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A girl is held captive in some abandoned building. She manages to free herself while her captor is somewhere praying while holding some creepy little figurines. When he hears the girl he puts the figures away in a box and cloth bag and goes chasing after her with his drill that has a giant bit reminiscent of The Slumber Party Massacre--one of my favorite movies. As she escapes the building, she runs into a cop who's looking for her. That allows our villain to put to drill to some very good use. But another cop shows up and kills him. Now this is a great intro! While the cops are in the car some scary lady appears demanding the cops give her box with the figurines. Of course it's evidence so they can't give it to her. Yet somehow the box ends up in the hands of the cop's daughter and estranged wife, who has some crafts store. The girl makes some pendants and bracelets with the creepy figurines which for some reason all the customer find so cool and by them all up right away. The girl keeps one of them though.
Sure enough, one guy who gets a figurine pendant from his girlfriend goes nuts after becoming very pale at a convenience store and kills the worker there and is shot by the owner afterwards. Not only that, but he leaves a bloody sign painted in blood. This intrigues the cops because it's the sign that the serial killer from the intro used.
Next, the cop's daughter goes pale and nuts and kills the beautiful family Rottweiler. She's then quickly taken to the hospital where the problem is initially attributed to her epilepsy.
Then a family friend gives another figurine pendant to her husband who goes bonkers, kills the gardener and then attacks the wife just as the cop arrives. When the cop finds the figurine he decides to visit the crazy woman from before who wanted the box. Turns out she adopted the abandoned serial killer when he was a child. The figurines, or worry dolls or more accurately translated, sorrow dolls, come from Guatemalan lore and are designed to remove someone's sorrows and pains. Her grandparents were from Guatemala. But in the case of the serial killer since he was innocent and yet consumed with hate, the sorrow dolls ended up transmitting the hate. The solution is for the cop and his sidekick to collect all the dolls with the box and deliver them to her by dawn. He succeeds but there's a twist.
Devil's Dolls won me over with the brutal intro. Unfortunately, it doesn't keep up the intensity probably for budgetary reasons. We could have used at least one more doll/killer/victim. For some reason it doesn't focus enough, literally, on the dolls. They are small and creepy but the camera doesn't zoom in at any point, and for some reason no one looks at them carefully, even though they are unusual and striking. The wonderful intro credit scene featuring sights of Mississippi plus the dolls themselves which have some wooden structure reminded me of the first season of True Detective. I found the script smarter than usual. It handles for instance the relationship between the cop, his (ex)wife, and her new guy very well. The background of the dolls is also interesting. Casting is strong, most of the ladies are attractive. Christopher Wiehl who multitasked as producer and writer as well, occasionally delivers an unconvincing performance as the detective.
I found that this movie delivers more than most horror movies these days. And it's the stuff that I like--strong kills, a novel deeper story, it features a Rottweiler who can't escape the usual dog fate in movies. One nice touch is that the filmmakers thank the audience at the end for watching the movie, something I wonder why not more do. I highly recommend Devil's Dolls, it's better than the score here would lead you to believe.
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