By Terry Fleming • January 17, 2023
Hello Boils and Ghouls! The Thrift Keeper, here! Yes, I'm back, and this time, rather than discuss the history of horror, I'd like to talk about dolls! The success of the wholesome family movie M3GAN has reminded me of my own storied history with angry, evil, violent, but nonetheless ADORABLE dolls! Yes, technically speaking, M3GAN is an android, but let's not split hairs, here. Whether a doll is possessed by a demon, the soul of a serial killer, or simply has some screwball programming implemented by Allison Williams, so long as it's vengeful, jealous, brutal, and furious, then it's companion material for me!
I WAS an evil doll collector—at one point my bedroom, living room, kitchen, basement dungeon and ash pit were veritably LITTERED with them. Ghoulish little people-facsimiles with wonderfully blank-staring eyes communicating an invigorating psychosis! Staring into their hypnotizingly empty peepers reminds me of something that good-time Charlie Friedrich Nietzsche once said:
Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.
What a weirdo! Why would you NOT want to become a monster when fighting monsters? The great thing about the Resident Evil video games is you can become a monster simply by breathing mold! And what about getting a sexy love bite from a vampire? Another great way to go bad! If you're going to go the extra mile of actually fighting them, you should at the very least earn a few monstrous characteristics for it!
(And when it comes to the abyss staring into me, well, don't mind if you do! Do you think I wear my GOOD reaper's cloak because I DON'T expect to be CHECKED OUT?!)
Fortunately for me, I had my plethora of unblinking dolls with abysmal eyes to help monsterize me. UNFORTUNATELY, I found out the hard way that, if you're going to collect a bunch of cursed, possessed, or otherwise immortally soiled miniature people-husks then you shouldn't be surprised when they spontaneously come alive and start hunting each other. Oh, well. Survival of the fittest, I guess!
Finally, my favorite doll Winifred was last doll standing, having seemingly devoured all the others (I awoke one morning to find her chewing on a baby doll foot). Having bested the rest, she set about to hunting me! A girl after my own heart (literally!). I couldn't love her more (even when I'm pulling an icepick out of my back), which is why, when I saw the first trailer for the MONSTER HORROR HIT M3GAN, I knew we'd have to see the film together. Afterwards, we both agreed that a violently jealous AI that resembled an American Girl doll gone-to-seed was a great idea for modern society, and that Elon Musk must set about to manufacturing them immediately!
Until that magic day, here are some movies, shows and books about rancid, vicious, detestable dolls to tide you over!
First off, of course, we have Chucky from the Child's Play series. As we all must know by now, Chucky is a "Good Guy" doll possessed by the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray (I prefer to believe that my Winifred is possessed by the soul of Lizzie Borden, though she vociferously denies this, in spite of the fact she's great with a hatchet). Over the years, Chucky has experienced it all—he's even been married and has a son! Talk about living your best life! With homicide! Then we have Annabelle from The Conjuring series. This time a cult member's soul leaps into the creepy doll in question and mayhem ensues. Because you can't have too much of a good thing, there was a prequel named Annabelle: Creation and a sequel named Annabelle Comes Home. Now all we need is a musical version (though the title Guys and Dolls has already been taken!).
Another example of cute dolls gone berserk with bloodlust, Trilogy of Terror contains a story of one such nasty doll out to slice and dice Karen Black! And who could forget the Puppet Master series? Well, there are two distinct series, actually—one with Donald Sutherland trying to snuff out pod people (who are flesh puppets of a sort for aliens, similar to the Body Snatchers) and the other featuring psychotic puppets such as "Leech Woman," "Tunneler," and "Jester" (sounds like a prog rock band! Watch out Emerson, Lake and Palmer!) that enjoy, well, deferring to their talents in a uniquely abominable sort of way.
Before Anthony Hopkins found his best self as Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter he portrayed a ventriloquist slowly being taken over by his dummy in Magic. And speaking of dummies, let's not forget that Terminators are essentially puppets, either for Super Computers or rebel humans. Even when they're made of poisonous liquid metal (which many children's toys should be!).
And now for the books. John Saul gives us a lovely tale of a father giving his daughter a cursed doll (now THAT'S Parent-Of-The-Year material!). A horrid girl abuses her dolls and then wakes up one day to find herself at their mercy INSIDE their dollhouse in Among the Dolls. Despite the mysterious disappearance of nearly a dozen of the town's children, no one seems to notice Emma Prescott's collection of dolls look exactly like the missing youth in The Dollkeeper. One-Eyed Doll is an official Scary Tale (a horrifying series of stories for kids. You're never too young to scream!), while Night of the Living Dummy is Goosebumps contribution to the Putrid Puppet theme (don't forget Night of the Living Dummy II and Night of the Living Dummy III, not to mention Bride of the Living Dummy—because Demons Forbid any sinister lump of slashing plastic be lonely!). And let's not overlook Neil Gaiman's sojourn into the realm of macabre marionettes with Coraline (don't miss the freakish animated version!). Or how about Doll Bones, or The House of Small Shadows, or The Doll Collection, or Mama.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! So many monstrous dolls to choose from, it'll give dreadful children (young AND old!) endless hours of blood-red delight!