Top 10 Creepy Doll Flicks!
Dolls are f*cking frightening. Seriously. I don't care if you're 6 or 60, that cherubic inanimate blob of plastic...the permanent smile, those beady eyes that always seem fixed in your direction...yeah, no thank you. To make things worse, dolls have increasingly become more and more lifelike over the years. Now they can talk, piss, blink, walk, cry...essentially simulate all affectations and mannerisms of a toddler. Again...terrifying. So terrifying in fact that horror movies have long riffed on such a toy, subverting the adorable innocence associated with dolls by turning them into manipulative murderers, if not mere harbingers of doom. As you might know, THE CURSE OF CHUCKY will be released soon straight to DVD, or if you saw THE CONJURING already, you know how f*cked-up the doll in that flick is. So, as always, that got us to recounting all the deleterious dolls that have graced the horror genre over the years. Find out which made the cut ahead in our Top 10 Creepy Doll Flicks!
At almost 50 years old, DEVIL DOLL is the oldest exemplar on our list...but by no means the tamest. Honestly, the film itself is pretty silly for most of the runtime, but the actual doll in the film remains one of the all time creepiest of its kind. I mean, just look at that f*cking face! Even more impressive is the fact that the doll Hugo was played by a female dwarf! The story sees a hypnotic, bat-shit ventriloquist who orders his main puppet to murder his female assistant, thereby winning a younger woman under his power. Can't get more heinous and manipulative than that!
Back when Amicus was churning out one sick-ass horror anthology after another, a story called MANNIKINS OF HORROR found its way into the 1972 flick ASYLUM. You remember that shite? If not, I urge you to revisit that sucker ASAP, as it's easily one of the earliest and best examples of a plastic miniature going balls-out bonkers! It also features, as CHILD'S PLAY does, the transference of evil to innocent souls, with teensy-tiny toys inhabiting human characteristics and eventually acting upon their fevered bloodlust.
Aside from his widely unseen film debut STYGIAN, DEAD SILENCE has to be James Wan's most underrated flick. After going the torture route with SAW, the dude flipped the script to give us more of a slow burning, visual horror experience....one littered with creepy ass puppets! The story revolves around the ghost of a murdered ventriloquist from the 17th century, but it's the lady's collection of Vaudeville era dolls in the flick that reanimate and exact bloody revenge on her twisted behalf. Shite gets gnarly!
I love Angela Bettis in MAY. So twisted, so troubled, yet so utterly vulnerable...you at once want to hug her tightly and push her the f*ck away. However, this is a different kind of doll we're talking about. Instead of a Lilliputian toy animating with deadly desire, in MAY, the title character becomes so lonely and unraveled that she begins to make a human doll out of the admired body parts of her acquaintances. A nose here, a set of hands there, a torso...until a full body is constructed. Deeply disturbing, but a great movie idea!
The 1988 psychological horror flick PIN is a refreshing entry to the creepy-doll subgenre, namely in the way the title character is portrayed. Instead of being an animated character that hacks people up, Pin is a lifeless, motionless anatomical figure that implants homicidal suggestion in the minds of its owners, a brother and sister named Leon and Ursula. Or at least, Pin becomes a scapegoat for such deplorable acts carried out by the troubled siblings. Many impugn PIN for being a second-rate PSYCHO knockoff, but that's pretty reductive, as the flick is quite a sturdy standalone mind-f*ck!
Maniacal mannequins in a murderous melee? Welcome to the TOURIST TRAP! In many ways, this 1979 horror flick predates a spate of terrifying 80s techno-thrillers, not to mention clearly inspired the look and M.O. of Jigsaw from the SAW movies (the bushy wig, white makeup and smeared lipstick). It also laid the foundation for director David Schmoeller's would go on to achieve in 1989 (more on that in a sec), although to me this flick doesn't hold up quite as well. Still, the idea of a sadistic mastermind controlling a race of lethal drones is in full effect.
If there was a Mount Rushmore of creepy-killer-doll flicks, you'd be hard-pressed to etch PUPPETMASTER off the precipice. Sure it has a frivolous tone, but David Schmoeller takes the conventions he put forward a decade earlier in TOURIST TRAP and makes a cheeky, fun-filled horror fantasy out of them. And you know why? It's the ingenuity of those little plastic bastards. They don't just slice and dice, many of them are specialists...one bitch has the ability to regurgitate leeches, another is skilled in gruesomely drilling craniums. Goddamn craftsmen!
At a brisk 77 minutes, the simply titled 1987 movie DOLLS is a whole lot of mothaf*cking fun! Why? Well, it's all in the title...the whole damn film centers on a mansion of haunted toys that - upon the arrival of a group of storm-evading travelers - wreak gory havoc upon their asses! Interestingly, the great Stuart Gordon was very interested in directing this film, and would go on to use the same sets in DOLLS for his RE-ANIMATOR follow-up FROM BEYOND. Gordon and his pals even helped create the sinister whispering sounds the DOLLS make in the film.
The shamefully under-viewed 1978 movie MAGIC, starring a young Anthony Hopkins, is a truly solid work of psychological horror. Hopkins plays a ventriloquist whose dummy Fats slowly reveals a murderous mind of its own. Or does it? The great thing about MAGIC is the ambiguous nature of the homicidal doll. Is the dummy alive and really butchering people, or is Hopkins simply going mad? No clear cut answers are provided, just eerie hints and off-kilter suggestions, leaving it up to the viewer to decide what really happens. Terrifying ambiguity done right!
"DON'T F*CK WITH THE CHUCK!!!" Brad Dourif's hysterical utterance of such a line in CHILD'S PLAY 3 will always stay with me, just as the iconic Chucky character will always reign supreme in the creepy doll subgenre. Come on now, the little bastard has carried his own franchise for a quarter-century! Kudos to Dourif for mining the humor out of a harrowing premise...the tone, tenor and one-liners I'd argue are what have endured the character for the last 25 years. Whatever the case, I know I'll always be jealous of the little foul-mouthed pile of plastic for banging Jennifer Tilly. So, so very unfair!