I’m the kind of horror fan who goes the extra mile to find something I haven’t seen yet. I love the obscure, the rare and the unreleased. To say I collect horror films would be putting it lightly. More accurately speaking, I stop at NOTHING to get what I’m after. Money, travel and uncertainty can’t stand in the way of this fan. A perfect example is my recent hunt for the 1987 SOV flick “Doll Killer”.*
I first heard mention of this film back in 2009 on a (now closed) bootleg horror trading site. A guy there posted an ad copied from Craigslist in Veracruz, Mexico. It was a woman looking to have her late husband’s film restored to DVD from a VHS master copy. All it said was he was a big time Director, this was his only horror film and that she was looking into having it distributed. Responding to the advertisement was the only way to reply. 3 or 4 guys from the site said they sent emails but none of them heard back. The rare horror fan in me urged me to reply as well. Although I had no remastering abilities I thought it would be worth it to obtain it to atleast make a copy for myself and then maybe send it off to a professional company to do the actual remastering.
I went ahead and sent her an email, but like the others, I never heard back…until 2012. An email showed up one day in my Google spam folder that was titled “Doll Killer Horror Movie”. Obviously that caught my attention so I opened it. It was from the woman who placed that ad 3 years prior. This is a quote from her email to me: “Hello, my name is ——-. I placed an online ad a while ago about how I needed someone to copy my horror movie to DVD. Are you still interested in doing that for me? I am sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner.”
I promptly replied stating it was no problem and I would be glad to do that for her. In her next email she asked me where I lived and asked how far I was from the Mexico boarder. I hesitated (considering that is a strange question) but then asked her why. She didn’t respond for a couple weeks so I started to loose hope. Finally I got another email explaining that she didn’t want to mail the tape to anyone because it was eaten in her VCR and didn’t have any other copies. If it were lost or damaged in the mail she would loose her late husband’s only copy of his unreleased film. Since I had been considering a vacation from work anyways I compromised for her to pay for my gas, we worked out a few details and off I went a month later to her home outside Veracruz, Mexico.
It was a long drive and as I got closer the anticipation grew and grew inside me. What was this movie about? I had no details other than the name, it was unreleased, it was possibly badly damaged and could end up not even being worth the drive. But something kept me going. So far, this felt like the rarest horror film I had uncovered my whole life. I felt so close to it…I just had to get it and see what it was all about.
I arrived safely, however under strange circumstances. It was stormy so I got held back for about 4 hours and the Director’s wife wasn’t even home…but her brother(?) was. She left the tape with him. He met me at his door and wouldn’t even let me in. But that didn’t stop me from asking a few more questions. He seemed irritated or bothered and in a rush but he did tell me a few things: the Director used a fake name because he did a bunch of bigger movies with Christian overtones or something, that he died less than a year later from a questionable suicide/murder (!) and it was still just a “bunch of scenes” so his editor friend cut it together for his wife so she could try and still get it released for him. But she tried watching it after she got the only copy and her VCR ate the tape. He mentioned they “tried to fix the tape before”, and it appeared as though the tape had been (poorly) reassembled at some point. I thanked him, told him I would be in touch in the next couple weeks and I left.
I wasn’t able to watch movie until about a week later when I was back home and not at work trying to make up some hours. I was nervous to play it because this tape looked to be in bad shape. I borrowed a friend’s high tech VCR that he uses for transfers at his job and played it back on that, adjusting the image the best I could while I transferred it to my computer. I watched the film with no sound while it transferred and I was instantly captivated. When the transfer finished I immediately watched it over, this time with sound. This was the slasher film I had searched for my whole life. It not only lived up to my expectations but blew away most 80’s SOV slasher films I’ve seen. It was creepy, atmospheric, campy but also serious and meanspirited. Oh, and did I mention it takes place on Halloween?
After several more watches I began the “remastering” process myself. I spent my tax return on some new programs that promised to do the job. After lots of trial and error I began to finally see positive results. Finally in 2013, a remastered and finished version is done and a deal with Retro Slashers DVD has been made regarding it’s release. This movie will surprise fans and become an instant “must have” for collectors. It was worth the wild adventure obtaining it and I can’t wait for the rest of the world to finally see it!
*Yeah, this is definitely a modern meta project. But look for the DVD this year, as stated.
Related Link: Doll Killer Facebook