Why are dolls so horrific and terrifying? Seriously, even the nice-looking ones. Even Barbie still harbors the potential to snap and jam a shard of broken Dreamhouse into your esophagus.
Perhaps the answer lies in The Uncanny Valley, which is a theory of human aesthetics positing that the closer an imitation of a human face gets to pure replication, the creepier it is. In handy picture form:
This is why Wall-E is adorable, but that weird Japanese automaton makes you want to wash your eyes with bleach. There's also the (fairly egocentric) idea that dolls are jealous of our fully animate human form. All Pinocchio wanted was to be a 'real boy', right? But Geppetto's doll child was pretty chill about his resentment towards humans in the grand scheme of scheming movie dolls.
With all of these bubbling feelings of inadequacy and confusion about their place in the world, it's not surprising that dolls become murderous in movies. Chucky aside, here's a Top 5 List of freak nasty doll-horrors.
5) Puppet Master (1989)
You have to wait a while for the actual puppets to get going, but the whole movie is such a demented '80s gore-and-WTF marathon that Puppet Master is totally worth a watch. A bunch of oddball psychics and sexologists go to a big old house at the request of a dead colleague before getting steadily bumped off, one by one. It's a bit like Agatha Christie's Poirot until Drillhead and Leech Woman turn up. It's a bit of a slow starter, and the characters spend too much time sitting around a dinner table making sex eyes and fellating breadsticks, but the onslaught of evil puppets and the adorably low-budget effects are a real treat. Not scary, but great fun.
4) Doll Master (2004)
This Korean curiosity is not short on the weird. When a group of hopefuls turn up at a creepy house to model for a doll-sculptor, it's not long before the dolls turn nasty. Doll Master actually has a soupcon of emotional depth going on, with the bond between child and doll explored, explained and exploited for horror chills. Another element is added to the mix in the shape of a Korean folk story echoing the Greek Myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. This is not to say that Doll Master gets hung up on the highbrow. There's plenty of jumpy moments, gory set pieces, and...uh, a giant doll embedded into a toilet cistern.
3) Trilogy of Terror (1975)
This made-for-TV gem is based on a trio of short stories by horror writer Richard Matheson (of I Am Legend fame), all starring the lovely, late Karen Black. Things go awry pretty pronto when the Five Easy Pieces beauty is alone in her house with a psychotic Zuni fetish doll. Her frantic struggle with the crazy creature will have you shouting at the TV, enjoying every minute. If you want to see a grown ass woman fight with a homicidal puppet, go for it.
2) Dolls (1987)
Another fairly bonkers 80s masterpiece from horror luminary, Dolls sees an oddball crew, including two Brit punks and an irritatingly catarrhal Matilda-child (sorry, Carrie Lorraine) shelter from a storm in a creepy old house. From bloodied bunny slippers to eye-popping gore, Dolls is a hilarious horror comedy from start to finish. The shoddy dialogue just adds to the fun - 'I knew there was something weird about this place. The old man is probably a sex fiend!' - as an army of dolls assemble to destroy everyone in the house who has lost touch with their inner child.
1) Dead Silence (2007)
Saw and Insidious mavens James Wan and Leigh Whannell are keen on dolls. Dead Silence makes number one not only because it has a spectacular array of creepy dolls, but because it actually manages to be scary in a couple of places. Jamie Ashen (True Blood stud Ryan Kwanten) returns to his family home to investigate following the murder of his wife by a wooden dummy. Along the way, he learns about Mary Shaw, a vengeful ventriloquist, and the hold she still has over his home town. There are some decent frights and slick production, and the not-entirely-predictable twist is just the icing on a satisfyingly creepy cake.
So what did I miss? Was there that one particular doll that kept you awake as a kid, or could you happily surround yourself with those ball-jointed freaks and rest easy?