A party of four scientists have invited some friends around to tell of their travels to Africa and Haiti and their adventures in the world of what it widely called voodoo. Not that they believe any of that sort of thing, but one of the guests, Dr Karina (Elvira Quintana), is not so sceptical and warns them they had better not have disrupted any of the local customs or else they may well pay the price. But that is precisely what they have done, having "liberated" a stone idol from a ceremony they were spying on - could there be trouble ahead?
Yes there could, and Curse of the Doll People, or Muñecos infernales in its native Mexico, has a curious effect not only on its characters but its viewers as well. Voodoo being the main focus of the plot, as you might expect there are dolls involved, yet they are not Barbie-sized they are little person-sized. In fact, the voodoo dolls here carry out the revenge killings, and take the form of child-height figures that are pretty obviously midgets wearing masks, though those masks are made up to look like their victims as though their bodies have been shrunk and their expressionless faces stare blankly.
Therefore many a viewer of this can find themselves oddly creeped out by the sight of these creatures methodically making their way towards their slumbering victims, and it's true that although your head is telling yourself what you're seeing is ridiculous, the sincerity of the chills presented here do work up a charge of the bizarre. Not only are there those small murderers, who push poisoned needles into their prey, but there is a zombie in this for good measure, in contrast a very tall man wearing a mask, although you'll have to wait until nearer the end to see who is behind all this.
Meanwhile, much of the remaining tension is concerned with that old battle, the one between science and superstition. In Karina, you'd think we had the best of both worlds: a woman of medicine who is well aware of the power of black magic, but she is actually more on the superstition side of the divide, as is the film. What did you expect? It's only natural for Alfredo Salazar's script to have the courage of its convictions, and if the planned-for scares had nothing to back them up then Curse of the Doll People might have fallen unquestionably flat.
Even for a short movie, director Benito Alazraki makes a meal of things, and with Salazar on writing duties you half expect a Mexican wrestler to jump into shot and save the day. In truth, the finale where we meet the bad guy is like something out of an old serial, and if it's lacking an abundance of action it does have the requisite mind control and black goatee you would probably be looking out for in this kind of material. Dolls apart, much of the rest of the film is stagey and not helped by a low budget making it necessary for the actors to stand around discussing the situation rather than doing something constructive, but those dolls have unsettled plenty of unwary viewers over the years, and long may that continue.