Welcome to the Dollhouse
Amityville: Dollhouse (1996): 8 out of 10: A dollhouse replica of the infamous Amityville horror house makes for an unfortunate gift choice for a young girl’s birthday. Soon this recently melded family is haunted by zombie deadbeat dads and overcome with incestuous lust. Will the family survive? Will the movie’s last act turn into a Hellraiser with puppets? Does Lisa Robin Kelly from That ’70s Show get naked? All these questions will be answered in the affirmative below.
The Good: Let’s not bury the lead. Amityville: Dollhouse is better than it has any right to be. It is the eighth Amityville Horror film and was released directly to video. Previous entries have not exactly set the world on fire. The preceding film 1992’s Amityville: It’s About Time featured a haunted clock, of all things. About Time however, was at least watchable. More than can be said for Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes with Patty Duke and Jane Wyatt, which featured a haunted lamp and is such a fiasco RiffTrax featured it in one of their theatrical releases. A haunted dollhouse is a step up for the series.
Much like the Leprechaun movies and the Children of the Corn movies, by the time we reach the eighth sequel, all attempts at world building, continuity, or common sense have long left the building. A wise writer and director can see this as an opportunity and a challenge. I mean, you have a budget and cast of eight people that can act. Why not see where this can go?
Amityville: Dollhouse turns the rating up to R. Reintroduces the incest subplot from Amityville II: The Possession, throws in a little Wishmaster vibe (Even though that film is still a year out at this point), and ends with a Hellraiser puppet show. The acting is solid across the board with Starr Andreeff giving an excellent performance as the new stepmother lusting after her husband’s son and Allen Cutler is superb in a tricky role of that jock son who is a decent guy and is oblivious to his stepmom watching him play basketball while drinking a very tall cool drink.
There is a kitchen sink approach to Amityville Dollhouse I admire. It checks all the boxes one would expect but then throws in giant rats and haunted dolls. Director Steve White and writer Joshua Michael Stern find the balance between family drama to set the scene and zombie dads to shake up that delicate balance.
The Bad: If I had to pick a character that doesn’t work, it would be the zombie dad. He is never really scary. The movie wisely doesn’t pretend that his geek son wouldn’t completely freak out when his dead father showed up looking like an extra from Dawn of the Dead. The idea that he could convince his son to kill the new father seemed so farfetched that the tension was never there. Had he appeared as a ghost dad rather than a zombie dad, it might have worked a touch better.
The Ugly: I am hard pressed to recall anyone actually dying in this film. There are some severe injuries and I believe an uncle may have stayed in Hellraiser land to fight the puppet demons to give the family a chance to escape. But those looking for a body count are bound to be disappointed and confused.
In Conclusion. I gave Amityville: Dollhouse the same score I gave The Godfather Part II. Is Amityville: Dollhouse a better movie than the fourth ranked movie of all time per IMDb? No. But it is fun and watchable and it doesn’t waste my time with an endless congressional hearing two hours into the film. I can recommend Amityville: Dollhouse as a fun movie, not in the so bad its good category but just simply as an above average genre flick that is not afraid to try anything.
Maggie has me occasionally watch an episode of the tv series Evil. Which for those who have not seen it, is basically X-Files meets The Exorcist. Anyway, in a season one episode called October 31 they had one of the skeptic characters tagging along with a send up of Ghost Hunters. (Spoiler Alert, the Ghost Hunter show is fake. I know.) They were investigating a haunted strip club. They used all sorts of electromagnetic field detectors to detect the spirits in the strip club. (Though as I pointed out to Maggie, if they really wanted to scare the audience, they would use a black light.)
Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, one room causes everyone in the Ghost Hunter squad and our skeptic to immediately get nosebleeds. My first thought is not ghosts. It is a carbon monoxide leak.
Leaving aside the built house where the deranged father burned family alive plot point. (Though in reality Amityville: Dollhouse never actually follows up this plot thread.) If Robin Thomas just rebuilt the house (And kept the fireplace) why does the newspaper look like it is from the forties? I mean a gigantic warehouse fire should cause more than 60k in damage.
Not for nothing, that is a pretty smart looking dollhouse with electric lights and a working chimney.
Carol Anne is that you?
Starr Andreeff sweats a lot in Amityville: Dollhouse
A giant rat right out of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors. Be still my heart.
If Amityville: Dollhouse had played its cards right, these could have been the Minions.
There are no helicopters in Amityville: Dollhouse but my favorite technique, a film dissolve transition, makes an appearance.
She is a bad girl because she drinks and smokes and is played by Lisa Robin Kelly
Not that being a bad girl is a bad thing.
I love the plot point where Starr Andreeff forbids Allen Cutler to see Lisa Robin Kelly out of a supposed concern that Lisa is trash when the audience knows that it is actually because of her own lust for the boy.
Unfortunately for Lisa Robin Kelly, this is a horror movie and not a forbidden romance film, so we know what happens to girls who like smoking, drinking and sex in horror movies.
Though Starr Andreeff emerges surprisingly unscathed even though she spends the entire film in heat.
The Last Temptation of Christ makes an impromptu appearance. Like I said, kitchen sink.
OMG she is a giant… Oh wait, I am in the dollhouse.
Just another Saturday night in Pasadena.
Rather brutalist design for a door handle. Honestly, just asking for trouble if you ask me.
When you learn your real dad was not that good a guy. The fact he is also a zombie is a clue.
I would watch these two in a buddy cop movie.
Rachel Duncan is two parts Carol Anne from Poltergeist and one part Newt from Aliens.
These Dark Side of the Moon concerts are much smaller than I remember them.
Alright movie you got me. Take your eight out of ten.
In my last few reviews, I have made a concerted effort to reduce the amount of screenshots. Starr Andreeff knocked me off that wagon. So enjoy some extra snaps sans commentary below.