Voodoo Dolls (1990)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2011-11-07 02:55

Written by: Harriette Vidal
Directed by: Andrée Pelletier
Starring: Grace Phillips, Nathalie Gauthier and Maria Stanton

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

Set in an all girls school near New Orleans and carrying a title like Voodoo Dolls, at worst, you’d think this was a porno flick. At best, maybe a nice, silly 80s teen comedy; that it hails from Canada feels like an even bigger missed opportunity in that regards because, as the Screwballs movies proved, nothing is quite as funny as the Great White North trying to capture the American high school scene. But alas, no, Voodoo Dolls is just a bad horror movie that was churned out as the calendar rolled into the 90s, meaning it has faded into obscurity more quickly than its brethren from the previous decade.

Now that’s it been unearthed by Code Red, we know that it is indeed centered around a private school for chicks. To no one’s surprise, it’s got a sordid past that involves being built on some infertile farm land, plus its sleazy founder was murdered by a jealous student who caught him in bed with a couple of her classmates. All of this is apparently important because it helps to explain why our main character, Vanessa (Grace Phillips), experiences weird things in her room, such as objects moving on her own and her whorish roommate (okay, that part’s just inexplicable). The strange, mysterious voodoo rituals and the discovery of a mysterious book down in the bowels of the school’s basement probably have something to do with it too.

Not that you’ll particularly care since Voodoo Dolls often feels like less of a horror movie and more like a bad, cheap episode of 90210. You’ll spend much of your time with these semi-catty girls, all of whom fawn over the new school president (who is a descendent of the butchered founder--apparently, statutory rape runs in the family). Every now and then, other amusing figures appear, such as a peeping tom janitor who peers through a hole to check out the girl’s locker room. I can only imagine that the boys at Angel Beach high would be proud. Of the 9 girls that are apparently enrolled at the school, Vanessa’s bunkmate is certainly the most fun, if only for her unabashed promiscuity. She’s so committed to whoredom that she insists on sleeping in the bed next to the window so it’ll be easier for guys to sneak in and out at night.

But, man, are the rest of these gals kind of a drag, especially the closet lesbian who mopes around and makes thinly veiled advances at the other girls. Maybe they were going for a Carrie vibe here--I don’t know, as she’s not really in the movie enough to be of note. A truly scatterbrained effort, Voodoo Dolls sure does have a lot going on considering nothing really happens. At the center of it all is a play that the girls are going to put on; subbing in for Twelfth Night, it’s adapted from that weird book that one of the girls stumbles upon. They probably should have stuck with the Bard--not only because the new play seems to be written by a 12 year old, but also because it’s connected to a voodoo ritual (I think). A bunch of the gals get hacked up along the way, but, as Freddie Mercury once said, the show must go on, even if half of your cast is dismembered.

Said dismemberments are decently realized; as the Canadian film industry appeared to be going bankrupt during the production of Voodoo Dolls, it comes as no surprise that the effects are kind of crude. Likewise, the sets are low-rent, but the lighting does manage to capture an eerie vibe from time to time. This is sort of a cornucopia horror flick, as it’s trying to do spooky haunted house fare (complete with a reference to The Changeling, so you‘re continuously reminded of better Canadian movies), slasher mayhem, and even weird voodoo stuff. The latter is especially funny because we’re often transported down to the basement, where we see a priest doing some kind of rites involving dolls (which seem to exhibit more life than the dolls in the cast).

In fact, most of the cast is just kind of sleepwalking through this; the guy who plays another one of the school’s handymen sounds especially bored, which is just as well--he must have anticipated what it would be like to watch Voodoo Dolls. Hardly a riveting affair outside of some neat black and white sequences and the bloody climax (which is admittedly just repeats the opening scene, but, hey, blood!), this is probably the least amount of fun you’ll ever have with chicks in New Orleans (well, besides post Mardi Gras herpes). I don’t know how Code Red finds this stuff, but they at least give it a decent DVD release; the transfer is full frame, which may or may not be correct (this certainly feels like it could be a TV movie, for all intents and purposes). The sound is more muffled than you might be used to, so be prepared to crank up the volume. It arrives alongside another Canadian thriller (which I actually hope is thrilling), Madonna: A Case of Blood Ambition, but there’s no special features for either. Instead, enjoy some Code Red trailers, an introduction from former Maria Kanellis, and a music video from the former WWE diva. Like its goofy voodoo priest, Voodoo Dolls dwells down in a deep, dark basement and should probably be hidden from view unless you’re really brave. Rent it!

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