by John

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Dolls are mere playthings… or are they? Let’s face it – you will be feeling very uneasy if a whole shelf of creepy dolls stared at you. What if one of those seemingly lifeless beings flung itself at you, or turned its head 360 degrees before giving you a freaky wink? 

We all know dolls can be scary. Those glassy eyeballs and expressionless faces are enough to give you nightmares for eternity. This is perfect material for horror movies to creep viewers out, leaving them in cold sweat.

And that is why we have movies like Annabelle: Creation. If you don’t already know, the movies are inspired by Annabelle, an eerie-looking Raggedy Ann doll which American paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren reported to be haunted. In real life, the supposedly possessed doll resides in a glass box at The Warrens’ Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut.

Annabelle: Creation tells the story of how the doll was created. After a tragic accident which killed their daughter, a dollmaker and his wife ushered a nun and several orphans into their gloomy home. Frightening events begin occurring, and no one is spared from the dollmaker’s creation: a sinister doll named Annabelle.

Annabelle: Creation

This fourth instalment in James Wan’s The Conjuring horror universe has a promising setup and progresses to scare you with its long silences and foreboding silhouettes. Horror movies always work when you have a kid-centric ensemble cast. Here, the 109-minute movie capitalises on child Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson and Samara Lee to make viewers feel like they are being chased around by the titular doll. Director David F. Sandberg knows how to make a gleefully frightening movie. He uses conventional scare tactics like flickering lights, lingering shadows and loud door bangs sparingly, coupled with atmospheric shots that leave audiences feeling uneasy. This movie has the perfect formula for a horror flick.

A box office success that grossed over $256 million, Annabelle: Creation is the prequel to 2014’s Annabelle directed by John R. Leonetti. What viewers will take away is still how menacing the vintage porcelain doll looks… Why would anyone buy something like that as a gift?

Child's Play

Talking about movie franchises and scary dolls, an automatic inclusion is Child’s Play. First released in 1988 and directed by Tom Holland, the movie defined the slasher flick genre. A widowed mother gives her son a doll (a fictional Good Guy doll named Chucky) for his birthday, not knowing that it is possessed by the evil soul of a serial killer. Sounds simple enough? This is just the beginning of a successful film series which also includes comic book and video game spin-offs. The thought of a notorious murderer whose spirit is trapped inside a Good Guy doll is spine-tingling enough, how about throwing in a voodoo ritual so that he can avoid going to hell?

Cult of Chucky

Fast forward 29 years, and Chucky is still doing well. Don Mancini, the original creator of Child’s Play, helms the latest instalment Cult of Chucky. The movie brings back cast members from previous movies and sees the evil doll returning to terrorise his enemies who have unfortunately been confined to an asylum. Expect large dosages of strong horror violence, grisly images and of course, a vulgarity-spouting doll. With the movies becoming increasingly campy and disturbingly funny over the years, this is one guilty pleasure that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Cult of Chucky

Dead Silence

Before James Wan made big bucks with horror blockbusters like Insidious (2010) and The Conjuring (2013), he directed Dead Silence (2007). And yes, it features a scary doll. After a ventriloquist is accused of murdering a young boy, she was hunted down by angry townsfolk and killed – not before getting her tongue cut off. It was obviously a wrong move. Before you can say “ventriloquist”, the dead woman’s dolls are reappearing to kill people. And yes, tongue-cutting is a common sight as these victims met with gross-out deaths.

The Boy

Elsewhere, we have an odd couple who employs a nanny to take care of a life-sized doll which they treat like a real boy. The toy is apparently a way for them to cope with the death of their son who died 20 years earlier. Things get really unsettling in William Brent Bell’s The Boy (2016) as viewers feel an overpowering sense of awkwardness seeing how the doll needs to be fed, talked to and played with. Is the doll actually alive, and what dark secrets are the “parents” hiding? We are not sure we want to know.  

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