Welcome to Debate Club, where Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, the hosts of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, tackle the greatest arguments in pop culture.
What scares an individual varies from psyche to psyche. Some people have a thing about spiders; some are terrified of sharks; some can't handle clowns. But one thing we can all agree: Creepy dolls are scary.
So, today in Debate Club, we look at the five scariest movie dolls. Don't look at the end of your bed — because they're right there.
Brahms from The Boy (2016)
You know those adults who treat their dolls and stuffed animals like they’re real people? Kinda weird, right? Welcome to the nightmare that is The Boy, which stars Lauren Cohan as Greta, an American who lands a nannying gig in the U.K. But there's a catch: She has to watch over a doll named Brahms... which just so happens to be a stand-in for the family's real boy, who died years earlier.
But is the doll actually alive?
The Boy weaponizes our fear of lifelike toys while also eliciting a few chuckles at the expense of those who love them a little too much. And the producers aren't done yet freaking us out: Brahms: The Boy II is scheduled for December 2019.
Gabby Gabby and the ventriloquist dummies from Toy Story 4 (2019)
All right, so eventually we learn that they’re all actually good at heart and only want to be happy and find a home. That's fine, and that’s the Pixar touch. But before then: Hoo boy, are these dolls terrifying.
The ventriloquist dummies are horrifying by their very design — how spooky they are and how everyone reacts to them is one of the movie's many great jokes. But don't forget how much Gabby Gabby can get under your skin. She just wants your voice... that's all... just your vooiiiiiice.
Annabelle from the Conjuring universe (2013-present)
Seriously, don't open the case.
First introduced in 2013's The Conjuring, Annabelle isn't a doll that looks cute or innocent from a certain angle: The thing's utterly freaky no matter how you hold it. Audiences were so terrorized by the doll that Warner Bros. smartly decided to give it a series of spinoff films — and, wouldn't you know it, the Annabelle movies were hits, too.
It's not just Annabelle's inhuman eyes that send shivers down your spine. It's those creepy bangs, the clown-like makeup, and those impossibly pinch-able cheeks — it's an uncanny-valley impression of an innocent young girl. Annabelle doesn't jump out of the darkness and stab you. It doesn't need to. That look is chilling enough.
Billy the Puppet from the Saw franchise (2003-present)
His name, according to the filmmakers, is 'Billy,' even though he's never referred to specifically that way on screen. Created as a gift from maestro John Kramer to his unborn child who died when his wife miscarried, the doll represents, to Kramer, the life his son never had and the life his 'victims' are squandering.
He is the messenger for all the complicated plots in the series, though he's so creepy that it's rather strange that Kramer ever thought his son would want that doll in the first place.
Chucky from Child’s Play (1988-present)
Forget the remake from earlier this summer. The original Child's Play was especially frightening because of Chucky's origin story: Psychopathic serial killer goes to the electric chair, gets reincarnated as a demented doll.
Over several sequels, Chucky became increasingly jokey — it's hard to make a homicidal toy not come across as sort of darkly comic — but even though the films' quality diminished, our cultural fondness for Chucky only grew. In that way, he earns comparisons to other great slasher villains like Freddy and Jason: We don't have to like the movies to adore the maniac at their center.
And props to actor Brad Dourif, who made Chucky's every evil utterance so damn malevolent.