There’s an old saying that teddy bears keep their eyes open at night to keep their kid safe from the monsters under the bed. I always wondered if that rang true for all stuffed animals and dolls. After all, I was a doll aficionado and teddy bears weren’t my thing. But a friend of mine had a large collection of porcelain dolls whose eyes seemed incapable of closing. Were those dolls keeping her safe at night from all the spooky monsters that were roaming the streets in front of our houses at night? Or, could those dolls have been those monsters we were trying to escape the whole time? I was never sure, and it was hard to feel at ease with all those glassy eyes staring down at us through the night. But I wasn’t alone.
The success of Child’s Play and the upcoming third Installment of the Annabelle franchise confirmed most of my suspicions. Dolls are creepy as hell, and here are ten flicks to prove it to you. Oh, and those tiny footsteps you hear right out your door? Probably nothing.
10. The Great Gabbo (1929) – Otto
One of the originals that brought the horrors of ventriloquism to the attention of the public, The Great Gabbo starts our list off with a whisper of terror. While the movie itself isn’t the creepiest, it’s hard not to look at the doll Otto as something straight out of hell. It’s one of the first films to introduce dummies and dolls as sentient objects who, to the public at least, are nothing but dolls. But to the people handling them and the ones who ultimately suffer at their tiny hands, they know these dolls have minds of their own. Otto himself isn’t quite the monster of the movie, the title seems to be shared between him and his ventriloquist Gabbo. But without Otto and empty, soulless eyes we might not have any of the creepy dolls we have today. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.
9. Magic (1978) – Fats
Magic described itself as a “terrifying love story” but the angry parents who called the television networks after the trailer aired called it horrifying, disturbing, and the cause for their children’s’ nightmares. And that was only the trailer. Featuring the great Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) as the insecure Charles “Corky” Withers verging on success as a ventriloquist and his dummy, Fats. The film made damn sure that Fats was truly a terrifying creature, with lips curving over a multitude of pearly, white teeth. The film follows Corky through a spiral of death, sex, and a lot of tragedy. The film has aged well, with Hopkins shining in one of his earlier horror roles. It even features moments that has the viewer scratching his head. Sometimes it just seems that Fats is a little too real.
8. Puppet Master (1989) – Jester, Shredder, Blade, and more
This movie decided just one or two creepy dolls wasn’t enough and decided to pack it to the brim with as many as possible. Each doll is creepy in its own way, and there’s enough blood and guts to fill every minute with dread. My personal favorite is the Leech Woman, who also has one of the grossest names of the film. Puppet Master peppers in as much horror as it can, from ancient magic to Nazis. While the movie has been criticized for weak plots and acting, it apparently did its job with over a dozen films and spin-offs.
7. Dolls (1987) – Mr. Punch
Finally, a movie where the murderous dolls are actually kids toys. The film takes place in a gorgeous Gothic mansion where a lovely old couple takes joy in offering refuge to those who need a place to stay for the night. Especially if said people are thieves, terrible fathers, or cruel stepmothers. And especially if the lovely old couple have the incredible ability to turn these terrible people into dolls. It’s a difficult watch at times, with jokes about domestic violence, sexism, and a hell of a lot of violence. But the dolls are some of the creepiest around and the movie plays off something especially poignant: the loneliness of a child.
6. The Doll Master (2004) – Mi-Na
The Doll Master is a Korean ghost tale that features enough heartbreak for a lifetime. Horror is all abound, but in more ways than one. A dollmaker falls in love with a woman, and naturally makes a doll in her image. But the woman is murdered and the blame falls upon the dollmaker who dies at the hands of angry townspeople. The doll waits by his grave for all of time. We flash forward to the present where the blood of the past still manages to seep through. A group of people arrives at a museum after receiving invites to have dolls made in their image. Chaos and heartache ensue as panic ripples through the group. However, by the end of the movie, you can’t help but mourn with some of the characters and relish the revenge.
5. Annabelle (2014) – Annabelle
Part of the Insidious universe, the movie plays off the true-life account of the Warren couple dealing with a demonic doll. While the real-life counterpart is a hardly-menacing Raggedy-Ann doll, the movie set out to create the creepiest doll they could. Annabelle’s face is composed of cracks and garish makeup, alluding to her sinister nature. The craze for Annabelle exploded, resulting in both a prequel and a sequel to guarantee a fully fleshed out character timeline. And it’s easy to see why the craze reached as far as it did. Annabelle is scary as hell to a point where it’s almost refreshing. She’s creepy to look at, but her devilish nature is the true cause for fear.
4. Dead Silence (2007) – Billy
Dead Silence was a movie that came out to a divided audience. However, everyone could agree on one thing. Billy, the ventriloquist doll, was enough nightmare fuel for a year. The film followed through superstitious stories that held a small town tight with fear. Naturally, a ventriloquist by the name Mary Shaw was humiliated by a small child during a show. After he goes missing the blame falls on Shaw and she dies at the hands of the angry town. She haunts the town that killed her, stealing tongues from anyone who screams. It just goes to show that hecklers ruin more than just the show.
5. Goosebumps (2015) – Slappy
I get it. Goosebumps wasn’t the creepiest movie around. Fortunately, it featured the master of many a millennial’s nightmares and he goes by Slappy. The dummy who reoccurred the most throughout R.L. Stine’s series and managed to creep out just about everyone, Slappy sits comfortably near the top of the list. After years of terrifying everyone through novels, he finally had his moment to shine on the big screen and with the help of Jack Black (Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny) as his voice, he lives to scare another day.
2. Bride of Chucky (1998) – Tiffany
She’s beauty, she’s grace, she’ll cut off your face. Jennifer Tilly (Seed of Chucky) plays the incredible Tiffany, longtime girlfriend to the infamous Chucky. After resurrecting his spirit once more into the creepiest doll ever, plans backfire when Chucky manages to flip the script and do the same to her. The film features one of the greatest montages of all time with the newly formed doll version of Tiffany getting ready with Blondie blaring through the speakers. It inspired many girls to relive their over-tweezed eyebrows and black lipstick. Tiffany somehow managed to become both a style and horror icon, dancing between the lines of a murderous maniac and a spurned lover. It’s almost easy to feel bad for her, you know.. before she stabs you.
1. Child’s Play (1988) – Chucky
The movie that plagued many a child’s dreams for decades and features seven films under the original screenwriter Don Mancini, and a new reboot of the same name, it’s easy to see why Chucky just won’t go away. Originally voiced by Brad Dourif (Blue Velvet), the movie follows the murderous Charles Lee Ray as he transfers his soul into a doll to escape police. He ends up in the hands of a child and almost immediately begins to slaughter everyone around him. The bright, chubby, cheeks paired with practically neon orange hair gives Chucky a look that can go from super cute to super creepy in seconds. Chucky is one of those franchises that will never go away, because childhood never will either. Dolls are always going to be around and because of that, so will the idea that just maybe, they’re watching you too.