it for real?’
Black Devil Doll From Hell is a 1984 American blaxploitation horror film written, produced, and directed by Chester Novell Turner (Tales from the QuadeaD Zone), in his directorial debut. The movie stars Shirley L. Jones, Gladys Ames and Bernard Brown.
Helen Black is a religious young woman who is determined to abstain from fornication until marriage. This all changes once she purchases a doll from a thrift store, which turns out to be possessed, after which point Helen’s libido becomes insatiable…
Charles Novell Turner’s Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984) may possibly be the Citizen Kane of atrocious shot-on-video movies, but that’s really hard to tell, considering most SOV movies rank somewhere below processed cheese in terms of quality.
Written and directed by Turner, the blame for this ignominious refuse rests solely with Turner himself. He could have written a coherent and engaging story, but chose not to; he could have shot tighter, more relevant scenes, thus upping the tension from nothing to at least a little something, but chose not to; he could have guided the actors in their acting choices, or he could have gotten people capable of acting in the first place, but he chose not to; he could have upgraded to a Yamaha synthesizer instead of using a Casio keyboard with its cottony percussion riffs to do the music, but he chose not to; he could have left his Zuni fetish doll homage a distant dream, but chose not to and chose to infect the world with his rubbishy ineptitude.
In a way, it’s a good thing he chose not to in all of those situations, because the movie is fun precisely because of those flaws. It’s a ridiculous and, yes, at times gruelling endeavour, but its frequent absurdities, and Turner’s remarkable ability to make Ed Wood look like a talent on the level of Alfred Hitchcock, that make the movie worth a watch. If you’re a glutton for punishment, enjoy preposterous scenarios and outlandish scenes with a little juice, Black Devil Doll from Hell is a good option for the facetiously minded.
Ben Spurling, MOVIES and MANIA
“The monotonous (and loud) Casio soundtrack, hallucinatory pacing, profane script, and amateur performances combine to create a Black Devil Doll from Hell DIY video project so far removed from anything remotely resembling normality that most wondered how it ever escaped onto commercial VHS release at all.” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital
“It revels unashamedly in its own misogynistic mindset and utter incompetency, and I can’t imagine an uglier, more unbelievably inept piece of rotgut. Difficult to endure, impossible to forget, and loads of fun to discuss afterward…” Shock Cinema, 1991
” … reminds one strongly of a low rent Chucky only it’s the carnal he’s interested in rather than murder, which in effect sees Helen raped into believing once you go puppet, you never go back […] Absolutely dreadful by any estimate, but difficult to look away from (and listen to, thanks to the piercing and droning soundtrack).” Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image
“Is it all as deliberately offensive as it sounds, playing up every negative racial and sexual stereotype imaginable with no apparent concern, much less conscience? Why, yes, it is — but it’s also blatantly obvious that Turner himself isn’t taking things very seriously, so there’s not much point in us doing so, either.” Trash Film Guru
Cast and characters:
- Shirley L. Jones as Helen Black
- Obie Dunson as Preacher
- Thalia Holloway as Second Buyer
- Jeanine Johican as Church Friend
- Ricky Roach as First Lover
- Marie Sainvilvs as Saleslady
- Chester Tankersley as Second Lover
- Kathleen Turner as Barbara’s Voice
- Keefe L. Turner as The Doll
Turner wrote the script over a period of three and a half days, however, filming took place over several years on a budget of about $10,000.
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Our own rating: