Horror movies are in the middle of a Renaissance and it’s exciting to see that there’s room for both moody prestige pictures and broader creature features. Many niche horror subgenres continue to find new life with modern audiences and the creepy concept of evil dolls is as scary now as it’s always been.
Chucky from the Child’s Play series has been horror’s signature evil doll for decades, but that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been some worthy competition over the years. Killer dolls are a simple idea, but one that can also go to unexpected places. In fact, some of these tiny terrors even put Chucky to shame in the evil department.
10/10 M3GAN Combines Technology With Affection For Eerie Efficiency
M3GAN is one of the first big horror films of 2023 and it’s already causing a major stir with a sequel on the way. The titular toy, M3GAN, which stands for Model 3 Generative Android, is the latest in cutting edge artificial intelligence and toys.
The prototype of this revolutionary toy forms too close of a connection with its host, Cady, and soon the state of the art android is what poses the greatest danger to Cady. M3GAN is a dangerous threat because its technology allows it to modulate its voice and take siege of other technology, not to mention the inherent strength of a titanium frame.
9/10 Annabelle Is A Beacon Of Evil That Even Frightens The Warrens
James Wan’s Conjuring franchise has collectively grossed more than a billion dollars between its main series and multiple spin-off ventures. Annabelle, a haunted doll that’s based on a real-life case of Ed and Lorraine Warren, receives an effective showcase in the original Conjuring before receiving a satisfying trilogy of movies.
Less is more with Annabelle and thankfully her movies don’t make her talk or actively run around. Annabelle’s evil comes out through the dark circumstances that surround this doll, what she represents, and the lives that have been claimed in the process.
8/10 Brahms’ Delicate Nature Contains Demonic Danger
Brahms: The Boy II
The Boy was a surprise success that cleverly subverts the evil doll trope and turns out to be a movie about a hidden son. Brahms: The Boy II builds upon that lore, but actually indulges in what its predecessor avoids.
In The Boy II, the Brahms doll is actually a receptacle for a demonic spirit who wants to turn Jude into his host and leave his porcelain prison. The dark turn that The Boy II takes works and the hint of evil that’s inside the Brahms doll is quite effective.
7/10 Billy Makes Sure That Mary Shaw’s Legend Never Goes Quiet
Dead Silence is a rare misfire from James Wan and Leigh Whannell that explicitly narrows in on creepy ventriloquist dummies, dolls, and the uncomfortable nature of silence and sound where they don’t belong. Billy, the signature ventriloquist dummy of the malevolent Mary Shaw, becomes Dead Silence‘s de facto mascot.
However, Dead Silence has hundreds of different creepy dolls on display. There’s an eerie simplicity to Billy’s design, much like Saw’s Billy the Puppet, and admittedly the most effective idea from the movie is the real-life dummies that Mary Shaw makes out of corpses.
6/10 Blade And The Rest Of Toulon’s Puppets All Showcase Deadly Designs
The low-budget Puppet Master series has built an impressive legacy for itself over more than a dozen movies that pride themselves on mini murderous minions. Puppet Master has lost its way and there’s a period in the franchise where these monsters become allies against tiny demons. However, the series’ foundation is solid and the designs for the original batch of puppets still hold up.
Blade gets the most attention, but Tunneler, Leech Woman, Torch, and Six-Shooter are equally evil and even more creative. There’s also something extra scary about the idea that these puppets are carrying out a magical vendetta that spans generations for their wronged creator.
5/10 Morty Is A Wooden Mannequin That Manifests Fear
The Fear is a 1995 psychological horror movie that flew under most audience’s radars, but it offers a particularly chilling design for an evil doll and human surrogate. The Fear brings together a bunch of students who are forced to confront their fears as a way to better themselves, only a foreboding body count begins to accumulate.
Richard, the one who’s running this get-together, is confronted by a wooden mannequin, which is his fear. This wooden person turns into an upsetting slasher villain. The Fear: Halloween Night is a subpar sequel, but the design of this mannequin/doll is still a highlight.
4/10 Fats Is A Dummy With Lots Of Opinions And Plenty To Say
Magic is a 1978 psychological horror movie about a troubled ventriloquist that’s more in line with Psycho than Child’s Play. The Academy Award caliber film becomes a haunting character study for Anthony Hopkins’ unwell Corky Withers. Magic effectively keeps the audience guessing if Corky’s dummy, Fats, is actually evil or just a product of his frayed imagination.
Fats doesn’t accumulate a body count that’s akin to Chucky or Annabelle, but his energy is even more unnerving. Magic tells a heartbreaking story and the circumstances behind Fats’ malevolence, even if he’s not alive, it doesn’t make it any less frightening.
3/10 Pinocchio Accompanies A Series Of Attacks That May Be Maliciously Motivated
2022 saw a surprising amount of Pinocchio adaptations and it’s an evergreen story that’s tackled so often that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s a horror version of it. Pinocchio’s Revenge is ‘90s horror at its best and what could have been a sloppy evil doll movie is in fact a much deeper meditation on trauma and grief, both in a child and parent.
Much like with Magic, Pinocchio’s Revenge keeps the audience guessing until the end as to whether this Pinocchio doll is evil or just a way for a traumatized child to express her pain. It goes out on an incredibly bleak note.
Pin is one of the strangest horror movies to come out of the 1980s and its use of a therapeutic anatomy dummy as a source of horror and comfort, is truly chilling. Pin becomes a tragic tale between two maladjusted siblings, one of which forms an unhealthy relationship with this dummy, Pin, in lieu of a relationship with their father.
Leon’s relationship with Pin grows increasingly worrisome and the lines between fantasy and reality blur to a disturbing degree. Pin may not be a conventional doll, but Leon treats it as one would a childhood security blanket, which only makes the whole thing worse.
1/10 The Dolls In The Hartwicke Mansion Have Plenty Of Soul
Stuart Gordon’s Dolls builds tension out of an elderly puppet maker and his wife, whose doll-filled mansion becomes a temporary detour and place of refuge for lost travelers. Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke turn out to have magical abilities and the dolls in their home contain the spirits of vicious criminals and others who have spent time in their mansion.
Dolls shows off a wide array of evil dolls that creepily come to life through effective stop-motion. Dolls concludes with David, Rosemary, and the rest of the Hartwickes’ guests now confined to doll states themselves.
NEXT: 10 Horror Villains Who’ll Make You Laugh