It’s been a busy week for the horror dolls of Hollywood, after the trailer dropped for M3GAN. An upcoming sci-horror, it sees roboticist Gemma (played by Get Out’s Allison Williams) create a creepy, lifelike doll (the titular M3gan) to keep her niece Katie company after the death of her parents. Predictably, everything isn’t quite what it seems and M3gan’s sworn allegiance to Katie has deadly consequences.
With horror films dominating pop culture discourse, it’s no surprise that the trailer for M3GAN immediately went viral – not for its promise of jump scares, but for the doll’s TikTok-worthy dance moves and close resemblance to a Madame Tussaud’s version of Gossip Girl’s Georgina Sparks.
But things got quite weird when Chucky, from 1988 slasher Child’s Play, logged onto Twitter in a bid to contest who could really be the most murderous doll of them all. What followed was a wildly entertaining series of tweets that called for a debate over which of Hollywood’s dolls was the freakiest.
Never mind “elevated” horror. In the spirit of spooky season, we’ve ranked some of cinema’s most terrifying toys.
While perhaps the most well-known slasher doll in cinema, there’s something about Chucky that makes him quite difficult to take seriously. Perhaps it’s to do with his terrible haircuts and sardonic one-liners (“What would Martha Stewart say?!” stands out), most of which have been relegated to the annals of Top 10 Funniest Chucky Moments videos on YouTube. A+ for camp credentials, D- for paralysing fear.
6. Tiffany Valentine
Coming in a close fourth is the Bride of Chucky, Tiffany Valentine, who spends much of their on-again-off-again relationship decapitating heads, slitting throats and sharing some feminist pearls of widsom with her layabout hubby (see: this legendary bust-up scene). Her most unnerving moment? When she retorted “Martha Stewart can kiss my shiny plastic butt!” in response to Chucky’s above quote, amid an interrupted moment of domestic bliss between Tiffany and her husband in Bride of Chucky (1998).
There’s no denying the porcelain antagonist from 2016 film The Boy, which follows a nanny (Lauren Cohan) who’s surprised to find out the child she’s supposed to be looking after is actually a doll. Kept as a not-so-living and breathing reminder of a real little boy who died in a fire by his grieving parents, he doesn’t quite scream fear factor. The tiny knitted jumpers and oh-so-neat comb-over are just a little twee.
M3gan became meme-fodder within hours of her film’s trailer being released, which doesn’t bode well for her projected reign of terror. That being said, M3GAN does include some genuinely scary looking moments – a high octane forest-chase and some bitchy backchat being two of them. But it doesn’t quite stop the viral freaky doll du jour from coming off as a budget version of Ava from 2014’s Ex Machina.
Part of The Conjuring series, which arguably produced some of the finest horror films of the mid-2010s, this is where we really start to cower behind the cushions. What makes Annabelle so scary is her eerie stillness, menacingly thin brows and piercing, soul-sucking eyes. Fine, maybe things did get a little gimmicky following the original film’s prequel and sequel – there’s only so much meaning we can prescribe to Annabelle, her creepy rocking chair and glassy-eyed gaze – but we’d say she’s pretty solid for a freaky doll.
What makes Jigsaw such an effectively horrible toy, beyond his dishevelled hair, unsettlingly smart tuxedo and spiral-inked cheeks, is that unlike every other one on this list, there’s nothing supernatural about him. Arguably, the man behind Jigsaw, John Kramer, is much more terrifying than any doll could ever be. He terrorises his victims for their perceived slights, torturing them in the most messed up ways possible. And once he cycles in on his (slightly silly) bicycle, we all know what’s about to follow…
This might seem like a bit of a wildcard for the top spot, but stay with us. Renesmée Carlie Cullen, the human-vampire hybrid daughter of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen in the Twilight movie saga, wins the top spot precisely because she wasn’t intended to be so terrifying. But with her bobbing head that looks as though it’s been haphazardly attached to a newborn child’s body, twitching fingers and empty stare, Renesmée truly is the stuff of nightmares. Producers for the film used an animatronic doll instead of casting a child in the role, and there were even rumours swirling that Renesmée was actually haunted. Hell, the cast used to call her “Chuckesmée”. We rest our case.