The Horror Honeys: Spooky Kids Saturday: Cinema’s Scariest Toys

Spooky Kids Saturday: Cinema’s Scariest Toys

A Top 10 List by Sci-Fi Honey 2.0 Katie

Horror movies where children figure centrally into the plot love to exploit our deep-rooted fear of toys that have the potential to come to life and harm us. As kids, even before seeing any of these films, we had our suspicions; we gazed warily at the dolls that looked back at us with dead glass eyes, the music box or jack-in-the-box that could inexplicably operate on its own, or the demonic voices that would emerge from a toy with a low battery (if you ever owned a Teddy Ruxpin or a Speak & Spell, you know what I’m talking about). Filmmakers capitalized on these long-embedded phobias by inserting spooky toys – often dolls, those bastards – into the lexicon of horror. Below is a list of my 10 favorite scary playthings in cinema, guaranteed to make you relive some childhood toy trauma.

10. Annabelle, The Conjuring (2013), Annabelle (2014)

Of course we will have more than one abominable doll from the mind of possible pediophobic James Wan on the list, so what better way to start out than with his most recent horror handiwork? After introducing herself in a memorable flashback scene in Wan’s The Conjuring, studio execs thought haunted doll Annabelle was terrifying enough to merit her own origin story, and 2014’s Annabelle was born. The film was the biggest box office draw for horror in 2014, so apparently people still love their creepy dolls – despite this being a doll that you would never, EVER want to own in real life. Who wants that face staring back at them from a shelf?

9. Fats the ventriloquist doll, Magic (1978)

Ventriloquist dolls are inherently terrifying, what with their blank stares and freakish ability to mimic human speech (I still don’t know how that whole ‘voice-throwing’ thing works), so it makes sense that there are a number of horror stories that center on their evil nature. From R.L. Stine’s Night of the Living Dummy to the Twilight Zone episode ‘The Dummy,’ to James Wan’s Dead Silence (more on that later), these wooden wackos are prone to demonic possession more than any other toy imaginable. In Magic, Anthony Hopkins stars as a failed magician who is commanded to kill by Fats, his devious dummy – whose murderous nature is actually a manifestation of his owner’s demented psyche.

8. Chucky, Child’s Play series (1988 – 2015)

I’ve got to confess that Chucky never actually scared me growing up; much like Warwick Davis’ sinister sprite in Leprechaun, I always wondered why no one simply punted him if he came after you. But something about Chucky’s legacy endures, and the seventh film in the series is now in production. Brad Dourif stars in the original as a serial killer who transfers his soul, via an obscure voodoo ritual, into the stuffing-and-plastic body of a ‘Good Guy’ doll, that boy toy that looked like real-life doll My Buddy. I’ve no doubt that anyone who owned My Buddy looked at him sideways after Child’s Play came out, but for this girl, Chucky always elicits more eyerolls than scares.

7. Billy, Dead Silence (2007)

James Wan is at it again, and this time he wants to make sure you never take up the ancient art of ventriloquism. In Mary Shaw, we have cinema’s most evil of all ventriloquists: she’ll kill you, cut out your tongue, and steal your voice. Her beloved Billy is the last in a hundred puppets Shaw was buried with, but perhaps none are more terrifying than the puppets created out of her human victims. Chilling indeed. 

6. Billy the Puppet, Saw series (2004 – 2010)

James Wan, we need to talk. What is it with you and dolls? And naming everything ‘Billy’? Extra credit has to be given for Billy’s homemade nature; he’s like a nutcracker or ventriloquist doll that’s been given a makeover from Satan himself. Seeing this doll anywhere outside of the world of the film would be scary even without horror movie context, which is what ranks him pretty high on the list – although, admittedly, I sometimes giggle when he rides his tricycle.

5. Blade, Puppet Master series (1989 – 2012)

The Puppet Master movies have horrific dolls a-plenty, but Blade leads the pack for the one most likely to haunt your nightmares. With a knife for one hand and a hook for the other, he’s got no shortage of readily available weaponry to slice and impale to his liking. In one of the films it is revealed that he was modeled after a high-ranking member of Hitler’s Third Reich, which only amplifies his creep factor. Seriously, what could be more terrifying than a murderous Nazi puppet?

4. Talky Tina, ‘The Living Doll’, The Twilight Zone (1963)

Sure, she looks like a normal, cute doll – an average all-American dolly you’d find in any little girl’s cherished collection. The difference with Tina, though, is that she’s onto your shit. If you’re a wicked stepfather (Telly Savalas) who berates his adopted daughter, Tina will give you fair warning (“my name is Talky Tina and I don't think I like you,”) before going murderous on your ass (“my name is Talky Tina and I'm going to kill you”). The one that started it all, Talky Tina proves that hell hath no fury like a little girl’s dolly scorned. 

3. Babyface, Toy Story (1995)

What could possibly be so terrifying in this whimsical tale marketed to kids, that it earns a spot on the list of Cinema’s Scariest Toys? The answer lies in the bedroom of the movie’s resident pre-adolescent delinquent, Sid Phillips, and his collection of misfit toys. We all knew this kid growing up – the one who would acquire a new toy, and immediately burn, cut, draw on or otherwise mutilate it – but Sid is impressively diabolical in how he crafts mutant versions of his toys, fusing them together like a tiny Dr. Frankenstein. The scariest of all his miscreations is the synthesis of a baby doll’s head on the body of a mechanical spider, complete with a claw-like appendage and a bunt-out black eye socket. If this thing scuttled by, animated or not, it would send me running for the nearest blowtorch to put it out of its misery.

2. Puzzle box, Hellraiser series (1987 – 2011)

While it’s not technically a child’s toy, the Hellraiser puzzle box (also known as the Lament Configuration) is like a more sophisticated version of a Rubik’s Cube… albeit one that unlocks another dimension when solved. Many of these boxes pop up elsewhere in the series, but the original is the most frightening, conjuring hooks and chains that tear into the flesh of the man that first solves it. This “toy” is not to be trifled with.

1. The Clown Doll, Poltergeist (1982)

You knew this was coming. I’m willing to bet that most children who watched Poltergeist at a young, impressionable age remember the Clown Doll just as much (if not more) than any other frightening scene in the movie. Combining two prominent phobias – clowns and possessed dolls, we run away from both – the Clown Doll delivers a double dose of nightmares in one disturbingly cheerful-looking package. Time will tell if the Clown Doll featured in the upcoming remake scars today’s youth as much as the original film did.

Which of these toys scared you? Are there any I missed? Let me know on twitter!