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Ragdoll (1999)

Director: Ted Nicolaou
Starring: Russell Richardson, Jennia Watson, Tarnell Poindexter, Bill Davis, Danny Wooten, William Johnson, Troy Medley, Frederick D. Tucker, Freda Payne
Rated R   90 minutes

Charles Band strikes again with another of his killer puppets. This time it’s a voodoo-themed revenge story set against a musical backdrop. Kwame (Russell Richardson) and his friends are in an up-and-coming hip-hop group. They are approached by ruthless gangster named Pere who makes them an offer they can’t refuse: let him become their manager, or else. Frustrated and angry, Kwame publicly refuses the offer and insults Pere in the process. To show that he means business, Pere sends his thugs over to beat up Kwame’s voodoo priestess grandma (Freda Payne). Despite his grandma’s warning that placing a curse on a person always has unintended consequences, Kwame performs a ritual to get revenge on Pere and his henchmen. He winds up summoning the mysterious Shadow Man, who brings a creepy-looking ragdoll to life and unleashes it on Kwame’s enemies.

 If you’ve ever seen a Full Moon production before, then you already know what to expect. RAGDOLL is no exception. It is technically well-made with passable acting and and a fluff storyline that ultimately serves as a vehicle for some sort of puppet or creature. This time it’s the pretty wild-looking ragdoll (created by Shaun Smith and David Barton). Imagine Aunt Jemima crossed with the Zuni fetish doll from TRILOGY OF TERROR, and that will give you some idea about what this thing looks like. The doll has the power to appear and disappear at any time and in any place, which leads to several very funny attack scenes.

 Director Ted Nicolaou does a good job of not showing too much of the (obvious) puppet, and actually manages to keep the element of surprise working in the film’s favor. The rest of the movie is fairly ho-hum. The cast is unremarkable, with the exception of William Stanford Davis as the gangster Pere and James Black as Lil’ Mikey. At least, I think it’s James Black. The credits give the name “Tarnell Poindexter,” while other sources say James Black. In any case, he gives a very fun, standout performance as the flamboyant and fabulous gang enforcer, Lil’ Mikey. There are also lots of musical performances to pad out the running time, but you’ll probably just fast forward through them to get to the ragdoll attack scenes. Not the worst Full Moon movie out there, but far from the best, as well.

2.5 out of 5

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