The nightmarish notion of a haunted doll, demonic dummy, or possessed puppet has been a fear-fraught Hollywood staple for decades, and the ingrained psychological origins of these mini murderous menaces are most likely lost to the tides of time.
As Annabelle: Creation, the sequel to 2014's Annabelle, itself a spinoff of 2013's The Conjuring, is about to stare down victims and incite a fresh calendar of long sleepless nights, let's look back at the many evil dolls in movies over the years and see if we can't find one to rival the terrifying blond-haired tyke featured in David Sandberg's (Lights Out) new period horror film.
From Poltergeist, Magic, and The Twilight Zone to Saw, Night Gallery, and Puppet Master, we're pulling some strings and gathering up the 15 freakiest living toys ever to cast a hollow-eyed glance your way.
Enter if you dare, and tell us which of these darling dolls you'd risk spending a stormy evening with!
Talky Tina (The Twilight Zone, Season 5, 1963)
Her name is Talky Tina and she wants to kill you. The original psychotic toy spawned a legacy of freaky toy friends and parents purchasing "innocent" dolls for their daughters. Telly Savalas stars in this episode as a stepfather trying to dispose of the demonic dolly that just wants to be loved. Better be nice to her!
The Doll (Night Gallery, Season 1, 1971)
This creaky-voiced, vengeful Victorian is responsible for more Boomer nightmares than 1,000 Freddys. Based on a classic Algernon Blackwood story, this grinning toy gal appears at the home of a vicious 19th-century British officer to serve up some serious payback. Nice lipstick!
Evil Clown Doll (Poltergeist, 1982)
Like Kramer on Seinfeld, many of us suffer from coulrophobia (fear of clowns), and this scene didn’t help. Young Robbie is yanked under the bed by his floppy, grinning toy and strangled before he yanks the stuffing from its animated torso. Bedtime will never be the same. Quick, go check the chair again.
Sid (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Puppet Show, 1997)
This creepy ventriloquist dummy is revealed to be a skilled 1930s demon hunter imprisoned in the body of a horny puppet. After the curse is broken, Sid dies, never to hit on Buffy and Willow again. Judge him by his size, do you?
Fats (Magic, 1978)
Anthony Hopkins stars in this bizarre tale of a psychotic ventriloquist and his foul-mouthed puppet. The melon-headed Fats doll offers bad love advice to his owner, Corky, and assists with many murderous deeds. "Abracadabra, I sit on his knee. Presto, change-o, now he's me! Hocus Pocus, we take her to bed. Magic is fun ... when you're dead."
Willie (Twilight Zone, "The Dummy," Season 3, 1962)
Another Twilight Zone starring psycho dolls with evil intent. Cliff Robertson is the weak-minded performer controlled by the persuasive toy who ultimately gets his wish to be a "real boy." Are there any sane, loving puppets left in the world? This same dummy was used in the 1964 TZ episode, "Caesar and Me."
Billy (Dead Silence, 2007)
Saw director James Wan brings the ghost of dead ventriloquist Mary Shaw to life in the guise of 101 creepy puppets, including the wooden-head ringleader, Billy. Shaw's tongue was pulled out years ago by a vigilante mob after being wrongly blamed for murder. Silent revenge follows with the victims dispatched by possessed puppets. What a way to go.
Chucky (Childs Play, 1988)
The crown prince of nutbag toy dolls, Charles Lee Ray has risen to mythic proportions in the horror community. Holing up in a toystore, the mortally wounded Lakeshore Strangler serial killer transfers his soul into a "Good Guy" doll and is then sold by a street peddler to an innocent mom for her son's birthday. Bad idea. Chucky returns for a sixth sequel in 2017 with Cult of Chucky!
Dolly Dearest (Dolly Dearest, 1992)
Dolly has a life of her own and now she wants yours! A clueless family is terrorized by this chick Chucky ripoff centering around a Mexican doll factory built beside a Satanic burial site. The usual angry toy action ensues. This direct-to-video shlock had a brief theatrical run in the flyover states before vanishing into demonic dust.
Evil Talking Krusty Doll (The Simpsons, Treehouse of Horror III, 1992)
Homer shops at the House of Evil for Bart's birthday and brings home this wacky maniac doll with murder on its clown mind. KrustyCo is dispatched and finds the toy’s evil mode switched on and fixes the problem. If only life were that simple.
Blade, Jester, Pinhead, Tunneler, Leech Woman (Puppet Master, 1989)
The first of many affairs featuring the murderous living puppets of Toulon. Five freakish dolls were brought to life via ancient Egyptian spells of reanimation, as discovered by a group of nosy psychics gathering at an old California inn. The original strung together eight sequels and we're getting Puppet Master: Axis Termination later this year. That’s a lot of puppets.
"He-Who-Kills" Zuni Doll (Trilogy of Terror, "Amelia," 1975)
Who can ever forget this mop-headed monster doll terrorizing poor Karen Black. Trilogy of Terror was originally a TV pilot for a failed horror anthology using three tales by Richard Matheson. The toothy aboriginal warrior doll causes havoc before invading Black's body with its spirit in the end. Nasty little bugger.
Hugo (Devil Doll, 1964)
What is the strange, terrifying secret of the dummy? And why is it locked in a cage every night? No one really cared since this micro-budget snoozer about a master hypnotist and his jealous ventriloquist doll who murders lovers faded fast but was resurrected by the MST3K crew in a hilarious 1997 spoof.
Chinga Doll (The X-Files, Season 5, 1998)
From the first X-Files episode written by Stephen King. Scully encounters an autistic girl and her supernatural antique doll while vacationing in Maine where grocery store patrons have just clawed their eyes out. Scully resorts to some clever cooking tricks to rid the world of the devil doll. Did I just hear the microwave ding?
Billy (Saw franchise, 2004-present)
The tuxedo-wearing Billy puppet is often mistakenly called 'Jigsaw' in the torture-fest Saw series. He loves his red vintage trike and is usually seen in garbled TV transmissions or wheeling out to deliver diabolical instructions. He's pretty much universally referred to as 'Billy,' though he's never called by name in any of the Saw films. The white-gloved mascot was blown to sawdust in Saw 3D but rolls back in this fall's Jigsaw.