Killer dolls have always had a creepy little area of the horror genre all to themselves, which has largely been dominated by the various Child’s Play films, and more recently, the Annabelle franchise that first began in James Wan’s The Conjuring. The latest Child’s Play was a reboot that was generally not well-received by horror fans.
That doesn’t mean the killer doll horror genre is dead though, with Annabelle films still making a killing at the box office. However, there are a number of killer dolls in Hollywood that could potentially be re-explored with a new film, or even just given another (or first time) viewing if you’re tired of Chucky and Annabelle.
10 TALKY TINA
One of the very first killer dolls ever seen in cinematic glory actually made its appearance on Rod Serling’s classic The Twilight Zone TV show. “Living Doll” was the fifth season’s sixth episode, and featured an evil doll with a recorded phrase that becomes increasingly creepier and menacing throughout the episode – “My name is Talky Tina and I love you very much/I don’t like you.”
Kojak‘s Telly Savalas starred in the episode as the object of Talky Tina’s revenge after he attempts to get rid of the evil doll. Talky Tina not only threatens Savalas’ Erich physically but also mentally, with disturbing phone calls and mind games that helped lay the groundwork for why we find killer dolls so terrifying.
Anthony Hopkins is well known as playing serial killer Hannibal Lecter in the Hannibal film franchise, but that wasn’t the only killer he’s played in his career. Way back in 1978, Hopkins starred as failed magician Corky in Magic, who was relying on his ventriloquism act with his abrasive and foul-mouthed dummy, Fats.
When his act meets with success and he’s on the verge of getting his own show, Corky suffers a mental breakdown and the personality of Fats begins to assert control. Fats is even physically used as the bludgeoning weapon in one of the film’s deaths, making him a killer doll in a number of grisly ways.
With the previously discussed Magic, an argument can be made that Corky is the real killer and Fats was only the tool and his deluded reasoning for the murders. 1981’s The Pit may feature a similar discussion about Teddy, a small boy’s teddy bear who seemingly encourages the troubled child to do terrible things after finding a pit in the woods full of monsters.
This Canadian horror is not a mainstream hit like Chucky or Annabelle, and the majority of the deaths in the film are from the diminutive but deadly creatures in the pit instead of the “killer doll” of the film, but each of the victims is lured there by the psychopathic young boy Jamie and his evil Teddy, making both of them killers.
7 PLANTATION DOLLS
Tales From The Hood was a 1995 horror anthology based on the Tales From The Crypt horror anthology style. The film told a few different tales that took place in the film’s urban setting that was grounded in African-American history and folklore while also touching on a number of societal issues that are still being dealt with today.
“KKK Comeuppance” tells the tale of a racist Senator running for office with past ties to the KKK and a campaign office set up on an old plantation. The plantation was full of the former owner’s dolls, which were said to be possessed by the souls of former slaves that lived/died at the house. Needless to say, the dolls aren’t too happy about the Senator’s behavior in their house.
1987’s Dolls featured a few different groups of travelers caught in a violent thunderstorm and forced to seek shelter at the house of a kindly old couple. The house is revealed to be full of dolls, puppets, and figures of all kinds, crafted by the patriarch of the household.
However, over the course of the evening and spurred on by a couple’s decision to rob the kindly old couples house, the dolls come to life and begin to attack and murder the various guests of the house. The dolls’ true origins and their goals for those seeking shelter in their home are terrifying and separate these killer dolls from others whose goals are simply murder and mayhem.
5 DOLLY DEAREST
Porcelain dolls are creepy enough on their own, but as we saw in 1991’s Dolly Dearest, they are even more terrifying when they are possessed by an ancient and malevolent Mayan spirit. While the setting of the Mexican Dolly Dearest doll factory certainly adds to the atmospheric horror and suspense of the film, Dolly takes center stage as she attempts to find a new host body.
And as if one Dolly Dearest wasn’t bad enough, the spirit is able to possess a number of Dolly’s in the factory, leading to a violent attack on the new owners of the factory, whose young daughter is the chosen recipient of Dolly’s evil spirit. The film was basically direct-to-video with a limited Midwestern U.S. release but is not to be missed for fans of the killer doll horror genre.
4 BILLY/MARY SHAW
Much like the original Chucky was really just a serial killer possessing a children’s toys, we’ve seen a number of killer dolls on this list who are being controlled by another source to commit their evil deeds. 2007’s Dead Silence (from The Conjuring‘s James Wan) explored this theme a bit further with one of the creepiest ventriloquist dummies we’ve ever seen on the big screen.
Of course, it sounds like we’re talking about Billy, the dummy who is presumed to be the one responsible for the killings and supernatural occurrences in the film, but really it is soon revealed to be the spirit of deceased ventriloquist Mary Shaw, who had herself turned into a dummy upon her death. And that’s still not the worst dummy in the film…
3 TOULON’S PUPPETS
The Puppet Master franchise is probably the most popular and well-known of the killer doll franchises after Chucky and Annabelle, which is interesting considering the films are known for their low-budget yet enjoyable special effects. Of course, the franchise has always been about the puppets, who were created by Andre Toulon using a mystical formula to control the dangerous puppets.
Toulon’s puppets are without a doubt the stars of the franchise, with characters like Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Leech Woman, Torch, and others haunting our childhood dreams. It may be hard to believe, but there have been 12 Puppet Master films, plus a crossover (more on that next) and an upcoming spin-off focusing on fan-favorite puppet Blade.
2 BABY OOPSY DAISY
While the Puppet Master franchise is undoubtedly more well-known and popular, they did have some direct competition at the time. Full Moon Entertainment was the film studio responsible for the Puppet Master franchise, but they also later created Demonic Toys, which even crossed over for the Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys TV movie in 2005.
The first Demonic Toys in 1992 (written by David S. Goyer, no less) introduced a group of evil toys like a killer jack-in-the-box, scary teddy bear, deadly toy robot, and of course, murderous doll Baby Oopsy Daisy. There really is nothing creepier than watching a cute yet demonic baby doll drawing a pentagram around a mutilated body.
1 ZUNI DOLL
Trilogy of Terror was another made-for-TV movie that featured three separate horror tales, with actress Karen Black playing a different role in each segment. While the Trilogy is a little dated and two of the tales are somewhat forgettable, it was the third story, “Amelia,” that introduced the Zuni Warrior Doll and has developed a small cult following.
Now by today’s standard, the use of the aboriginal fetish doll as a manic, ravenous monster possessed by the spirit of a Zuni (who were technically Indigenous) warrior known as “He Who Kills” could be considered a more than a little insensitive. However, the frenetic terror of that doll slashing at ankles as it screamed bloody murder still made for a very effective killer doll.
NEXT: 10 Deadliest Horror Movie Monsters, Ranked