Welcome to the inaugural article of my WTF Am I Watching series. Throughout this extended (barring my sudden death at 27 years old like some sort of coked out rockstar) collection of articles, I’ll be viewing bizarre horror films that most people have never even heard of and describing them to you in great detail. This week’s flick is Black Devil Doll From Hell, a mid-eighties blaxploitation horror film from writer/director Chester Turner.
Black Devil Doll From Hell begins with a nearly four-minute opening credit sequence in which several names appear against a fuzzy black background while a sampled beat of sinister funk (is that a genre?) plays on a repeated loop three or four times in full. In layman’s terms, it was long as fuck.
Once the credits finally wrap up, the viewer is met with a foreboding warning in regard to the terror they’re about to experience:
“We all have our personal horror stories to tell. May yours never be as devastating as Miss Helen Black’s.”
If I may backtrack for a moment… I watched Black Devil Doll From Hell on Shudder, and since I neglected to read the plot information, I had no idea exactly what I was getting myself into. Foolishly, I expected something more along the lines of Child’s Play, but, um, that’s not exactly the sort of devastation Helen Black would be faced with.
This was Turner’s directorial debut, and it shows from the very moment we see something other than words on the screen. I didn’t do my research on the particular subject, but the film appears to be shot on a standard 80’s home video recorder. The picture looks like something you’d find on a VHS tape in the dusty cabinet under your grandparent’s bulky box television. The opening scene is set in a church, and you’d be hard-pressed to believe that any of the characters are played by real actors. I 100% think that Turner filmed an actual church congregation, save for Shirley L. Jones, the lead actress, with a home video recorder, and turned it into the first scene of a movie. Some of the pew-sitting church members even glance directly into the camera! It’s quite charming.
What we learn from this opening church scene and the walk home that follows, however, is that Helen Black is as devout as Christians come. She follows the ten commandments to the letter, tries to bring sinners to the lord, and shuns any negative influence. She’s a virgin, and as she confesses to a friend over the phone, she intends to remain that way until she is married. At the time it was spoken, I really thought the bit about her virginity was just a throwaway line. I had no idea that the entire plot of this insane film was hinging on her sex life.
Not long after convincing her phone friend to attend church with her next Sunday, Ms. Helen Black visits some sort of thrift shop, where she becomes instantly fascinated by the antique doll of a black man. She asks the owner of the store for a price, and the owner is surprisingly straight-up with her about the doll’s supernatural abilities. In a bit of terribly acted exposition, the owner explains that the doll possesses the power to grant the deepest desires of the heart, and that every time someone purchases it, the doll eventually finds its way back to her shop.
Ms. Black laughs, sets the doll down, and begins to walk away while shaking her head at the silly story she’d just been told. However, when she reaches the doorway, she decides to buy the doll regardless of its supernatural power because either (A) she really doesn’t believe fables other than the bible, or (B) she DOES believe the story, and since she’s not the virgin Mary, God isn’t providing the D that her heart most desires.
That’s right, it’s quickly revealed after she purchases the doll that, despite what she’s preached throughout the thirty minutes of the movie so far, what she wants more than anything in the world is to get laid. Ms. Black keeps her innocent charade up while speaking with the doll upon returning home. She sets the doll on the toilet, begins to undress for a shower, and declares that the doll’s eyes are the only ones who will see her naked until she’s married.
While Helen bathes, the doll opens its eyes and looks around the bathroom, observing that his new owner is in the shower. He exhales an unexplained white mist, causing the shower curtain to slowly open by itself. Under the doll’s influence, Ms. Black experiences visions of herself and the doll having dirty, nipple-lickin’ sex, and she begins to touch herself without realizing exactly what she’s doing. When she eventually catches herself, she laments the dirty thoughts and pulls the shower curtain closed without so much as a thought as to why it opened by itself. Because that happens.
That night, Helen wakes from disturbing sex dreams to find the doll watching her. She removes the doll from the room, but it’s watching her yet again when she awakens the following morning. Inexplicably confused by the doll seeming to possess a supernatural power in which she’d already been warned about, Ms. Black ties the doll up inside of a closeted box before leaving the house for a few hours. To her surprise, the doll is still tied up when she returns home, so she decides to shower in peace.
As I mentioned before, I really expected Black Devil Doll From Hell to be something similar to Child’s Play. I was fully prepared to see a doll cussing, killing, and placing its soul in the bodies of small white children. What I didn’t plan on, however, was for this ridiculously cheap-looking puppet to attack Helen Black, knock her unconscious long enough to tie her to a bed, and rape her against her will while calling her “bitch” about a hundred times and degrading her very existence.
Also unplanned was the fact that Black Devil Doll From Hell becomes what is essentially softcore pornography. The doll has a tongue, and it uses it in more ways than one. Most unexpected, though, is that Ms. Black not only enjoyed her sexual experience, but complimented the doll’s sexual prowess and begged it not to stop. Talk about good girls gone wild.
After the moderately graphic seven minutes of doll on human sex (!!!), the doll vanishes, having fulfilled Helen’s deepest desire. Throughout the rest of the film, though, she grows increasingly lustful, but the missing doll has the only wood she craves. It’s wild, y’all.
Black Devil Doll From Hell is the type of horror movie that’s so bad, you’ll never be able to unsee it. Every aspect of the film is horribly executed, from the direction, editing and performances, to the in-your-face misogyny. I can’t at all recommend it, but I hope like hell that you watch it anyway.