Alice is only six when she inherits an ancient but intricately beautiful doll-house from a recently deceased aunt she didn’t even know existed. Delighted at the unexpected gift, Alice begins to play with the little dolls inside the house and given her age, she isn’t even surprised when the figurines start to talk to her! But as days go by, a sinister entity in the dollhouse tries to strike a deal with her and haunts her well into her adult life.
Created by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, and Vince Locke, ‘The Dollhouse Family’ is supposed to be a spooky, retro horror tale, and for the most part, it does manage to be unsettling. It’s actually a six-part comic book series but I read the collected edition. The artwork is quite reminiscent of the styles used in superhero comics from the 80s & 90s, which meshes well with Alice’s timeline, as it’s the year 1979 when she comes into possession of the dollhouse.
Interestingly, the story doesn’t unfold chronologically, and there are two parallel plots running throughout the book. While the first one follows Alice through the 1980s and 90s, the chapters alternate between Alice’s adventures and an ancestor’s antics in the 1820s to trace the miniature house’s origins. At first, these chapters feel too disjointed from each other, because the historical flashbacks are slow, weird and seemingly random. It takes a while for a connection to be made between the two starkly different timelines, so some readers might find their interest wavering in the book mid-way.
The parts centered on Alice are intriguing, creepy, and coherent. She’s introduced as a young girl in a troubled home with an abusive father. To escape, she turns to her dollhouse, becoming deeply attached to its miniature family. However, as she matures, she uncovers the house’s malevolent nature and must find a way to rid herself of it. In contrast, the 19th-century subplot’s world-building is confusing and somewhat dull, despite its role in explaining the origins and potential destruction of ‘The Dollhouse Family.’ The ending feels a tad abrupt, but it’s a solid choice for horror comic fans.
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