Why are dolls so damn petrifying? What gives? Is it the inanimate stillness? Is it the rosy cherubic cheeks, beady eyes and perpetual childlike appearance staring at you lifelessly for all eternity? Or the opposite? Is it the lifelike mobility and creepy android behavior of the more advanced dolls? What the hell is it? Well, whatever it is, such a fear has been used to tremendous effect in the history of horror cinema. So much so in fact that the mere appearance of creepy dolls have become passé in favor an out-and-out murderous munchkins. Sentient, semi-ambulatory killer dolls! Shite’s madness! But it’s a madness that we’re into, and we have decided to celebrate it by putting together a list of some of the all-time best killer dolls to ever hit the screen. Not killer doll MOVIES per se, but specific dolls themselves. Here is our list of the Top 10 Killer Dolls!
ANNABELLE (THE CONJURING UNIVERSE)
This is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” list entry if there ever was one. If we don’t include Annabelle – who scared the piss out of people so badly in the opening scene of The Conjuring, she got her own damn franchise – there will be a lot of fans asking, “How could you leave Annabelle off a top 10 doll list?” If we do include her, genre fans will also point out that Annabelle doesn’t actually kill anybody. It’s the demon she hangs out with that’s the problem. But she is so popular, we’re forced to include her anyway. She may not walk around slashing up victims with a knife, but when she’s around people are still in mortal danger.
DOLLY DEAREST (1991)
Score another one for the ladies! Okay, a plastic toy with a wig really, but damn is Dolly Dearest one psychotic ball of PMS! I mean, just look at that f*ckin’ face! Obviously an unofficial Mexican knockoff of Chucky’s Child’s Play, made in 1991, seven years before the actual Don Mancini franchise added a little estrogen to the formula (Jennifer Tilly yo!), I do believe Ms. Dearest is the first female killer doll to get her very own movie. Not a very good one, mind you, but hey, progress is measured a step at a time. That said, in a pre-CG era of good old fashioned practical FX and nascent animatronic work, Dolly Dearest is actually pretty legit. At least for its low budget and B-movie spirit. Little bitch pulls out the clever, the cutting knife, and murderous mind-control.
DUMMY (TRILOQUIST – 2008)
Anyone seen the extremely gory trash-heap of a picture called Triloquist? Don’t blame you if not, this sucker didn’t exactly set the world on fire. It definitely has a dastardly dummy on an indiscriminate death march. And guess what? It comes from the man who graced us with Leprechaun (and the less popular Rumpelstiltskin), Mr. Mark Jones. That should give you an idea of the cheeky tone in Triloquist, where the character actually called Dummy is on a vengeful killing spree after its owner ODs. Props to longtime TV actor Bruce Weitz for lending his voice for Dummy, striking a tastelessly humorous tone to reflect his wicked ways.
If not the artiest, sure to be the most recondite entry on this here list is Pin, the outlandish 1988 psychological sibling curio. What a weird ass flick! If you’ve not seen it, as lifelong Pinocchio obsessives, a brother and sister find emotional solace in the life-size wooden doll they they’ve affectionately named Pin. Thing is, Pin is an anatomical medical dummy, replete with exposed veins, organs and arteries… as if a freshly skinned human. Shite’s gnarly. Then, when the sis picks up a new boyfriend, the brother gets so jealously irate that he recruits the help of his pal Pin to rid the motherf*cker. Even if it means murder! It’s a gripping tale of obsession, possession, lost identity and bizarre body politics. Truly twisted!
FATS (MAGIC – 1978)
As unheralded as his searing psychological thriller Magic is, so too is the fact Sir Richard Attenborough, who brought us such sweeping epics as Chaplin and Ghandi, actually directed it. Moreover, the flick was written by equally legendary scribe William Goldman. And if that’s not enough for you, Fats, the mysterious lifelike dummy puppeteered by Anthony Hopkins is one of the most frighteningly fascinating killer dolls to ever hit the screen. Mysterious, suspenseful, ambiguous, the unnervingly blurred line between Hopkins’ homicidal intent and the possibility of Fats being truly possessed by an unseen force is the true Magic of the movie.
CLOWN DOLL (POLTERGEIST – 1982)
Be honest, how scared were you when you first laid eyes on that mortifying giant clown doll in POLTERGEIST? Don’t lie, you sprayed your shorts a little, didn’t you?! No doubt, the scene in question’s a panties-pisser! Granted, the maniacally-grinning toy didn’t actually kill anyone, but damn did he try to stalk and strangle little Robbie into eternal sleep! Luckily little man made out alive, just in the nick of time, narrowly escaping as the killer clown tethers its wiry arm tightly around the kid’s throat before dragging him under the bed. Shite’s hectic! And what makes the sudden attack so great is the subtle allusion to such throughout the movie… a little clue here, a background reveal there… the doll ominously watching over the entire house as it becomes possessed.
There are a lot of dolls on this list that make you wonder, “Are they really killers or not?” A couple, like Annabelle and Clown Doll, definitely didn’t kill anybody. But there’s no confusion over whether or not the AI-powered robot doll M3GAN is a killer. She’s supposed to be a little girl’s best friend, but she’s not wired quite right, turning her protectiveness into a homicidal rampage. M3GAN can do the latest trendy TikTok dance to entertain the youngsters, then she racks up a body count when she’s not showing off her moves.
ZUNI DOLL (TRILOGY OF TERROR – 1975)
Who’s down with the 1975 horror anthology Trilogy of Terror? Well for those who are, you already know which entry is the best. Yup, the last! That little f*ckin’ mini Zuni Doll is a goddamn menace! What’s cool about this one is the size and unique look… a tiny figurine with a huge head, giant fangs, and razor sharp spear. An ancient scroll with the accursed text is spoken aloud and soon this little tyke is torturing its owner in her high-rise apartment. I won’t spoil the ending for those who’ve not seen it, but I will say this. Oven! Oh, it’s worth noting that the great Dan Curtis directed this flick, and did a TV sequel in 1996 called Trilogy of Terror 2, in which the maniacal Zuni doll reappears… both in the flick and on the poster.
BLADE (PUPPET MASTER FRANCHISE)
F*ckin’ hell! We can probably pluck two-dozen deadly dolls from the entire Puppet Master franchise (or any Charles Band movie!), but when all is said and done, there’s really only one boss that needs answering to. Yup, I’m talking about my man Blade! You know, the long white-haired skeletal looking fella rockin’ a black trench-coat and fedora, basically looking like a mini-Kane from Poltergeist II. You know the dude! Blade’s attitude depends on what his puppet master is telling him to do – sometimes he’s a force of evil, sometimes he’s a hero. Regardless of what his orders are at any given time, one thing is for sure: you don’t want to be on his bad side.
CHUCKY (CHILD’S PLAY FRANCHISE)
Allow me to echo the immortal words of Charles Lee Ray. Don’t f*ck with the Chuck! Sorry, I love that line reading from Brad Dourif in Child’s Play 3 so much I feel the need to quote it annually. Now back to the Chuckster! This angry little foul-mouthed heathen, often hysterically desperate to transfer his soul from a plastic toy to a human boy, is easily the illest of his ilk. Little bastard’s sick! Real shite, as far as killer dolls are concerned, who’s better? Chucky is the absolute king because of the first rate practical FX and animatronics melded with a colorfully drawn character… one that not only speaks, but hurls obscenities and epithetic Freddy-like one-liners that are just as cutting as his weapon of choice. Besides, he bagged Jennifer Tilly for f*ck’s sake! Like I said, King! They did a serviceable job trying to make a different version of Chucky in the 2019 remake, where Mark Hamill provided the voice of an AI-equipped version of the little guy, but it just couldn’t compete with the original.