Hard to believe we’ve been doing this so long and have never gotten into creepy doll horror! Well, with help from our friend Phantom Dark Dave, we do just that. Here is our salute to creepy-ass dolls!
Our focus is on the best movies with creepy dolls (rather than the creepiest dolls themselves), and we have a bunch to cover! Dave brings his list, we have ours, and of course, there are also-rans and left-overs. Take a listen!
5. Dead Silence (2007)
Somewhere between their career-defining Saw and their even leggier Insidious and Conjuring franchises, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell dropped a plastic-headed thud with this ventriloquism horror.
It’s kind of a shame because although the story meanders in and out of consciousness, the actual dolls are creepy as hell.
Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts) had all 100 of her “children” buried with her. So why does Buddy keep showing up? And why does Donnie Wahlberg insist on this weird Columbo impression?
No matter. We somehow end up crossing a moat into a gloomy old haunted house filled to bursting with ventriloquist dummies of every shape and description. Dead Silence pays tribute to their own Jigsaw doll as well as that creepy clown in Poltergeist while predicting Goosebumps and Toy Story 4 scares.
Are all those movies better than this one? Yes, but it gets points anyway.
4. Pin (1988)
Who wants something weird? Because, man, does Pin deliver on weird.
Leon and Ursula have always felt close to their dad’s anatomically correct anatomical dummy. Sure, he uses it for doctor’s office stuff (and his nurse uses it as she sees fit!), but to the kids, he’s kind of a member of the family.
He means an awful lot to lonely recluse Leon (David Hewlett), who’s no hit with the ladies. It doesn’t help matters that Ursula (Cynthia Preston) is his favorite lady. I wonder what kind of advice Pin might have? He’s got a real knack with Dad’s nurse…
The point is, people die, people have sex with medical dolls, and Terry O’Quinn (The Stepfather) is again really not showing any natural paternal instincts.
3. Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
Writer Gary Dauberman, who’s penned every installment (as well as It, which seriously amplifies his credibility), takes on directing duties for the first time with the third film in the standalone franchise.
From that opening gag by the cemetery, the movie brings the high-spirited, popcorn-munching goods. It is fun, with generous writing that does not ask us to root against any of the kids, and performances that are far superior to the content. Plus a couple of real laughs, mostly thanks to a randomly hilarious pizza delivery guy.
2. Magic (1978)
Anthony Hopkins has made more horror movies than you realize, and no matter how much you may assume that a ventriloquist horror will be dumb, Magic is actually pretty creepy.
It helps that Hopkins is so effortlessly creepy. It also helps that the film was penned by William Goldman (Marathon Man, The Stepford Wives, All the President’s Men) and directed by Richard Attenborough (Gandhi).
It’s still goofy as all hell. Burgess Meredith sees to that. But Hopkins is fully on board, Ann-Margret was still a dream, and there is just something not right about Fats.
1. Child’s Play (1988)
Let’s be honest, it could probably have been any of the films in the original series, but Chucky had to be on this list. Hell, he had to be #1.
We went with Tom Holland’s original because that’s what it was—original. Brad Dourif and writer Don Mancini evolved the character over the next half dozen installments, but the original benefits from newness as well as Holland’s focus on the peril of little Andy (Alex Vincent). With a maniacal doll on one side and an unrelenting cop (Chris Sarandon) on the other, this kid’s in big trouble.
Still, it all begins and ends with that freckle-faced devil.