Black Devil Doll from Hell

03/08/2022 09:54

Film: Black Devil Doll from Hell

Year: 1984

Director: Chester Novell Turner

Writer: Chester Novell Turner

Starring: Shirley L. Jones, Ricky Roach and Chester Tankersley



This is a movie that I didn’t learn about until getting into horror movie podcasts. I believe it was the 22 Shots of Moodz and Horror that covered this movie. They also brought up how this is one of the rarest VHS films to find. As I was searching down watching this movie, I also found out it was Shot on Video. This might mark the first time I’m seeing a SOV movie, which is shocking. What made me seek it out was for my Black appreciation episode here in February on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. The synopsis is a woman buys a doll at a magic shop. Unbeknownst to her, the doll is possessed by an evil spirit and it proceeds to take her over.

For this movie, we start in a church. Reverend Obie Dunson (portrayed as himself) is giving a sermon. We then see Helen Black (Shirley L. Jones) in attendance and she walks home. As she does, she is accosted by Ricky Roach, who is trying to sell her stolen items. She tries to ignore him and she scolds him as a sinner. Helen is deeply religious. Her house as a lot of icons and we hear her scold her friend Barbara (Kathleen Turner) over the phone. She is trying to hook up Helen with a friend, but she thinks all he wants is to sleep with her.

Helen then goes to a local store. She sees a lot of interesting items, but she is drawn to a black puppet. She decides to buy it and the salesperson (Maris Sainvilvs) gives her the backstory. It is supposed to have magical powers. She claims to have sold is four different times, it has granted that person’s deepest wish, before returning to the store. Upon writing this, it makes me question how she knows it granted their wish, but I’ll digress.

When she gets home, she takes the doll out of the box and puts it in the bathroom. She gets in the shower and the curtain is pulled back. Helen is usually modest, but we see her as she pleasures herself. She is fantasizing about the doll doing different things to her. She also has a dream about it. This dream becomes a nightmare as the doll attacks. She wakes up with the doll in her room and she isn’t sure how it got there. She puts it back in the bathroom and again, it ends up in her room. Helen then tries to put it in the closet, where it seems to stay.

Helen’s nightmare comes true when the doll attacks her when she returns home. This nightmare might be a fever dream as it opens Helen’s repressed sexual desires. She can’t find the doll though. It makes you question if the doll attacks her or is this all in her head?

That is where I’m going to leave my recap for the movie as there isn’t a lot to the story. They’re working with a small budget here, so that is part of it. Where I’ll start with my breakdown is that I like the premise here. I’m questioning how the saleslady knew some of what she did. I could piece together stories here that her deepest wish was to make money off it. This isn’t necessarily a plot hole, but it is something that isn’t fleshed out. I want you to know, this doesn’t ruin the movie.

Where I want to delve into is with the character of Helen. The movie does well in setting up that she is religious. We see that through her interaction with guy who stole things and trying to sell it to her. We also get that from her conversation with Barbara. I like that this doll is unlocking her deepest desires. I can pull commentary here about repression. That is what religion is known for. The commentary here is that religion has repressed this desire. This doll is going the complete opposite and making her almost a nymphomaniac. There is a happy medium here of moderation. That is what I take from this.

Shifting over to the doll disappearing. Helen having tasted the forbidden fruit calls off from work. She tries to take her mind off the ecstasy she felt by cleaning. When that doesn’t work, she seeks out a couple of lovers. Neither can fulfill this feeling that she got from being with the doll. This might be me reaching, but this almost seems like she lost her virginity to a man who wasn’t good for her and left her. She is chasing that high of how he made her feel. The problem is that nothing compares. It then becomes sticking with a bad person, just for that.

Since there isn’t much more to the story, I’ll go over to the acting. I’m not going to be too harsh here as this is amateur. I think that Jones is fine as Helen. Everyone’s acting is wooden. I will give credit to her for being nude in this movie as much as she is. She has a good body. The rest of the cast is subpar if I’m honest. I did find the voice of the doll funny. It is done by Keefe L. Turner and it is quite deep. It did make me laugh.

Moving from that, I’ll finish out with the effects, cinematography and the soundtrack. For the former, what they do with making this doll come to life was solid. Having a puppet is strategic. They’re able to position it in ways where someone could control it without being seen and that worked. They also had a child made up to look like it from behind, which also worked. The doll is quite creepy if I’m honest. The little bit of blood we get and how it ends was fine. The cinematography is hard to judge with the copy I watched. They don’t do a lot with the camera and part of that could be it being shot on video. The sound quality wasn’t great either. The music they used, I liked. The problem is that it is too repetitive. It feels like they used the sound from the camera so it is as blown out as the images on the screen. That makes it difficult to judge for me as well.

So then in conclusion here, this isn’t great, but I also can’t judge it too harshly due to the budget. I will give credit here that they made a movie. The concept we are getting here isn’t the most complex, but it does work for me. There are some interesting ideas being explored. It doesn’t go as far as I would have liked though. The acting is amateur. We get limited effects, but there are good aspects there. I like what they do with some of the soundtrack, but it is a bit too blown out with the room noise. The images are similar with how it was shot. It makes it difficult to see and hear at times. Keeping it in perspective, I find this below average. There are good things here, but too many issues for me to go higher than that. We are getting some promising things here. I do want to make that known. It just falls short.


My Rating: 4 out of 10