Top 5 Killer Doll Movies

Did you ever get the sense when you were a child that if you looked at your doll for long enough, it might spring to life?

Killer doll movies are great because they exploit that imaginative (and slightly narcissistic) part of everyone that projects human qualities onto inanimate objects. Our relationship with dolls is a particularly complicated one, perhaps largely because it’s so easy for us to make believe with them when we’re children. Whatever the reason is, here are the five greatest killer doll movies of all time.

Dolly Dearest

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5. Dolly Dearest (1991)

When Eliot (Sam Bottoms) purchases the “Dolly Dearest” toy manufacturing plant in Mexico, he has no idea that the plant is adjacent to the burial site for a fearsome Mayan deity. Ancient demons have been released, and the dolls serve as their vehicles for demonic possession. Eliot’s young daughter Jessica (Candace Hutson)  becomes infatuated with the dolls, and they begin to brainwash her. The spirits even briefly possess her! This film exemplifies a common “killer doll” movie trope: the spirits of conquered races taking possession of dolls to seek revenge against colonial races. It was a straight to video release that enjoyed a very brief theatrical run in the midwest.

 

Trilogy of Terror

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4. Trilogy of Terror (1975)

This made for TV horror anthology featured actress Karen Black in three different roles, with each vignette named after the female protagonist portrayed by Black. The most memorable of the three was the segment entitled Amelia. Amelia is a bourgeois New Yorker who purchases a Zuni fetish doll from a street vendor as a present for her boyfriend. The doll resembles a long haired piranha and carries a spear. A golden belt adorns the dolls waist, and it is said that if the belt is removed, the doll will come to life. You can guess what happens…The way the doll is animated is crude but effective, and this film contains the same social subtext mentioned above (fallen civilizations seeking revenge by possessing dolls).

 

Dead of Night

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3. Dead of Night (1945)

One of the only horror films ever made by England’s famous Ealing Studios, Dead of Night isregarded by many filmmakers (including Martin Scorsese) as one of the most significant horror anthologies of all time. The story revolves around a group of guests at a house party. Party guest Walter (Mervyn Johns) can’t shake the feeling that everything he’s trapped in a recurring dream. Each guest then relates a story about an occurrence that made them feel eerie. The most memorable sequence is the one with Maxwell (Michael Redgrave) the popular ventriloquist who becomes convinced that his puppet is conspiring to leave him to join another ventriloquist act. Even more jarring than the sequence in which Redgrave attempts to murder his rival ventriloquist, is the sequence where he attacks his doll.

 

Magic

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2. Magic (1978)

The film offers a wonderful early performance from actor Anthony Hopkins as Corky, the deranged ventriloquist. Corky initially started using the doll (a brash wisecracker named Fats) to enhance his magic act. Fats provides Corky with a simple means of redirecting the attention of his audience to conceal the slight of hand in whatever given magic trick. As Corky’s career begins to take off, though, Corky begins to invest way too much into his doll emotionally. The doll begins to serve as the vehicle for Corky’s violent and audacious alter ego. Reminiscent of the aforementioned segment from Dead of Night, the film is an excellent adaptation of the novel by William Goldman.

 

Magic

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1. Child’s Play (1988)

This is the quintessential killer doll film. While there have been several doll movies throughout the years that have faded into obscurity, Chuckie from Child’s Play is as present in pop culture today as it’s ever been, thanks largely to franchise reboots and the newly launched horror and grindhouse-oriented El Rey Network (details on finding that network here). The first installment starts off with serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) in a standoff with the police. When Lee is shot, he reveals that he is a Voodoo practitioner, and transfers his soul from his own body into the body of the doll. And the rest, as they say, is history. Who can ever forget the sequence where it’s revealed that the doll is speaking and moving…without batteries!