Dolls make for one of horror’s creepiest subgenres. The more human they look, the more it triggers feelings of revulsion; this relational concept is known as the uncanny valley. Horror takes it a step further by exploiting our worst fears that the tiny playthings aren’t so inanimate after all. In the genre space, dolls seek to possess and kill. The poster child for killer doll horror belongs to Child’s Play icon Chucky, with the recent Conjuring universe alumni Annabelle hot on his heels. Both dolls prove to be popular enough to warrant their own franchises.
This week’s streaming picks belong to the killer doll subgenre. Unlike Chucky or Annabelle, it’s surprising that almost all of them never received a sequel despite the potential. Still, they offer plenty of scares, some heart, and even a good chuckle or two.
Here’s where you can stream them this week.
Dead Silence – HBO Max
A young widower heads home for answers regarding his wife’s murder, which may be linked to the restless spirit of a ventriloquist. While Mary Shaw had many dolls, ventriloquist dummy Billy was by far her favorite. Billy cut out Jamie’s wife’s tongue in the opening sequence, and it was Billy that haunted him more frequently than any other puppets. Before Annabelle’s first appearance in The Conjuring, James Wan practiced scaring audiences with Billy. The vengeful ghost of Mary Shaw might be just as spooky. Dead Silence features Billy the most, but the glimpse of Mary Shaw’s vast collection makes you wish this one received a sequel.
Dolls – Tubi
“Toys are very loyal, and that’s a fact.” From the perspective of little Judy, a sweet little girl with a love of toys, the Gothic mansion belonging to Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke is a dream come true. Not only are they far kinder than her father and stepmother, but the estate is filled to the brim with dolls, puppets, and toys. If you’re a jerk adult, however, the mansion is a death trap. While this Stuart Gordon-directed fairy tale draws clear lines between the innocent and the morally corrupt deserving of their fate, it’s still really creepy to see them meet their doom at the hands of the dolls. Even creepier? What happens to them after the dolls attack.
Dolly Dearest – Popcorn Flix
Following in the tiny footsteps of Chucky, this early ’90s killer doll flick saw a family uproot to Mexico after dad acquires ownership of a doll factory. He doesn’t know that a nearby tomb has been disturbed, letting the malevolent spirit of Sanzia loose. It just so happens to take root in the dolls, with which the factory owner’s daughter becomes obsessed. If you were to apply the zany antics of Cathy’s Curse to Child’s Play‘s general setup, you have Dolly Dearest. It brings the B-movie mayhem and stars Denise Crosby (Pet Sematary), Lupe Ontiveros, and Rip Torn.
Tourist Trap – AMC+, Shudder, Tubi
No, mannequins aren’t dolls, but they fit under that same uncanny valley umbrella. Mannequins are already unnerving, with their life-like appearance and vacant eyes. But what if they unhinged their jaws and made eerie sounds as they closed in on their victim for the kill? Yeah. Pure nightmare fuel. A group of friends discovers this the hard way as they find themselves stranded at a roadside attraction owned by the plucky Mr. Slausen. Of course, things are more than they appear to be as the friends begin disappearing one by one. Released during the golden era of slashers, it’s the creepy mannequins that have made Tourist Trap so memorable.
Trilogy of Terror – Prime Video
Appearing in the final segment, “Amelia,” of the made-for-TV anthology Trilogy of Terror, Karen Black fights for her life against the pint-sized nightmare known as the Zuni fetish doll. Based on Richard Matheson’s short story Prey, the segment sees Karen Black as Amelia, the unwitting recipient of “He Who Kills.” The oddly proportioned aboriginal doll with one gnarly mouth of razor-sharp teeth held a vicious spirit within, only contained by a loose gold chain with a penchant for falling off the doll. The cat and mouse game between the Zuni doll and Amelia terrified because of the doll’s ghastly appearance, the relentless pursuit, and how easy it was for him to hide. That the Zuni doll is tough to kill only makes the tension draw out further. The little killer terrorized another victim in the sequel, Trilogy of Terror II.