M3GAN have been seen everywhere recently, even on football pitches, bringing the killer doll, or evil doll, sub-genre back to the minds of horror fans. Since there’s a long tradition of evil puppets that predate M3GAN, here are our picks for the best evil puppet movies of all time!
Puppet Master series (1989 to ?)
Is it the best? Well, that’s certainly debatable, but it’s an absolutely entertaining series, for better or for worse. It’s been around forever and still gets sequels to this day, so it definitely has staying power. This series is one to go into knowing it’s low budget and very independently produced. It’s also one to go into with an open mind, as the entries aren’t all of the same quality and good, it’s a series of diminishing returns in terms of quality and enjoyment, but it’s also fun to check out. The new one has just been released, so it may well harken back to the series’ glory days. This series features multiple dolls, giving viewers a doll-sized group of villains, each more evil than the next. The stories vary from entry to entry, but overall they all come down to puppets created for entertainment turning evil. The first film uses charming stop-motion animation that looks a little clunky at times, but that’s part of the reason people love it. As the series progressed, the technology changed a bit and things got a bit smoother in the effects department.
Published well before the first puppeteer, Magic is a truly creepy film that gets under your skin so easily it’s almost shocking. Directed by Richard Attenborough (yes, that Richard Attenborough), the film follows a dummy ventriloquist and his human as the human tries to live his life and the puppet is having none of it. The puppet, Corky, is voiced by Anthony Hopkins and movie stars Ann-Margaret and Burgess Meredith as humans. This one is an oddity and a true cult horror film from the 1970s, as you don’t normally associate Attenborough and Hopkins with the genre. It’s creepy, it has some weird ideas at times, but it has so much talent behind and in front of the camera that it couldn’t be all bad no matter how hard it tried. It’s one of those movies where things fall in line to create a truly skin-crawling experience. Also a ventriloquist doll? Yes, those things are always creepy. This one is better discovered with as little information about it as possible, blind if at all possible, which of course negates the above. Avoid trailers or scenes available online and go straight to the full movie. It is quite an experience.
This post from the 1980s comes from a true master of horror, Stuart Gordon. Part of his extensive horror CV, the man has some of the best films, including Re-animator, From beyond, Castle Freakand Dagon. The man loved a good one Lovecraftian history. But he was also a man of many interests, and his take on the evil doll subgenre is a memorable entry into it. Dolls is the story of a family that one dark night ends up in a mansion and is welcomed by toymakers who have a few secrets. The creepy dolls are so funny here and just a little creepy. They work as a children’s tale to really scare and as a horror story to entertain and creep out adults. Ok, this might not be the best movie for all kids, but some kids should love it.
Annabelle: Creation (2017)
Yes, the second movie, not the first. The first one introduced an interesting puppet character, but the movie itself wasn’t the most exciting. The second, the prequel, is much creepier with arguably better performances. Here the audience is expected to know who Annabelle is relative to what she does and how evil she is, but the people in the film are the first to meet her officially, so they know nothing. This works great here and helps the film bring a doll that most people are used to into a new world, allowing her to really put down some roots and have a background that’s just a lot creepier than the first movie. The film takes place inside The art of magic universe, but it’s easy to see it as an independent entry from that universe, or even from Annabelle series of films. It’s the best of the bunch for many, and one viewing should make that clear to anyone uninitiated.
Bride of Chucky (2001)
Why the 4thTh entrance i Child’s play series you ask? Well, for many reasons, but mainly because of its double dose of evil doll. Here, Chucky is once again brought back to life in his doll body by the woman who loved him while he was alive and well, as Charles Lee Ray. This woman, Tiffany Valentine, quickly finds herself in Chucky’s crosshairs and ends up dead and in a doll herself. The killer duo hit the road and cause mayhem and carnage wherever they go. Chucky should of course be on this list but made his bride as she is epically awesome and almost as creative in her kills as he is. This sequel also revived the series and is undoubtedly, if indirectly, the reason why we now have a multi-season Chucky tv show which is so funny.
Dolls are creepy in their own right, these human-like toys that children (and some adults) love to pretend are alive. So bringing them to life was always a no-brainer for horror. Somewhere between Corky and M3GAN, a treasure trove of creepy dolls is easy to find for those who enjoy watching their antics. Of course, the quality of their films varies greatly from the fantastic to the dubious, from those so creepy you won’t sleep at night to the absolutely ridiculous. Creepy dolls have a following for a reason, they entertain.