Damn. I just expected another crappy Amazon Prime horror movie when I selected Dolly Deadly for a night of enjoyment. But once I was hit with a nasty opening scene of a white trash woman using a beauty product on her head with really bad results that even get on her baby, I knew things were going to be way more enjoyable than I anticipated.
I was even more drawn in by the theme music used for the opening credits. Dolly Deadly totally catapulted me back to my teen years in the 80s, when I’d rent a movie from the video store that was even more bizarro than its intimidating cover art implied. This isn’t surprising if you read the bio of director Heidi Moore on her imdb page, for she “spent her youth watching b-movies on USA’s Up All Night.” I wish all of today’s horror directors had done the same.
Dolly Deadly is the perfect balance of fucking weird, disgusting, over-the-top, disturbing, darkly humorous, creepy, and tragic…WITHOUT any CGI. Imagine if Troma really cared about the quality of the sleaze they push on us, and you have Dolly Deadly. Not only does Moore nail the look, feel, and tone of 80s VHS horror, but she assembled a cast that seems to get exactly what she’s going for. You may not have heard of any of these actors, but they were all pretty much made to play these odd parts.
But the absolute standout is Justin Moore, the boy lead in the film. Not sure if he’s related to Heidi, but he is clearly completely on her wavelength, delivering a quirky, sad, demented performance while retaining an eerily natural sense of childhood innocence.
He plays a young boy being raised by his partying grandmother in a trailer park, and he lives in a fantasy world of dolls and magic shows because he’s teased and taunted by pretty much everyone, young and old.
His search for companionship gives us previews of his weirdo neighbors, while his delusions reveal the madness just lurking under the surface of his fragile young mind. Eventually, his dolls begin telling him to do awful things. So he dons a dress and a doll mask, choosing doll parts as his weapons of choice. Shit gets brutal….
While the final act brings out the slasher side of the film, this is more exploitation horror with a deeper, darker edge. Dolly Deadly can quite easily be interpreted as a queer film. So much so that I’m making it an honorary inclusion on my homo horror movies page.
While the boy’s sexual orientation and gender identity are never specified, he is a social outcast that loves to play with dolls, is quite theatrical and flamboyant, is harassed because of it, and has all the classic “mommy” issues, complete with an imaginary female doll friend (she’s freaky as fuck) that serves as his inner voice.
There are also visual rainbow references, plus various references to anal penetration sprinkled throughout the film, which always seem to come up when the boy, who is essentially trying to find himself, is having very adult conversations with the only men who treat him kindly.
Even drag identity comes into play by the end of the film. Dolly Deadly is definitely one for enthusiasts of queer subtext in horror.