Dolls are such a staple of childhood, and then when people become adults, they go and make movies about creepy dolls terrifying and tormenting kids and adults alike. What gives? Well, something is unnerving about the uncanny valley many dolls live in, and also the idea of something humanlike but not quite human coming to life is eerie as well. Pop culture is packed to the brim with creepy and spooky dolls. Here are some of the most memorable.
M3GAN is a fresh addition to the canon of creepy pop culture dolls. Before the movie even hit theaters, M3GAN, and “M3GAN” the film, had become a meme favorite. She’s a fancier doll than many on this list, but that only makes her that much more dangerous.
The iconic killer doll, Chucky has been around for decades. It began with “Child’s Play,” a straightforward horror movie by and large, but the series would eventually become more of a horror-comedy franchise with a winking knowingness to it.
Based on a real “possessed” Raggedy Ann doll, Annabelle is found in the “Conjuring” universe. That horror franchise has spun off into all sorts of different storylines, one of which is focused on a doll that, well, mostly sits there and looks spooky. Somehow, it has worked.
Naturally, the “Goosebumps” series had to do an evil doll story, in this case, a ventriloquist dummy. It began with “Night of the Living Dummy” in the books, but Slappy quickly became arguably the face of “Goosebumps.” Indeed, he is the primary antagonist in the two “Goosebumps” movies, which are fun, family-friendly horror comedies.
Look, David in “A.I.” is not an evil doll. He’s a lifelike doll designed to fill the hole of a lost child for grieving parents. However, there is something so uncanny about David, and intentionally so, that he can’t help but feel creepy. Even David’s new “mom” seems to feel that way in Steven Spielberg’s movie.
Now, the twist of “The Boy” makes Brahms, the porcelain doll, a little less unnerving. That being said, Brahms is still a creepy doll, and the beginning of the film definitely creates an ominous feeling around the life-sized porcelain boy.
In “Trilogy of Terror,” the third story features Karen Black and a Zuni fetish doll in her home. Is the doll problematic? Sure, but also super freaky. The doll comes to life and terrorizes Black, so much so that most people don’t remember a single “Trilogy of Terror” story other than this one.
Inevitably, “The X-Files” would get into the world of spooky dolls. That would be “Chinga,” which is about the titular doll and the girl who carries her around everywhere. While this episode is not great, it is notable in that it was co-written by none other than Stephen King.
Anthony Hopkins plays a ventriloquist in a horror movie. That alone sounds creepy. Then, there is the inherent eeriness of many ventriloquist dummies. Fats is the doll that Hopkins works with in “Magic,” but the doll may have a life of its own…or is Hopkins just losing his mind?
“Devil Doll” is not a good movie. It featured on “Mystery Science Theater 3000” in an episode that is quite fun, as the film gives a lot of fodder to riffing. That being said, a ventriloquist dummy gets up and walks around and talks to people and doesn’t get ham. It’s even more unnerving when you discover Hugo is sentient because a human being’s soul is trapped in the dummy.
Now, not all toys are dolls, but there are doll elements to Sid’s toys in “Toy Story” to be sure. Sid likes to destroy toys and turn them into Frankenstein creations. Granted, he doesn’t know toys are alive, so it isn’t creepy that he does that necessarily. There are some freaky designs in Sid’s collection, though, and they do get their revenge on the impish boy with the destructive impulses.
The “Twilight Zone” episode about Talky Tina probably can be credited for spurring on the concept of the evil doll. It may have led to a “Night Gallery” episode with a similar story, as “Night Gallery” is largely a warmed-over “Twilight Zone” clone. The episode definitely inspired the “Treehouse of Horror” story about an evil Krusty Doll trying to kill Homer. But he did come with a free frozen yogurt.
“Spitting Image” was evidently a British show of some note. We mostly know the puppets from the music video for Genesis’ “Land of Confusion.” They look so freaky? They are so unsettling. Are they supposed to be? Frankly, all these years later, it’s hard to know. We just know they are creepy as all get out.
“Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” was in the vein of a “Lost in Space” or “Land of the Giants,” but set underwater. In the final season (it ran for 110 episodes, so it was no slouch of a show), they did an episode called “The Deadly Dolls.” Puppets of the crew members begin to replace the crew members, but in a sinister way. It turns out to be the work of an evil puppeteer played by Vincent Price.
George Costanza had a lot of gripes, not all of them sensible. However, it was certainly fair that he was freaked out by a specific doll in his fiancé Susan’s doll collection. This doll happens to look just like George’s mother, with whom he has a testy relationship. He begins to hear his mom nagging him whenever he sees the doll, driving him to the brink of madness. Not only does the doll look a little unsettling, wouldn’t we all be freaked out if our significant other had a doll sitting around that looked like our mom?
Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.
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