Dollface

| September 17, 2015

If you’ve been waiting for a sequel to Tommy Faircloth’s 1995 slasher parody Crinoline Head, your wait is officially over. A full twenty years after the first film, its sequel is out now on home video under the title Dollface (changed from Dorchester’s Revenge: The Return of Crinoline Head, the title under which it played on the festival circuit). The film received some enthusiastic responses at horror festivals, but some of that had to have been from its cult audience happy to see ol’ Crinoline Head again. The real question is how it might hold up for new viewers to the series who never saw the first film. Unfortunately, the answer is “not very well.”

Twenty years after Crinoline Head’s killing spree, survivor Paul (Jason Vail) is a history professor. Two of his students have decided to do their mid-term project on the legend of Dorchester Stewart, better known as Crinoline Head. Paul tells the students the story of his encounter with the killer and shows them his dossier of information on Stewart. After class, David (Christian James) steals the folder and plans to head to the abandoned Stewart lake house with his partner James (Gunner Willis) for research. Their classmates Shelby (Kirsten Ray) and Donna (Leah Wiseman) decide to tag along so Shelby can spend some alone time with David, but after a rude welcome from cantankerous caretaker Betsy (Debbie Rochon), the four students get some unexpected company. Scott (Nicholas A. Sweezer) and his project partners have followed James and David to the Stewart house to steal their project. But when Crinoline Head shows up, everybody suddenly has a lot more than homework to worry about.

Maybe the biggest problem with Dollface is the fact that it’s 2015. There have been a number of thoughtful and funny takes on the slasher film since Crinoline Head that require a “parody” to do a lot more than just shoehorn some “jokes” into a bog-standard slasher formula, which is exactly what Dollface does. The only thing that really stands out as any kind of updating of the concept for modern day is a completely pointless subplot in which three drag queens on the way to a performance get lost and end up driving onto Crinoline Head’s property. Not surprisingly, these characters are written as catchphrase-spouting cannon fodder, which could potentially be offensive if every other character in the film weren’t written more or less exactly the same way. They’re all one-dimensional at best, and the dialogue is never quite outrageous enough to qualify as parody any more. Instead, the characters just come off as really dumb and hateful, which is exactly what viewers expect characters in a slasher film to be anyway.

The only part of the film that works as intended is Debbie Rochon as Betsy. Her running joke is that she makes a very obvious sexual innuendo and then explains it in graphic detail, which is funny at first but even that quickly becomes tiresome. The best part is that Betsy is the only major character in the film who is given any shading at all, and Rochon is a solid actress who sells it effortlessly. Everything else here is just 80s slasher by the numbers: dumb college kids, a hulking silent unkillable monster with a mask, cheap makeup and blood effects (including a deeply unconvincing severed head), lackadaisical continuity, and a depressingly predictable ending that sets up another adventure for Crinoline Head. There’s just nothing here that any slasher fan hasn’t seen done countless times before, and considerably better. This might be a good introduction to the form for anyone who hasn’t seen a slasher movie. But for anyone who has, Dollface doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

Vicious Circle Films/Breaking Glass Pictures released Dollface on DVD on 15 September 2015. Special features include cast auditions, outtakes, and deleted scenes.

About the Author:

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He is author of "The Unrepentant Cinephile," and a regular contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly as well as a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He is co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society and proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's "Guru, the Mad Monk." Follow his long-form film writing on Medium: www.medium.com/@rabbitroom

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