When thinking of a killer toy movie to watch, most likely one of the Child’s Play or Annabelle movies will come to mind, yet there are plenty other and arguably better killer toys in cinema. In reality, a slew of films came well before either of these films and a good amount after. Some are more psychological, while some are just good gory slasher movie fun.
The killer toy phenomena can be traced back to The Devil Doll in 1936, although many might remember the first killer doll on-screen as Talky Tina in The Twilight Zone‘s season 5, episode 6 “Living Doll” in 1963. The late 1970s and 1980s were when the killer toy genre came full force, with several movies: magic (1979), The Devil’s Gift (1984), and Joey (1985), to name a few. When Tom Holland’s Child’s Play was released in 1988, Chucky the killer doll popularized the killer toy genre, and that genre grew more over the years.
A mix of innocence with horror is something beyond disturbing, but audiences can’t get enough of it. Although Chucky and Annabelle are the faces of killer toys, there are many more sinister ones. Aside from Chucky and Annabelle, here is a breakdown of some of the best killer toy movies, ranked from worst to best.
6. Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996)
Kevin S. Tenney’s Pinocchio’s Revenge is a 1996 psychological thriller unique to the standard killer toy movie formula, as the doll is barely shown in action. Lawyer Jennifer Garrick (Rosalind Allen) is defending a child convicted killer Vincent Gotto (Lewis Van Bergen). After Gotto is executed, Garrick’s coworker has the only evidence left: a creepy-looking puppet who bears a striking resemblance to Pinocchio. Garrick brings the doll home to find any clues, but her daughter Zoe (Brittany Alyse Smith) mistakes the puppet as a present. Similar to Paranormal Activity 7, Zoe becomes attached to the doll. Shortly after the puppet arrives in the house, danger surrounds Zoe: her babysitter gets ruthlessly killed, her elementary-school bully gets pushed in front of the school bus, and Garrick’s boyfriend falls down the stairs.
This movie is ranked worst out of the killer toy genre, as the audience hardly sees a glimpse of the doll alive, and the film’s cheesiness overrides the story. The film is a borderline comedy, with its bizarre and zany direct-to-video atmosphere, making it almost feel like more of a goose bumps children’s movie as opposed to a horror movie. The story has potential, as it makes the viewer question if the doll is the culprit or if it is Zoe all along.
5. Terror Toons (2002)
Joe Castro’s Terror Toons is a typical 2000s horror movie: a good mix of scares with comedy. Two sisters Candy and Cindy receive a package in the mail with a DVD titled “Terror Toons.” They throw a party at the house, and terror soon strikes. While Candy is at the party, Cindy watches the DVD in her room; Apparently, the DVD was sent to her by the Devil himself. Unbeknownst, two of the evil toy characters, Dr. Carnage and Max Assasin, are set free from the TV and torture and kill many party attendees.
Terror Toons feels more like the set was rented from an adult-video studio instead of a horror movie, but it has killer toys, blood, and gore, so it is classified as a killer toy movie. It isn’t necessarily a well-made movie, but it is incredibly entertaining to watch, and that is the main point of these types of films.
4. The Pit (1987)
Lew Lehman’s The Pit, is an obscenely low-budget film about a boy named Jamie and his cuddly teddy bear. The film has elements of multiple genres: horror, comedy, and creature feature, which makes it equally enjoyable to watch as it is confusing. The film follows 12-year-old Jamie (Sammy Snyders), whose only friend is a teddy bear. He also frequently visits the woods to visit “the pit,” a hole in the ground with creatures called Troggs, who feast on human flesh. Those who bully Jamie quickly end up in this pit, but the teddy bear tells him to do this. Jamie quickly is labeled as a troubled kid, so similarly to Pinocchio’s Revengethere is the question of whether it is the bear committing these crimes, or is it all in Jamie’s head?
Jamie may very well be the creepiest kid in a horror film, with him scheming with his teddy bear and feeding his bullies to creatures while Disney-esque music is playing in the background. This movie is nowhere near considered a masterpiece in cinematic horror, but the third act is entirely unexpected, making the film worthwhile.
3. Dolly Dearest (1991)
Maria Lease’s 1991 horror movie Dolly Dearest is about a businessman named Elliot (Sam Bottoms), who buys the famous doll manufacturing company “Dolly Dearest” and, of course, gives one of the adorable dolls to his daughter Jessica (Candy Hutson). The little girl quickly gets close to the doll and also becomes exceptionally violent towards her mother. The doll at one point completely possesses Jessica, who, when her mother tries to take the doll away from her, uses Jessica to scream, “I will kill you! The kid’s mine!” Similar to Child’s Playthe cutesy doll is possessed by an evil spirit, but there is more to it: dolly is the “Sanzia devil child,” a thousand-year-old evil spirit who feeds on children’s blood.
Dolly Dearest ranks high on the killer toy genre for its eerie camera angles: ghostly closeups of the doll’s hands clutching onto door handles, her once cutesy face turning sinister, and slow-panning of the doll’s feet walking, with faint tappings heard in the distance. When the doll comes to life is when the thrills begin: her terrorizing face, menacing creepy laugh, and awesome kills. Candy Hutson does a remarkable job portraying a possessed child, and the movie is utterly entertaining.
2. Puppet Master (1989)
David Schmoeller’s 1989 Horror Movie Puppet Master cleverly depicts possessed puppets in a genuinely unique way as opposed to other killer toy movies. In 1939, a puppet master named André Toulon (William Hickey) had the gift of bringing his puppets to life. Toulon commits suicide, and the film then goes to the present day, where five psychics come together due to a former colleague “connection” them. Alex Whitaker (Paul Le Mat) and four other psychics have constant nightmares, which leads them to find their coworker and fellow psychic Neil (Jimmie F. Scaggs) dead after committing suicide. The physics soon find themselves haunted by a group of puppets created by Toulon all those years ago.
Modern horror movies often return to the 1980s, as it was such a defining decade for horror. Puppet Master is no exception. Puppet Master is a surreal, dreamy 80s horror masterpiece. Although low-budget, it produced some of the most horrifying toys in the killer toy genre. It’s slow-paced, intriguing, and creepy. It isn’t over the top in any sense and leaves much to the imagination. The stop-motion effects make the puppets even scarier than CGI, and the camera shots are what stand out: low-level shots of the puppet’s feet and closeups on the eerie faces, grinning ear to ear. It’s a perfect late night movie to watch with friends.
1. Dolls (1987)
Stuart Gordon’s dolls came just a year before Child’s Play but didn’t even get close to the amount of recognition that it deserves. The film follows seven-year-old Judy (Carrie Lorraine). She, her abusive father David (Ian Patrick Williams), and evil stepmother Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy-Gordon) pull up to a creepy mansion while pulling over because of a thunderstorm. The house’s owners are an elderly and a rather scary couple, Gabe and Hilary (Guy Wolfe, Hilary Mason), who let them into their home. Later entering the house is a child-like, innocent man named Ralph (Stephen Lee) and two hitchhikers (Bunty Bailey, Cassie Stuart). As soon as they enter the house, they find thousands of dolls (which are revealed as killer dolls), ranging from adorable dolls to rather frightening ones. It is soon revealed that the couple are puppet makers who kill every “evil” visitor. They then put their souls into dolls for eternity as a form of punishment. Of course, they do this all for the well-being of children. Unlike Child’s Play, dolls hold a lot of symbolism. Judy’s parents are abusive and terrible to Judy, and this is why their souls are forced to be in the doll’s bodies for the rest of eternity. The only ones who survive the killings are Judy and Ralph, as they are the innocents. Aside from the symbolism, the film’s atmosphere is terrific: intense colors, creaky stairs, and the rather spine-chilling lullaby playing throughout. dolls has a spooky feeling from the beginning, with some funny one-liners, and of course, some bloody kills. It’s a must see for any killer toy movie foliage.
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