At a dinner party the host, Luis (Jorge Mondragon) tells a story of how he and three others, John (Xavier Loya) Albert (Salvador Lozano) and Danny (Luis Aragon), were in Haiti and were witnesses to quite a few voodoo ceremonies. One of them was a secret ceremony which was taboo for outsiders to witness. The sacrifice was human.
Luis noticed an idol that the voodoo dancers were worshiping. Luis wanted it to add to his collection. The next night they went back to the voodoo temple and stole the small stone idol. Before they could make good their escape the voodoo priest Zandor (Quintin Bulnes) appeared. They ran but could hear the priest curse them and promise death to them and their relatives.
One of the dinner guests is Karina (Elvira Quintana), a doctor and an expert in voodoo rituals. She tells the host that witnessing the ceremony was forbidden and stealing the idol was sacrilege. He and the others as well as their families are now in danger of being killed. She tells them that the priest uses black magic to cast his spells. He can not only make zombies but can destroy his enemies as well.
Luis is not worried. He says that the voodoo priest promised that after thirteen moons one of the four will be dead. According to Luis that time is up at midnight five minutes from now. Outside a storm begins to rage. The sound wakes up Luis’s daughter and she calls to her father. Luis tries to calm her. She tells him that the doll she had been sleeping with got off the bed and walked away. Luis thinks she was dreaming and has her go back to sleep. On his way back downstairs to his guests he gasps and falls down the stairs. He is dead.
One by one the others that took part in stealing the idol are marked for death. The killers are voodoo dolls that Zandor has created by trapping the souls of his victims inside. His dolls are delivered to the intended victim by his servant, a zombie named Sabood. Zandor uses a combination of voodoo magic, and mind control to handle the voodoo dolls.
“The Curse of the Doll People” AKA “Muñecos infernales” (“Devil Doll”) was released in 1961 and was directed by Benito Alazraki. It is a low budget Mexican supernatural/ horror film. It was based on a novel by Abraham Merritt entitled “Burn Witch Burn” which appeared in serialized form in Argosy Weekly magazine in 1932. Tod Browning’s “The Devil Doll” 1936 with Lionel Barrymore is loosely based on Merritt’s story. Alazraki’s take on the story is much closer to what Merritt had written, and far creepier.
The killer dolls are little people wearing what looks like paper mache masks. The expression on the mask is fixed and it is quite a disturbing look as they tip toe around with their poison needles. The masks remind me of the bust of John List done for the television show “America’s Most Wanted”. The movie is a little campy and even a touch silly at times but effectively unsettling when the weird dolls are on screen.
For some people ventriloquist dummies are as freaky as clowns are to others. There is a phobia for everyone. You may like your collection of dolls but others may run screaming from the room when they fix their empty gaze on an unsuspecting person.
Mexican horror films from the fifties and sixties are almost a genre of their own thanks to K. Gordon Murray. He was a producer who purchased a bunch of Mexican films of various genres, many of them horror. He re-dubbed them into English and distributed them. Among them was “Curse of the Doll People”. Granted he probably did it for a buck but without him we wouldn’t have all these strange and wonderful horror movies.