We’re only a short breath away from the release of Child’s Play in theaters. For those unaware, this is a reboot of the original 1988 horror film of the same name. Chucky is coming back to play, and this time Jedi Master Mark Hamill will be uttering the sinister vocals behind the murderous doll. At the time of the film’s initial release, the iconic doll struck terror into the hearts of movie-goers everywhere. Chucky left such a deep scar in our minds that we returned for more of his torment for several more films.
Chucky is truly one of the most frightening dolls of all time. However, he is far from the only one. Horror films have embraced the fear factor behind the vacant marble eyes of countless dolls in horror cinema history.
This one is fresh. Anabelle is a creation of modern horror master James Wan. She entered the scene as merely an introduction to the first critically-praised film in a sprawling horror universe, The Conjuring. Despite her brief moment in the spotlight, she left an indelible impact on both the filmmakers and the audience.
That earned the demon-possessed plaything an entire trilogy of films with the third set to release later this year. While the scare-factor for Anabelle is really viewed as the demon that has been tied to the doll rather than the doll itself, her pale, unwavering expression always manages to stoke our fears of the unpredictable nature we often seek in the horror genre – a fear of the unknown and what comes next.
Another James Wan original, Jigsaw was definitely a real person made of flesh and blood in the Saw series of films. But his victims only saw the face of his devilish puppet before meeting their demise.
For the victims, there was nothing more frightening than waking up in a precarious position only to see the pale puppet with eyes as black as the killer’s own soul take center stage while introducing them to their fate. As a killer, Jigsaw was widely feared. But for the longest time, his puppet was the face of his reign of terror.
8 Zuni Hunter Doll
Perhaps the star of the Trilogy of Terror, the Zuni Fetish Doll is the primary antagonist in the short film Amelia as part of this anthology series. In the film, Amelia lives all by herself in an apartment when she receives the aboriginal doll. Cryptic instructions packaged with doll indicate that a Zuni hunter’s spirit known as “He Who Kills” is trapped within the confines of the doll due to a gold chain around the doll.
At some point, the gold chain falls off the doll, and that’s when all hell breaks loose. The rest of the film is Amelia’s frantic pursuit of survival as the doll terrorizes her in her apartment. It’s easy to see the parallels between this 70’s film and Child’s Play.
7 Dolly Dearest
Like most horror films centered around evil dolls, Dolly Dearest is the vessel of an evil demonic spirit. Only this time, the spirit within the doll begins to manipulate the doll’s new owner – a young girl named Jessica. Eventually, the spirit fully possesses Jessica, causing her to become every parent’s worst nightmare.
Later, when Jessica becomes separated from Dolly, the spirit uses the doll to take matters into its own hands. From that point forward, Jessica and her family do everything they can to survive the ensuing horror.
The 80s horror film simply titled Dolls is, perhaps, the most qualified movie for this list. In the film, a family with a young child and a couple of hitchhikers are invited into a countryside home by its elderly owners in order to escape an intense thunderstorm. The elderly husband, Gabriel, happens to be a toy maker, and the house is littered with his work. Dolls and toys are prominently displayed all over. The couple harbors a dark secret, however. Using a bit of magic, they’ve imbued the toys with life who will ultimately attack those who’ve become cynical adults.
Frankly, the individuals seeking refuge from the storm are horrible people and hilariously fall prey to the homeowners’ dark secret, as the dolls attack those of the group with perceivably bad hearts who have fully rejected the innocence of childhood.
5 Ventriloquist Dolls From Dead Silence
If you ever wanted to watch a film about creepy ventriloquist dummies, Dead Silence is your best bet. In fact, there are over 100 dolls in the film, all emanating the same skin-crawling gaze from their faces. The dolls themselves aren’t actually entities on their own, but merely pawns of terror used by the wicked spirit of Mary Shaw.
In life, she was a ventriloquist who received the greatest embarrassment of her career when a heckler indicated she didn’t have the talent for the performance art. Sometime later, the same critic had gone missing. The family of the individual accused Shaw and murdered her in cold blood. Ever since then, her spirit has taken vengeance on unsuspecting victims who scream when they see her or her frightening dummies.
For one unfortunate nanny, Brahms was an unexpected surprise in the 2016 film The Boy. Greta Evans was tasked with caring for an elderly couple’s young son. However, she didn’t anticipate the son taking the form of a porcelain doll. Before the elderly couple departs on a vacation, they provide Greta with several rules to follow when caring from Brahms. Like any sane person, she believes this couple to be utterly insane and ignores the rules, simply enjoying the big house and pay for what seems to be an easy job.
Eventually, mysterious things start occurring, like the doll reappearing in different locations or the distinct sounds of a person emanating from somewhere within the home. While Greta begins to insinuate that maybe something supernatural is afoot, things aren’t quite as they seem. We won’t spoil it here. But if you haven’t seen the film, it’s worth at least a single viewing.
3 Clown Doll – Poltergeist
For only a few minutes tops of screen time, this creepy clown doll probably left a mark on any impressionable youth of the 80s – and even now. The youngest boy in the Freeling family, Robbie Freeling, was subjected to the terror of this doll. Like most kids, he was already on edge going to bed in the dark of his room when he spotted the creepy clown doll sitting in a chair facing his bed. He attempted to throw a blanket over it but missed. Not about to get up and go near the doll, little Robbie shrugged it off and went to sleep.
Moments later, he realized the doll was no longer in its chair. After scoping out the dark space underneath his bed, the doll attacked, attempting to pull him under. It’s safe to say that Robbie likely would eventually require counseling from his scarring experience.
Despite a rebooted version of Chucky on the way, this list just wouldn’t feel complete without mentioning the murderous doll that was the subject matter of 7 films from 1988 to 2017. By now, Chucky is a pop culture icon and many know his story. Using a voodoo spell, Charles Lee Ray – a serial killer – transfers his soul into the doll that’d be his vessel for many films to come in an effort to avoid certain death.
Like Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, or Michael Myers, Chucky has become synonymous with the horror trope of the unstoppable villain that seems to survive the most unlikely scenarios. Chucky is certainly always waiting for his next opportunity to strike.
In a film centered around murderous animated dolls – or puppets – Blade leads the pack of evil-doing puppets in the 80s film Puppet Master. Of all the puppets in this film, Blade isn’t only the leader, but also the creepiest of the bunch with his pale skull-like face, black sunken eyes, and a hook and blade for each of his hands.
In 1939, the creator of Blade and his puppet cohorts killed himself in the early moments of the movie to avoid being confronted by Nazi spies. In reality, the puppet maker was an alchemist who discovered the secret to bringing objects like these puppets to life. Fifty years later, the puppets seek to eliminate the ones who could potentially learn that secret. For a few, it ends badly as one would expect.