What is it, exactly, about dolls or puppets or other toys of a similar nature that tend to creep some people out so much, even as adults? After watching the trailer for M3GAN – a new thriller from Blumhouse in which GET OUT’s Allison Williams plays a robotics engineer who builds a new “friend” for an orphaned girl (Violet McGraw) that begins to show off very strange and seemingly deadly characteristics – the answer quickly becomes very clear.
Of course, the mechanical, homicidal title character – voiced by Jenna Davis and portrayed in person by Amie Donald – of one of the most anticipated horror movies coming to AMC Theatres is just one of many iconic toys that made us think twice about what we might let our little ones near, or even made us reconsider how we felt about our favorite inanimate companions. The following are some of our favorite examples of the most terrifying toys to ever grace the big screen.
When thinking of the most famous evil toys from movies, the first name that comes to mind most often is none other than the foul-mouthed, maniacal Chucky – the doll featured in 1988’s CHILD’S PLAY. As we learn from the opening scene, he was previously known as Charles Lee Ray until the notorious serial killer, before he succumbed to a gunshot wound, used black magic to transfer his soul into one of the best-selling toys on the market called a “Good Guy.” How ironic!
Academy AwardⓇ nominee Brad Dourif’s scenery chewing performance as the pint-sized antagonist – not to mention the inspired VFX – made writer Don Mancini and director Tom Holland’s scary satire an instant classic, made Chucky a slasher favorite beyond his stature – literally – and launched a franchise that includes six sequels, a remake and the TV show, “Chucky.” Only a killer doll this ruthlessly mean and cheekily charismatic could achieve that kind of success.
The primary exception to our above claim regarding what constitutes an evil movie toy’s success would have to be this doll who – merely acting as vessel for a demon known as Malthus to latch on to and not to animate – does not possess any memorable personality traits. Annabelle’s defining characteristic is her cold, uninterrupted stare, complete with a devilish grin and darting eyes, as she sits lifeless. Yet, that is all she needed to become, arguably, the crown jewel of The CONJURING Universe’s recurring antagonists.
After stealing the show with just a few scenes in director James Wan’s original THE CONJURING in 2013, she earned three self-titled spin-offs – one of which – namely David F. Sanberg’s 2017 origin story ANNABELLE: CREATION – is one of the shared horror movie universe’s most acclaimed installments. Although she looks nothing like the Raggedy Ann doll whose haunted history allegedly inspired her, perhaps we should be thankful for that as it only makes this unpredictable and unstoppable force of unrelenting mayhem even more iconic.
Billy The Puppet
Not every iconic horror movie toy has achieved rent-free space in our deepest nightmares by exhibiting any supernatural elements. One of the most famous and haunting examples is the tuxedoed, tricycle-riding Billy, who has effectively redefined what some may find creepy about a puppet. This is partially due to the fact that the sadistic “Jigsaw Killer” (Tobin Bell) often speaks through him when explaining to his victims the rules of the deadly games he forces them to play and with little chance of survival.
SAW – the 2004 breakout hit for director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell, who also stars – is a clever mystery thriller with some inventively grisly death traps and a few splashes of shocking gore for added effect. Consistently serving as the face of the increasingly disturbing franchise that followed it is Billy and – with his menacing red eyes, dizzying spiral-shaped flush in his cheeks and inhuman laugh – it is easy to see why.
In regards to what makes them so creepy, there are some horror movie toys that are more difficult to describe – at least without giving too much away. Such is the case for Brahms, a porcelain doll which “The Walking Dead” star Lauren Cohan’s Greta Evans is strangely hired to look after in director William Brent Bell’s relatively underrated 2016 thriller THE BOY.
It is easy to understand why Brahms – who would also return in the 2020 sequel, BRAHMS: THE BOY II – might give anyone the creeps just by the sight of his pale, expressionless face and pervasive stare with eyes that contradict his less-humanesque features with a startling realism. However, there is more than meets the eye with this doll in ways that you may not see coming and make a good case for him to earn a spot among horror cinema’s other most esteemed inanimate objects.
Will the eponymous robotic plaything from M3GAN earn herself – or itself, perhaps – the right to be called one of the greatest terror-ific toys in horror history as well? See for yourself when director Gerard Johnstone’s thriller comes to AMC Theatres Friday, January 6, 2023.