The creepy, cursed doll Annabelle was first introduced in the 2013 horror smash The Conjuring, before getting her own spinoff the following year. She now returns in the prequel Annabelle: Creation, which hits theaters the weekend of August 11. But Annabelle is only the latest in a long line of evil dolls that have featured in horror movies over the years. Some walk, some talk, some just sit there–but they are all seriously scary. Let’s count down 11 of the most frightening…
11. GI Joe – Xtro
The wave of sci-fi horror ripoffs that followed Alien in the early ’80s are not the place you’d expect to find killer dolls–with one exception. The bizarre British shocker Xtro contains a crazy sequence in which an elderly woman is menaced by a reanimated life-size GI Joe doll, equipped with a deadly grappling hook.
10. Billy – Dead Silence
James Wan is certainly a fan of creepy dolls–he gaves us Annabelle in The Conjuring and its spinoffs, and as the creator of the Saw series, he’s also responsible for the iconic tricycle-riding Billy. But between those movies, Wan made another scary doll movie–2006’s Dead Silence. Confusingly, Dead Silence‘s doll is also called Billy. He’s one of 100 dummys owned by the evil, back-from-the-grave ventriloquist Mary Shaw. Billy is the key to her undead power, and the movie ends with many of her victims being turned into freaky puppets. Eagle-eyed viewers should also watch out for Saw‘s Billy, glimpsed lying on an attic floor.
9. Pin – Pin
With the exception of Xtro‘s crazy plastic soldier, the other dolls on this countdown are all of a diminutive size. They might be evil, terrifying, and possessed with supernatural abilities, but they are also rarely above knee height, giving their victims a good chance to run away. The plastic protagonist of 1988’s spooky Canadian thriller Pin is different. He’s a life-size, anatomically-correct medical doll that his deranged owner believes is alive. There’s never any doubt that Pin’s ability to walk, talk, and kill are all in his owner’s head, but it doesn’t make the movie any less creepy.
8. Blade and friends – Puppet Master
Cult horror producer Charles Band churned out a whole host of killer doll movies, sequels, and crossovers during the ’80s and ’90s. There was Dolls, Dollman, and Demonic Toys, but he’s best known by horror fans for the ten-movie Puppet Master series. The original 1989 film features a group of animated killer toys, cursed by an Egyptian spell and brought back to life by a bunch of psychics. It’s essentially a slasher movie with foot-high killers, led by Blade, who sports a knife and a hook for hands. The films might not be very good, but the names of the dolls definitely are. From Leech Woman and Decapitron to Shreddar Khan and Djinn the Homunculus, you definitely won’t find this lot in Toys “R” Us.
7. Fats – Magic
Another creepy dummy is Fats, the wooden star of the 1978 chiller Magic. The movie features Anthony Hopkins as Corky, a failing ventriloquist who discovers fame and fortune when he starts appearing on TV with Fats. Unfortunately, Corky is slowly going mad, and when he’s not on TV, Fats is a foul-mouthed, domineering, psychotic doll whose bad behavior might–or might not–be all in his master’s head.
6. Billy – Saw
Billy from the Saw movies is never actually referred to by that name on-screen, but that’s what director James Wan uses for him. The doll never does anything more than deliver messages left by the evil mastermind Jigsaw (sometimes on a TV screen, sometimes in “person.”). However, his entrance in the first Saw, riding out of the darkness on a tiny tricycle, remains one of the most iconic moments in modern horror.
5. Clown doll – Poltergeist
If there’s one thing scarier than evil dolls in horror movies, it’s evil clowns, which is why 1980’s haunted house classic Poltergeist appears high on this list. The clown doll doesn’t feature in the movie much, but it provides one of the movie’s scariest scenes, as the film’s titular ghosts possesses the creepy clown and makes him attack the poor little Robbie. James Wan has cited Poltergeist as the movie that “sent me down my obsessive path toward all things evil-doll/puppet-related.”
4. Hugo – Dead of Night
Ventriloquist dummies have accounted for a number of scary movie dolls over the years. One of the earliest examples of a dummy coming alive and committing horrific acts is in the classic 1940 British horror anthology Dead of Night. The segment comes towards the end of the movie, and stars Michael Redgrave as a tormented ventriloquist. However, it is Hugo for which the film is rightly remembered–a chilling, taunting dummy with a taste for murder.
3. He Who Kills – Trilogy of Terror
As the title suggests, this made-for-TV horror anthology contains three spooky stories, all based on the work of legendary genre writer Richard Matheson. The episode it is most remembered for is the scary final tale in which ’70s icon Karen Black is menaced in her apartment by a terrifying fanged Zuni warrior doll known as He Who Kills. The segment absolutely terrified viewers back in 1975 and stills holds up today.
2. Annabelle – The Conjuring movies
Unlike many of the other dolls on this list, Annabelle doesn’t run around, maiming and murdering. She just sits there, looking creepy as hell. But as the unfortunate victims of The Conjuring and the two Annabelle movies quickly discover, just because you think you know where you last saw this old porcelain dolly, it doesn’t mean she’ll be there the next time you enter the room. She could be anywhere in the house. She could be behind you right now!
1. Chucky – the Child’s Play movies
There is no other scary doll as famous or prolific as Chucky. But when 1988’s Child’s Play was first released, it barely featured him on the poster–the emphasis was placed much more on the human characters than the serial-killer-possessed doll. However, that movie’s huge success and Brad Dourif’s iconic performance as Chucky’s voice ensured that he was absolutely the focus of the next movie, and of every single one that followed. By 1998’s Bride of Chucky, ‘Child’s Play’ was gone from the title entirely; with the seventh movie–Cult of Chucky–soon to be released, cinema’s best-known killer doll shows no sign of getting back in his box.