Zombies are the middle children of the otherworldly family. Vampires are the oldest brother who gets to have a room in the attic, all tripped out with a disco ball and shag carpet. Werewolves are the youngest, the babies, always getting pinched and told they're cute. With all that attention stolen away from the middle child zombie, no wonder she shuffles off grumbling, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha."

- Kevin James Breaux

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Companion to “Conversations in Horror” - “My Favorite Evil Doll Films”

“My Favorite Evil Doll Films”

In the podcast “Conversations in Horror” hosts Ron McLellen and I look at different aspects of the horror genre in order to entertain and educate fans.  This article is a companion to the show as a means to touch upon things that the show doesn’t have time to.  Enjoy.

I decided that it was time to take a look at some of my favorite films that feature evil dolls.  Some of these films you may be very familiar with while others you may not be (which means you probably need to go out there and look them up).  If you listen to Episode #1002 then you will know that we touched upon some of these films but I will enlighten you even more. 

The film that got me most interested in evil dolls was Child’s Play (1988).  It had a profound effect on me as a child, so much that the franchise was and still remains one of my all-time favorites about Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  The idea of using voodoo to become one with a doll and to continue killing people and manipulating a child terrified and fascinated me as a child.  It lead to my searching out other evil dolls especially Charles Band’s Puppetmaster (1989), which had some of the coolest dolls ever committed to film.  Chucky may have been the most terrifying doll there was but Band’s group of misfit and misunderstood dolls were among the most entertaining.  I still love all the films in the franchise and eagerly await a new film whenever they are released.

I think Charles Band and Full Moon Entertainment (and his various other companies) had the greatest effect on me growing up as a child because of the Puppet Master franchise and Demonic Toys (1992) and its various sequels.  Whereas the puppets of the Puppet Master franchise could be seen as good those in Demonic Toys were all bad which made them even more fun.  If there is one thing that Full Moon Entertainment does well, it is doll movies - others include Doll Graveyard (1995) and Dangerous Worry Dolls (2008), among many more.  One of the highlights of the Band produced films is Stuart Gordon’s Dolls (1987).  This is a superb film that’s over shadowed by Gordon’s other major works but no less a classic on its own.  I love this film.

Another one of my all-time favorites from this same time period is Dolly Dearest (1991), a largely ignored and forgotten film that doesn’t really have anything new to say but have always been an entertaining film.  It has not aged as well as some of the others but its slightly darker tone doesn’t come off nearly as campy as the Band produced films.  Another film in this same camp is the psychological thriller Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996), another largely forgotten film yet one that I really loved when it came out.  I’ve always had a fascination with doll films since the original Child’s Play and therefore any film featuring a doll was always high on my list.

Of a more adult vein is the Anthony Hopkins starring Magic (1978).  This is a classic psychological thriller that’s more of a character breakdown through the eyes of a ventriloquist who lets his fractured mind take over.  This is successful due to Hopkins’ powerful performance and descent into madness.  A mind not to be missed or forgotten.

Dolls continue to have a profound effect of children in the Tobe Hooper classic Poltergeist (1982) which is not a doll movie per say but it is most infamously remembered because of the clown doll that seems to have a will of its own.  This is not just a terrifying clown but a horrifying doll as well.  Makes you never want to have another doll around the house ever again.

Even more terrifying is the Zuni doll from Trilogy of Terror (1975) and its sequel of which most audiences remember the vengeful Zuni doll more than anything else in the film.  It overwhelms the narrative and ends the anthology film on a high note.  

More recent is the film Dead Silence (2007) which I thought was an amazing film overlooked by the fact that it is indeed a killer doll movie.  I love the atmosphere and the story and the look of this film.  It is written by Leigh Whannell and James Wan who had already created the creepy Billy doll in the Saw films but went one step further for this film.  They would go even one step further with their film The Conjuring (2013) which introduced the terrifying Annabelle doll (which would be the subject of her own film in 2014).

Dolls can be for good but more often than not they are the harbingers of evil (or that is there main function in horror films).  I’m not particularly afraid or scared of dolls and doll films simply interest and entertain me.  Love them or hate them evil dolls are here to stay.  I’m sure we’ll see more of them in the near future (especially in the Poltergeist remake to be released this year) but until then I suggest you seek out these films when you need something to take the edge off one night.

To watch the episode of “Conversations in Horror” go here –

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