DOLLY DEAREST (1991) Reviews and overview

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‘It’s time to play’

Dolly Dearest is a 1991 American supernatural horror feature film written and directed by Maria Lease, based on a story by Rod Nave and Peter Sutcliffe, and produced by Daniel Cady (writer of Kiss of the Tarantula; Dream No Evil; Garden of the Dead). The Trimark Pictures-Channeller Enterprises production stars Denise Crosby, Sam Bottoms, Chris Demetral, Candy Hutson and Rip Torn.


An American family moves to Mexico to fabricate dolls, but their toy factory happens to be next to a Sanzian grave and the toys come into possession of an old, malicious spirit…


“This movie can’t decide on what it wants to be, an Omen rip-off or a Child’s Play rip-off so it tries to be both and fails miserably. This is a horror movie that wants to play it straight but forgets that in order to do that you need a good script otherwise it comes across as bad.” Arrow in the Head

“It goes from creepy parts to boring parts. The story is alright, but there isn’t enough false scares and stuff like that to keep it interesting until the real shit starts going down. It’s basically a drama until a doll decides to kill someone.” Awful Horror Movies

“One major issue is this film falls very short in the death department. In fact, I think there are no more than three, maybe four, kills all together. Moreover, with that comes a lack of Dolly’s presence…” Chuck Norris Ate My Baby

“The blending of dolls-n-devils is interesting, if not carried out to a logical, satisfying conclusion. The effects aren’t terrible, and there’s plenty of Dolly running around action. Dolly Dearest’s biggest fault (aside from the… uh… what’s thinner than paper-thin? annoying characters and the lousy acting) is that there’s simply not nearly enough killing…” Final Girl

” …this is a better movie than Child’s Play.  The acting on a whole is better, it’s actually scary, there’s no slow bits, it all kind of makes sense and you don’t have to suspend your disbelief quite as much as there’s not the voodoo stuff to contend with.” I Spit on Your Taste

“The effects are quite good, and the doll herself looks creepy and the illusion of her coming alive works for me. Not much on the gore front though, expect when a character gets his hand stuck in a sewing Machine. Dolly Dearest also has slick look and could pass for a bigger horror movie….” Ninja Dixon

” …a truly terrible little Child’s Play ripoff that’s as overtly low-budget as it is eye-scratchingly stupid.” DVD Talk

” …ends miserably, a climactic sequence so preposterous that it had me rolling my eyes. Yet even this didn’t kill the movie for me. Sure, Dolly Dearest will never be regarded as a classic […] but it does have its moments.” 2,500 Movies Challenge

“As the young heroine who comes under her Dolly’s spell, Hutson is an impressively precocious adorable/hateful character […] Some clutzy dialogue is film’s chief drawback. Serious mood is also undercut by corny reversion to the genre cliche of having the Dolly shout dumb one-liners during the final reel.” Variety

“Competently directed with a well done first doll attack; this is still mostly skippable due to its by-the-book plotting and a really poor finale that has the dolls spouting lame one-liners. The effects are okay though a bit jerky at times…” The Video Graveyard

Vinegar Syndrome released Dolly Dearest on Blu-ray for the very first time, in a brand new 2K restoration on April 28th 2020. The limited-edition embossed slipcover designed by Earl Kessler Jr. (as above) is limited to 2,500 units. Special features:

Region Free Blu-ray/DVD combo
Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm interpositive
“Playing With Dolls” – an interview with lead actress Denise Crosby
“Dressing the Part” – an interview with actor Ed Gale
Reversible cover artwork
SDH English subtitles

Hand-drawn poster from Ghana

Cast and characters:

Denise Crosby … Marilyn Wade
Sam Bottoms … Elliot Wade – Uncle Sam; Up from the Depths
Rip Torn … Karl Resnick – RoboCop 3; Scarab; A Stranger is Watching; The Man Who Fell to Earth
Chris Demetral … Jimmy Wade
Candace Hutson … Jessica Wade (as Candy Hutson)
Lupe Ontiveros … Camilla
Enrique Renaldo … Estrella
Alma Martinez … Alva (as Alma Martínez)
Will Gotay … Luis
Rene Victor … Nun at the Convent
Luis Cortez … Peter
Jaime Gomez … Hector
Brass Adams … Bob Larabe

Filming locations:

Santa Clarita, California
UNAM University, Mexico City, Mexico

Technical details:

93 minutes

Ultra Stereo

Doll horror

Horror from 1991

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