director Chester Novell Turner
I’m glad to live in a world where such a film as Black Devil Doll from Hell exists. Really, the odds against such a thing are so incalculable. That could well be said about any shot-on-video horror films from the 1980’s, DIY projects with limited access to quality tools, techniques, talent, audience, and distribution, labors of love. Even more so, outside of even the realm of white America.
Black Devil Doll from Hell is unique, and yet like other bizarre samples of outsider art, feels like a missive from the collective unconscious of American culture.
Many critiques I read of the film fault its weaknesses in production, its unimaginative camera-work, its slowness. But I have to say, it’s such a fascinating artifact, that if anything I was drawn to its qualities, not its shortcomings, of its production. Consider a totally unschooled amateur artist working just simply from the bare tools available (not top of the line camcorder of the day) and zero training save Chester Novell Turner’s own experience of cinema.
The picture is psychologically dark. It’s the story of an abusive relationship, a young, inexperienced woman discovering her sexuality with a controlling and violent, foul-mouthed boyfriend. Only in this case, the boyfriend is a ventriloquist dummy with braided hair a-la of the day Rick James. As much as it fits in that strange subcategory of horror around living dolls and dummies, the story is as real a tale of abuse as any.
I’ve wanted to see this ever since I first heard of it. I don’t know how to classify it with a star rating, but it in no way disappointed in its glorious weirdness.