Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers and Leatherface are all legends. But for pure, visceral creepiness — we’re talking skin-crawling terror — none of them has a thing on that sinister villain in your little sister’s closet: the Chatty Cathy.
Not to get all Freudian on you — well, OK, to get all Freudian on you — the good doctor’s theory of “the uncanny” explained why dolls and puppets disturb us. Those glassy eyes, that permanent plastic grin, the way Cathy says, “I love you. Will you play with me?” They’re human enough to be familiar but still different enough to freak us the heck out.
James Wan’s “Dead Silence” — about a man who returns home to find that a long-dead ventriloquist’s curse is making everybody a little, um, wooden — is the latest horror film to scare us with dolls, but it’s hardly the first. In honor of “Silence,” which hits theaters on Friday (March 9), we raided our closets and braved the demons to bring you history’s scariest onscreen dolls. Will you play with us?
Billy, “Saw” (2004)
Our subconscious reminds us that the only things scarier than dolls are clowns. Combine the two and you’ve got Billy, the clown doll that acts as Jigsaw’s right-hand man. Torture, dismemberment, conflagration — these are the things that make “Saw” great. Billy riding a tricycle into a death chamber? We have to watch that scene through our fingers.
The Spider Doll, “Toy Story” (1995)
Maybe you think there’s nothing creepy in “Toy Story.” Maybe you’ve never seen a 4-year-old watch the scene where Buzz and Woody escape Sid’s room. Ever the demented tinker, Sid has grafted the head of a doll onto the legs of a spider. Repeat: a deformed doll head that moves around on spider legs. Thank goodness all Buzz Lightyear toys come with karate-chop action.
Fats, “Magic” (1978)
“And they call me the dummy!” Ventriloquist Corky (Anthony Hopkins) is having a hard time dealing with his dummy, Fats — what with the doll gaining sentience and killing his friends and all — in this bizarre film written by William Goldman. When Corky chooses to kill himself and the two argue over who will “die” first, we knew right away they were both wrong. The first thing to die after watching this movie was our childhood innocence.
Pinocchio, “Pinocchio’s Revenge” (1996)
“Hi-diddle-dee-dee,” a killer’s life for me. Pinocchio gets his wish to become a real boy when little Zoe cuts his strings, so of course he murders a bunch of people (but, thank the Blue Fairy, doesn’t lie about it or else we’d have real trouble). We wish upon a star every night that he would have just stayed put inside that blasted whale.
Fly-in-the-Sky, “Meet the Feebles” (1989)
OK, so maybe Peter Jackson’s demonic ode to the Muppets doesn’t belong on a list of the “scariest” movie dolls, but we defy anyone to come up with something creepier than the Fly, an investigative journalist who does a tap-dance routine around a pile of, excuse us, feces. Other characters include a bipolar hippo, a porn-king walrus and a rabbit with an STD. Jackson said while accepting his Best Director Oscar (for “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”) that “Feebles” was “wisely overlooked by the Academy.” We couldn’t disagree more.
The Dolls, “Dolls” (1987)
One porcelain doll in this film kills a woman and then proceeds to bleed from the eyes. We have nothing rational to contribute at this point, since we’re writing from underneath our covers, crying for our mommies.
Clown Doll, “Poltergeist” (1982)
Note to parents: If you absolutely, positively must build your home on top of a graveyard, whatever you do, don’t buy your son an evil clown doll with freakishly long arms. Experience shows that these dolls will come to life just when you least expect it and strangle the boy under his own bed.
Chucky, “Child’s Play” (1988)
The story of a doll who goes from Teddy Ruxpin to Ted Bundy, “Child’s Play” quickly devolved into camp (“Seed of Chucky”?) but the original is about as durable as Chucky himself. For audiences counting at home, he’s been killed six times — which is one more than the number of Cabbage Patch dolls we had to throw away after sitting through this flick.
Talky Tina, “The Twilight Zone” episode “Living Doll” (1963)
“My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you.” So begins the sad tale of Erich Streator (Telly Savalas), a down-on-his-luck father who just happens to run afoul of the most sinister doll in history from this episode of “The Twilight Zone.” Don’t say we didn’t warn you: the voice of Tina was provided by June Foray, who also did the voice for the original Chatty Cathy. “My name is Talky Tina…and you better be nice to me!” Duly noted, Tina. Duly noted.
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