Are Demonic Dolls Overdone?

Why Chucky, Annabelle and Brahm Might Take a Backseat Soon

Pierre Roustan
Jul 3 · 5 min read

In a way, this is devil’s advocate for me. Because I dig dolls. They’re creepy looking. Nothing beats a film or story about some haunted toy ready to turn your world upside down into a living nightmare, and the beauty of it is the doll has to do nothing but…stare at you. It’s eerie.

However, We May All Be Suffering From Funhouse Fatigue in the Horror Genre

Both Annabelle Comes Home and the Child’s Play remake are terrorizing theaters as we speak, but here’s the thing: are we peaking with these dolls of death? Or will they continue to scare? Just how far can we go with all sorts of toys causing poltergeist with cups of tea, rocking chairs, and little shadows going bump in the night?

Sure, it’s understated (and dear God sometimes the horror genre needs a little understatement), and the mystery behind the focal point, which is that damn scary doll, certainly does the trick.

But Let’s Take a Look at the New CHILD’S PLAY Film for a Moment

Response is a bit mixed. Some are calling it a travesty while others are calling it promising. The issue is that the film’s taking the trope into a more new modern sensibility, focusing more on some sort of technical thriller horror angle versus the supernatural, and on paper, it works —

But remember: this is Child’s Play. It’s a classic.

Is this inventive? Sure. Will it work? Not for everyone. Instead of the classic voodoo dude possessing a doll and wreaking havoc, we have a toy masterfully manipulated technologically to become the world’s worst serial killer in overalls. Now, again, on paper, it sounds interesting, but because of the interesting similarities to the original, we get the feeling that it’s a mere reinvention, rehashing the same story and amping up the gore for that extra flair.

ANNABELLE COMES HOME, However, Is Certainly Putting the Gloves On

After two installments — the first one rather lackluster, and the second one ramping up the scares much better with an origin tale — this third one actually does outdo all others, especially in the wake of Lorraine Warren’s untimely death, one of the famous figures modeled after one of the characters central in the adaptation of the classic Annabelle story.

The question, however, we then have to ask is this: is this it? You have to ask yourself: it can’t get much more intense than this? And the fact remains, one haunted doll is the same as another. There are only so many other stories to tell about possessed playthings and the utter hell they inflict on living persons that ultimately we can’t identify nearly as much.

Don’t get us wrong: Annabelle Comes Home brings it. But this may be the last to bring in a tale about a plastic harbinger of death. After all, this seems to be the pinnacle of a Conjuring universe, culminating in one grand epic climax that may make Thanos weep.

What We All Can’t Get Past Is the Fact That the Inaminate Tends to Mystify and Weird Us Out the Most

The fact is dolls have been around for centuries. In fact, back in 2004, archeologists discovered a 4,000-year-old stone doll in the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria. When Egypt was an empire, rag dolls were common, made of papyrus-stuffed linen. Toy dolls were even more common when you think about the legend that is good ol’ St. Nicholas, the man behind Santa Claus.

That adds to the mystery as to why many are so put off by dolls when they do, in fact, seem to mean a lot culturally. In other words, they’re not meant to scare or even creep us out…. And that’s entirely the point. It’s all about the word “creep.”

Research Has, in Fact, Been Done as to Why Dolls Are “Creepy”

It’s not that they’re scary — although many think of them that way. There’s even a scientific term for it: pediophobia, the fear of dolls. It’s even sub-classified under a broader term, automatonophobia, a fear of humanoid figures, and also related to a fear of puppets commonly known as pupaphobia.

So the horror of dolls does exist. But why?

People find dolls creepy (not scary) for one reason: we don’t know what’s going in there, inside the vacant eyes of a puppet. It could be malicioous; it could be completely benign. We don’t know.

You see, getting scared revolves around a certainty: you see a werewolf coming at you, you’re undoubtedly going to defecate in your pants as you scramble away. You are, in effect, frightened beyond belief. But a doll? You’re ambivalent, and that’s what’s so creepy about them.

Your imagination plays into it. The lifelike. The resonation. They’re modeled to be like us. But they’re motionless, inanimate, fake, plastic. Yet once we close our eyes, our worst fears come into play, and we begin to wonder if these dolls end up coming to life.

That’s Where the Fear Comes From.

This is, honestly, why scary dolls seem to work so well. But you can only take it so far before you begin to recognize and desensitize in a film or story that talks about a ‘haunted doll’, and you end up knowing what to expect: doll comes to life, grabs a knife, tries to kill you, simple.

Once that’s over and done with, what do you do? What stories would be interesting to tell in the horror genre now? Not clowns, for sure — after we’re done with IT: CHAPTER TWO. What sort of model plot device will continue to work to raise the hairs on the back of our neck? Certainly not a doll. But perhaps as a clever device for something bigger and more sinister….

Perhaps haunted mannequins. Like a horror-themed version of A Night at the Museum…. Let that simmer in your head for a bit.

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Pierre Roustan

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prolific writer, published author, editor, experienced copywriter, avid reader, father and God-fearing Christian

Scary Horror Stuff

The Medium, uuh, “Medium” hub for all viral content from SCARYHORRORSTUFF.COM