I've got no strings: Film and TV's 7 scariest puppets

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Aug 13, 2018, 1:00 PM EDT

Puppets are inherently scary. They have the same dead eyes as dolls but feature movement and the haunting knowledge that there's someone controlling them, making a conscious effort to be so damned creepy. On top of that, puppets are often used in children's shows, making evil puppets not only something dangerous but something that threatens to ruin your childhood.

Given all this, it's unsurprising that puppets make frequent evil guest appearances in movies and TV shows. And because we here at SYFY WIRE love and appreciate all things creepy and fun, we've decided to rank the best of the worst puppets out there.

Now, it can be tough to decide where to draw the line between puppet and doll. When they turn evil and start moving around of their own accord, puppets and dolls become pretty similar. Marionettes — anything with strings attached — are definitely in the puppet category, as are anything worn on the hand or made of felt. Ventriloquist dummies straddle the line between puppet and doll, but we've opted not to include them in this list. There are enough terrifying ventriloquist dummies to fill a dozen lists.

Below are some of the weirdest, most terrifying puppets to ever grace the screen.


The puppets of the Puppet Master series (1989-2018)

Over the course of 13 Puppet Master films (yes, 13), there have been countless evil puppets.

Blade is the most recognizable of the Puppet Master puppets, though, having appeared on VHS box covers and posters for years. He's gaunt with a pure white complexion and vacant black eye sockets and dresses in a black trench coat and hat; he's armed with a sharp hook in one hand and a knife in the other.

Other important puppets in the franchise include Pinhead (a large puppet with microcephaly); Jester (a creepy court jester puppet); Torch (who looks like a Gestapo Darth Vader with a flamethrower for a hand); Leech Woman (who vomits poisonous leeches on her victims); and Tunneler (a puppet with a cone-shaped drill on the top of his head).


Amanda Walsh, the human marionette in Fringe Season 3, Episode 9: 'Marionette' (2010)

In Fringe Season 3's "Marionette," Roland, a biologist who's managed to create synthetic life on the cellular level, becomes obsessed with Amanda, a clinically depressed ballerina who ends up killing herself. Amanda's mother donates her organs as a way to make sense of the tragedy, but Roland, who only knew Amanda through group therapy, can't stand being separated from the object of his obsession.

So he steals back Amanda's organs, along with her corpse, and reanimates her. Roland even goes so far as to string up a complicated system of levers and pulleys so he can make her dance like she once did.

It's not until Roland looks into Amanda's wild, empty eyes that he knows his creation can never really bring her back and confesses to his crimes.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors - Phillip's Death

Philip from Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors (1987)

When Freddy Krueger comes after Philip in his dream, his friends just see him doing an awkward, halting walk up to the edge of a bell tower. In Philip's dream, however, Freddy has pulled out his veins and tendons to use as strings and, like a giant puppet master in the sky, guides Philip to the bell tower. With a swipe of his razor claws, Freddy cuts the "strings" and Philip plummets to his death.

Meet the Feebles Trailer

The Feebles from Meet the Feebles (1989)

Before Peter Jackson went on to fame and fortune with big budget mainstream fare, he was a cult film auteur with movies such as Dead Alive (1992) and Bad Taste (1987). Between these two early splatter films was Meet the Feebles.

The story follows a theatrical troupe of puppets looking to get a television deal. The overall concept is similar to The Muppets, but the Feebles group is a bit more hardcore, consisting of drug addicts, sex addicts, adulterers, pornographers, knife-throwers, gamblers, and alcoholics. When Heidi, the hippopotamus star of the show, is replaced by a younger, sexier cat, she goes on a shooting rampage, killing many of her co-stars.

The X-Files episode 1108, "Familiar." Mr. Chuckleteeth

Mr. Chuckleteeth from The X-Files Season 11, Episode 8: 'Familiar' (2018)

Technically, we don't know what Mr. Chuckleteeth is. Sometimes he looks like a puppet; sometimes he looks like a man in a terrifying mask. Either way, he's a nightmare come to life.

Episode writer Benjamin Van Allen was inspired to create Mr. Chuckleteeth after watching a British children's show, Jigsaw, which starred an equally-terrifying puppet named Mr. Noseybonk.


Coco from Tales from the Crypt Season 4, Episode 12: 'Strung Along' (1992)

"Puppets aren't a machine. They are an extension of yourself," Joseph Renfield, an old-timey puppeteer, says to his new assistant David when David tells him his only experience with puppets is with animatronics.

Long since retired, Joseph is depressed and worries that his much-younger wife is cheating on him. Joseph's only friend is Coco, his marionette, with whom he has long, disturbing conversations. Is it just Joseph's sick mind that conjures up an evil side to Coco, or does Coco have an evil mind of his own?


Ashy Slashy from Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 2, Episode 7: 'Delusion' and Episode 8: 'Ashy Slashy' (2016)

Ash has long had a list of "colorful" evils he's fought over the course of the Evil Dead franchise: evil mirror clones of himself; monster dolls; a serpentine corpse; his own possessed hand. But things get extra weird when the demon Baal gives Ash the delusion by that he's locked in a mental institution. Ashy Slashy starts off as Ash's friend, the puppet he wears in place of his chainsaw hand. But when his friends come looking for Ash, Ashy Slashy earns his name and attacks Kelly.

So. What are some of YOUR favorite creepy puppets?