The Last Horror Blog: These Are the Freakiest Dolls the Movies Have Ever Given Us

The Last Horror Blog: These Are the Freakiest Dolls the Movies Have Ever Given Us

Oct 03, 2014

Annabelle doll

Dolls may be thought of as children’s playthings, but there’s no denying that they can be a little creepy in the right circumstances. Horror filmmakers have been using the dark side of these treasured toys to create terror for years (you can go back all the way to 1945’s Dead of Night – a British anthology film that featured a segment about a ventriloquist’s dummy that may have been alive. There are even earlier examples of the concept in horror history), and they’re about to take another stab at it with the release of Annabelle this week.

Annabelle features the creepy doll that first turned up in James Wan’s The Conjuring. The allegedly real demonic toy (that was kept by demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren) is set to reveal her own backstory in the new film – and folks with pediophobia (which is the scientific name for a fear of dolls and not pedophiles) should be prepared to freak out.

To help get you ready for Annabelle’s big moment, I’ve concocted this killer list of other murderous-doll flicks. Turn out the lights and lock the toybox before watching these tiny tales of terror.

Chucky in Child’s Play

It wouldn’t make sense to start this list off with anyone other than Chucky. The killer doll at the heart of the Child’s Play series is arguably the most famous killer toy in horror-film history. The star of countless films (including last year’s Curse of Chucky), the Good Guy gone bad has a wit as sharp as the implements he uses to dispatch unwary adults.

While Chucky has suffered a bit of what I like to call “Freddy Krueger syndrome” over the years (meaning he’s become more of a wisecracking antihero than purely evil malevolent force), he’s still the king of the killer dolls, thanks in no small part to his backstory (serial killer Charles Lee Ray performs a voodoo ritual that puts his soul into the doll) and a fantastic voice acting performance from Brad Dourif. The mix of humor and horror makes Chucky a good place to start for people who find dolls totally freaky.

The Dolls in Dolls

Dolls Stuart Gordon

If we start with Chucky, it only makes sense that we go to the second most obvious choice next – with a title like Dolls, you pretty much know exactly what you’re getting as soon as you pick up the box.

Stuart Gordon directed this Italian-American production, which is really a whole lot better than you’d expect given the rather generic title. Six travelers find themselves stranded at the doll-filled mansion of toymakers Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke – and as you can probably guess, the dolls aren’t just harmless toys.

What at first appears to be a sort of gothic slasher movie soon morphs into more of a twisted fairy tale about the nature of growing older and growing up. The dolls live up to their top billing and are sure to induce many sleepless nights in folks who worry that their toys are secretly plotting against them.

Blade in Puppet Master

Blade Puppet Master

This gaunt-faced killer with a knife and hook combo in place of his hands isn’t the kind of toy you’d expect good things from – which is fitting, because Puppet Master’s Blade is one bad little dude.

The star of Full Moon’s Puppet Master franchise has a long and storied history, and was designed by his creator based on a Gestapo major. The character has the distinction of appearing in all of the Puppet Master films (which make for a pretty great marathon if you’re bored one weekend), and is sure to haunt your dreams.

Fats in Magic

Fats Magic Anthony Hopkins

If we’ve learned anything so far, it’s that dolls can be really unsettling – but ventriloquist dummies might be the most disturbing things of all. Horror films have always loved to play with the concept of the talking dolls coming to life, from the aforementioned Dead of Night to Devil Doll in 1964 to 1978’s Magic.

This psychological horror film isn’t your standard genre affair – it was directed by William Attenborough. It has Anthony Hopkins in the lead role. It’s based on a book by William Goldman. That alone should make you sit up and take notice.

However, what really makes Magic so unforgettable is Fats, the ventriloquist dummy at the heart of the story. Fats is an unnatural-looking doll, and he makes the perfect foil for Hopkins’ descent into madness. You’ll never look at a Jeff Dunham special in the same way again – which is probably a good thing.

Pin in Pin: A Plastic Nightmare

Pin: A Plastic Nightmare

For my money, Pin is the creepiest doll on the list – he’s one of those anatomical figures with no skin so he can show human musculature and the like. When the doctor who owns Pin uses ventriloquism (ventriloquism is apparently a bigger doorway to evil than Dungeons & Dragons and heavy metal music combined) to help teach his children about bodily functions, it has a strange influence on one of the kids.

I don’t really want to say a whole lot more about Pin, because it’s a weird little film that’s best viewed cold. The less you know going in, the more likely you are to get wrapped up in the gauzy nightmare world filmmaker Sandor Stern has created. Pin is one of those movies that will get under your skin and linger with you long after you finish watching it – and not just because it has a super-freaky-looking doll running around.

The Zuni Fetish Doll in Trilogy of Terror

Zuni Fetish Doll Trilogy of Terror

Like Blade from the Puppet Master series, no one’s really going to want to cuddle up with the Zuni Fetish Doll that takes center stage in the 1975 anthology feature Trilogy of Terror.

The figure, which menaces Karen Black in the unforgettable sequence, is a miniaturized aboriginal warrior with razor sharp teeth, a deadly spear, and a really bad attitude. The figure winds up in Black’s life thanks to the postal system, and next thing you know the duo are locked in a life and death struggle inside her fancy apartment.

The lesson here? If you get any strange African dolls in the mail, reseal the box immediately and return it to the sender. You don’t want a Zuni Fetish figure running amok in your home.

Billy in the Saw franchise

Billy from Saw

We wrap things up with Billy, the oddly named puppet who often serves as a demented stand-in for Jigsaw in the various Saw films.

This little doll is terrifying to look at, then he opens his mouth and it gets even scarier. The voice is unsettling, but the words he’s often spouting to his victims are even worse. Billy’s all about asking you to play games, but the games really aren’t all that fun – unless you consider being forced to make horrific life or death choices the perfect night out.

I’m not sure why Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell decided to use a doll as Jigsaw’s proxy, but it was a brilliant call. In fact, Billy is far more creepy than Tobin Bell actually is in the films.

 

 

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