11 Scary Dolls and Puppets From Film and TV - VRGyani News and Media

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Thursday, September 30, 2021

11 Scary Dolls and Puppets From Film and TV

Forget masked slashers like Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees, human killers like Norman Bates and Jigsaw, and supernatural entities like Pennywise and Pazuzu. There’s a group of horror villains out there that’s scarier than all of them put together: puppets.

With their strings and herky-jerky movements, human-like visages, and unnaturally expressive faces that threaten unspeakable acts of violence, they’re loose cannons that cannot be controlled. But although they’re pint-sized, don’t let their stature lure you into a false sense of safety. After all, they do more than just sit quietly on rocking chairs and serve as playthings for perfectly pigtailed children. No, their motives are often…darker. They come alive at night and make you think you’re going crazy when no one else believes you, challenging your convictions and disrupting your perfectly rational world. They threaten, brainwash, terrify, and kill. Some are controlled by paranormal entities, some are fully sentient beings, while others are merely dolls that have the misfortune of simply looking terrifying. Regardless of appearance or motive, they all instill fright (whether or not it's intentional) in those that have the misfortune of crossing their path.

If you’re still not convinced that these tiny terrors are something to be wary of, here are 11 of the creepiest puppets, dolls, and dummies in film and television sure to make you check under your bed before turning in for the night.

Slappy (Goosebumps)

If you were a child of the 90s, chances are at least some of your nightmares featured Slappy, the orange-haired ventriloquist dummy from the Goosebumps television series. Though he only appeared in four episodes ("Night of the Living Dummy II," "Night of the Living Dummy II: Part 1," "Night of the Living Dummy III: Part 2," and "Bride of the Living Dummy"), he remains one of the series’ most memorable—and terrifying—characters by his appearance alone: a sickly tan pallor, expressive eyebrows above piercing green eyes, and a thin-lipped dummy mouth that always seems to be smirking. (Not to mention that unsettling suit and cummerbund—seriously, what’s up with that?) But this paired with his ability to walk on his own (shudder), turn humans into dummies, and make children his slaves more than solidifies him as a tiny terror. Just don’t call him a dummy.

Talky Tina (The Twilight Zone)

What’s creepier than a doll that looks saccharine sweet, utters charming catchphrases to her young owner, Christie, but threatens to commit unspeakable acts of violence when speaking to Christie's step-father? With lines like "My name is Talky Tina and you'll be sorry" and "My name is Talky Tina and I'm going to kill you," it's even more unsettling that her menacing lines are delivered with a sweet voice and an even sweeter smile. Talky Tina is a loose cannon, forcing anyone that crosses paths with her to walk on eggshells around her or suffer the consequences. With her plaid dress and ribboned pigtails, she looks sweet...but looks are deceiving. She's tougher than she seems (to near Michael Myers levels of indestructibility), especially considering Christie's step-father attempts to destroy her using a blowtorch, circular saw, and a vise to no avail. We don't know how this is possible, and it's Talky Tina's untold origins that further instill anxiety and set our minds wondering...and second guessing any tiny dolls we might see in the toy section of our local department stores.

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Count von Count (Sesame Street)

Once upon a time, a Sesame Street producer said to the rest of their team, "Hey, guys! You know what would be the perfect character to teach children math that's not creepy at all? A vampire!" Then everybody cheered and high-fived his genius. Well, at least that's how I imagined it went because it's hard to picture how anyone legitimately thought that this was a good idea. Count von Count's sickly purple complexion, Dracula-esque cape and clothing, and accent are all incredibly unsettling and not at all close to the soothing tones Big Bird uses to put children at ease. His obsession with numbers makes you wonder if it's only used to detract from his real obsession: blood. Not to mention that his maniacal laughter when he's "teaching children" makes you question if he really has altruistic motives…or if there are more sinister intentions lurking beneath the surface. Spoiler alert: there totally are.

Swedish Chef (The Muppet Show)

A puppet…with human arms. Let's just pause and let that image sink in for a moment because that alone is enough of a horrifying idea to keep you up at night. Is he a human? A puppet? Some kind of terrifying human-puppet hybrid cooked up in the lab of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew? We don't know! And it's terrifying. Plus, isn’t Swedish Chef just a little too cheery for a puppet without eyes? A puppet without eyes that also wields a knife? Who knows what he's capable of with those long human arms when he’s about to “cook” something? Plus, his accent and nonsensical gibberish make him even scarier since you never really know what he’s saying. Is he giving us a recipe…or a threat? Yep, nothing wrong here.

The Clown (Poltergeist)

The clown from Poltergeist might just be one of the most horrifying efforts at tapping into the common childhood fear of our toys coming to life at night. Who hasn't wondered what's under their bed at night when the lights are off? After all, it could be anything, right? It's bad enough that poor Robbie Freeling (Oliver Robins) has to face this exact fear to assure himself that nothing is amiss, but even worse that there is. Clowns are a common childhood fear and it's no wonder why. The one in Poltergeist is terrifying in appearance alone: a shock of bright orange hair, too-symmetrical Chiclet teeth, and an expression that morphs from joy to horrifying rage. Not to mention its maniacal laughter and long arms that try to strangle Robbie. Its scary to consider that toys, the very things meant to bring joy, could actually pose a threat to us as they secretly plot our demise. Because there, in the dark, there might be something there after all.

Brahms (The Boy)

While some dolls are unsettling because their features are so exaggerated and inhuman, Brahms is creepy for the exact opposite reason. His smooth, pale porcelain skin, fancy adult attire, and unblinking yet expressive eyes that always seem to be observing his surroundings make for a doll that is completely unnerving in its realistic appearance. His face and dimensions are accurate enough that it can nearly trick you into thinking that you're sharing a room with a real boy instead of a doll of porcelain and cloth. It's no less creepy that the adults around him treat him as if he is human, so it’s all too easy to imagine him rising from his chair and committing terrible acts in the middle of the night.

Annabelle (Annabelle)

With her spooky-elegant dress, mock-sweet pigtails, sallow complexion, and diminutive facial features displaying more than a hint of malice, she looks more like a vessel for evil than a child's plaything. And that's exactly what she is. As the films chronologically progress (from Annabelle: Creation to Annabelle to Annabelle Comes Home) and her powers grow, her appearance becomes more decrepit with darker toned and dirty face, fractured eye, and a series of scrapes, chips, and bruises marring her once perfect complexion. Dolls are supposed to convey feelings of comfort and safety but there's nothing comforting about Annabelle. In addition to her penchant for showing up in places she shouldn't, she's also fond of leaving unsettling crayon-written messages for her victims ("Miss me?"). There's also a demon attached to her, making both her chilling appearance and motives something to fear.

Billy (Saw)

He’s realistically child-sized (though without childlike features), but paired with his roaming red eyes, pale complexion, and black suit, he's as unnerving as they come. Though unlike some film puppets, Billy is not truly alive or possessed; he's merely an avatar for John Kramer (Tobin Bell) to deliver the rules of his twisted life-or-death games. But that doesn't make him any less creepy. He is brought to frightening life by Tobin Bell's deep vocal performance that gives the impression that Billy himself is free-thinking and autonomous. Even more blood-curdling? He moves. He can usually be found slowly riding his signature red tricycle (nope, not creepy at all) after appearing in dark, poorly lit chambers, or moving his ventriloquist dummy mouth as he offers gravelly laughter to Jigsaw's victims. Static puppets are horrifying on their own, but his Jigsaw-controlled movements and gestures make for a supremely disconcerting sight. Forget Jigsaw's games. Worry about Billy. Because this is one puppet you don’t want showing up at your door.

Chucky (Child's Play)

He starts off with the unassuming goal of just wanting to be your friend ("Hi, I'm Chucky, and I'm your friend 'til the end!") before he makes his true intentions known: to steal your body. That's just what friends do, right? His end-goal (and snarling facial expressions) are horror-inducing, as is the fact that he's actually possessed by the spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray. But when it comes to his victims, Chucky doesn't discriminate. Adult or child, no one is off-limits for the pint-sized terror. It's scary to think that he's so focused on his end goal that he doesn't care who he has to kill to get it. What adds to the terror is that, for him, killing isn't a necessary evil or means to an end. He enjoys doing it. It's all a game, as evidenced by his darkly comic jokes and how he's fond of hiding in small places before lunging on his victims with reckless abandon. His small stature enables him to hide just about anywhere, instilling his child owners (and the audience) with a huge dose of paranoia.

The Grisly Kin (Separation)

Separation is another film where the puppets featured were created to entertain. In this case, the Grisly Kin puppets were based on the drawings of artist Jeff Vahn (Rupert Friend). Naturally, Jeff gives the series of marionettes to his daughter, Jenny (Violet McGraw). Because if there's one thing children want looking over them as they try to fall asleep at night, it's Gothic-looking marionettes. And these nightmare-inducing creations are no exception. A clown, a witch, and a black-and-white striped ghoul are just some that make up this motley crew of petrifying puppets. They are painted with dark, unsettling colors, horrific facial expressions, and marionette strings that give them and their limbs jangly, jerky life. It's almost as if they are laying in wait for Jenny to fall asleep before they rise and wreak havoc. And boy do they. (A specific scence when the grimacing back-and-white puppet is brought to life and begins contorting is particularly chilling.) Despite being created as part of a children’s story, their unconventional outfits and smirks make it look like they have ulterior motives for the innocent children they’re supposed to entertain.

The Pirates (Channel Zero: Candle Cove)

Do you plan on sleeping anytime soon? No? Good. Because the pirate puppets in Channel Zero: Candle Cove are some of the creepiest and most unsettling abominations ever to grace a television screen. The fictional children's puppet show, Candle Cove, is populated with terrifying characters such as dead-eyed pirates, a skeleton, a creature with a single eye and massive mustache, and something known as the "Skin-taker" who wears cothing made from children's skin. With their human eyes, mixed with their choppy movements manipulated by marionette strings, they are a chilling blend of the incredibly fantastical and strangely realistic. Their lulling (and sometimes screaming) voices, combined with the washed-out colors and the dream-like way they are filmed gives their characters and movements an almost hallucinogenic quality, which is fitting since the fictional Candle Cove program was used to brainwash its young viewers. It takes something uniquely terrifying to add something new to the pantheon of creepy film and television puppets, but these more than earn their place. Just don't sit too close to the TV while you watch them. You never know what kinds of subliminal messages they might be implanting in your mind.

KEEP READING: 11 'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark' That Deserve to Be in the Movie Sequel



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