Why is it that as soon as you plonk a doll into any horror movie, that film suddenly becomes even more terrifying than it was before? Seriously, even the nice-looking ones like Barbie still harbor the potential to snap and jam a shard of broken Dreamhouse into your esophagus, and then giggle like madman as you choke to death.
Perhaps the answer lies in The Uncanny Valley, which is a theory of positing that the closer an imitation of a human face gets to pure replication, the creepier it is.
Case and point.
So we’re all agreed then that dolls are bloody terrifying and, to add a decent dose of terror to your day — here’s a list (in no particular order) of 10 in horror movies:
Creepy horror doll: The Clown
To be honest, it’s completely beyond me how little Robbie slept with this terrifying clown doll in the corner of his bedroom in the first place, let alone after his house was taken over by otherworldly spirits in the 1982 horror movie, Poltergeist — forget the 2015 remake. Of course, the clown is evil — all of them are — and sneaks up behind the kid, wraps his candy-colored extendable arm of death around his neck and then drags him under the bed. No thanks.
Creepy horror doll: Amy
Basically a retelling of Frankenstein with nods to Carrie, Psycho and Ms. 45, May is a deadpan, gory-as-all-hell horror movie delivered in a sick, twisted and often hilarious manner. On the lookout for love, oddball misfit with a lazy eye May’s endearing strangeness attracts two potential suitors — though, when they both fail, her actions turn murderous, spurred on, of course, by the creepy-ass doll she keeps in her bedroom.
3. Child’s Play
Creepy horror doll: Chucky
He’ll “be your friend to the end.”
A horror genre classic, Child’s Play is less toy-sets and candy and more one butt-ugly doll possessed with the soul of a serial killer. Essentially a Cabbage Patch Kid gone nuts, Chucky commits multiple murders and his owner, Alex, gets the blame. The film may be a little dated, but it still gets a NOPE from me.
Creepy horror doll: Fats
Automatonophobia — the fear of anything that falsely represents a sentient being — or pupaphobia — the fear of puppets and marionettes — are phobias for a reason, guys. Fats is an evil ventriloquist doll who forces his owner Corky to murder his manager. Fats then stabs Corky’s lover’s husband and then tries to get Corky to murder his lover — because dolls are weird, jealous and disturbingly dependent.
5. The Conjuring
Creepy horror doll: Annabelle
Based on the real life of “paranormal investigators” Ed and Lorraine Warren, the plot circulates around the mother of all haunted houses on Rhode Island, but what most people remember about this damn scary movie is the side story of the doll, Annabelle. Her presence alone is enough to make you tremble and that face — just, no. What makes her so terrifying is down to the minimalistic way James Wan injected her into the storyline — something the 2014 titular movie totally failed to do — skip it.
6. Trilogy Of Terror
Creepy horror doll: The Zuni Doll
This made-for-TV gem is based on a trio of short stories by horror writer Richard Matheson (of I Am Legend fame), all starring the lovely, late Karen Black. Things go awry pretty pronto when the Five Easy Pieces beauty is alone in her house with a psychotic Zuni fetish doll. Her frantic struggle with the crazy creature will have you shouting at the TV, enjoying every minute. If you want to see a grown ass woman fight with a homicidal puppet, this is the one for you.
7. Puppet Master
Creepy horror doll: Andre Toulon’s gang of puppets
You have to wait a while for the actual puppets to get going, but the whole movie is such a demented ’80s gore-and-WTF marathon that Puppet Master is totally worth a watch. A bunch of oddball psychics and sexologists go to a big old house at the request of a dead colleague before getting steadily bumped off, one by one. It’s a bit like Agatha Christie’s Poirot until Drillhead and Leech Woman (the sexy leech-vomiting puppet) turn up. It’s a bit of a slow starter, and the characters spend too much time sitting around a dinner table making sex eyes and fellating breadsticks, but the onslaught of evil puppets and the adorably low-budget effects are a real treat. Not scary, but great fun.
8. Doll Master
Creepy horror doll: The Demian Doll
This Korean curiosity is not short on the weird. When a group of hopefuls turn up at a creepy house to model for a doll-sculptor, it’s not long before the dolls turn nasty. Doll Master actually has a soupçon of emotional depth going on, with the bond between child and doll explored, explained and exploited for horror chills. Another element is added to the mix in the shape of a Korean folk story echoing the Greek Myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. This is not to say that Doll Master gets hung up on the highbrow. There’s plenty of jumpy moments, gory set pieces and, uh, a giant doll embedded into a toilet tank.
Creepy horror doll: There’s a whole army of them!
Another fairly bonkers ’80s masterpiece from horror luminary Stuart Gordon, Dolls sees an oddball crew, including two Brit punks and an irritatingly catarrhal Matilda-child (sorry, Carrie Lorraine) shelter from a storm in a creepy old house. From bloodied bunny slippers to eye-popping gore, Dolls is a hilarious horror comedy from start to finish. The crappy dialogue just adds to the fun — “I knew there was something weird about this place. The old man is probably a sex fiend!” — as an army of dolls assemble to destroy everyone in the house who has lost touch with their inner child.
10. Dead Silence
Creepy horror doll: Mary Shaw
Dead Silence has a spectacular array of creepy dolls and it actually manages to be scary AF in more than a couple of places. Jamie Ashen (True Blood stud) returns to his family home to investigate following the murder of his wife by a wooden dummy. Along the way, he learns about Mary Shaw, a vengeful ventriloquist, and the hold she still has over his home town. There are some decent frights and slick production, and the not-entirely-predictable twist is just the icing on a satisfyingly creepy cake.