Aww, dolls. How sweet. Little miniature humans that can be played with and posed…dresses and undressed…dismantled and reassembled…twisted and tortured… Anything, in fact, that a child’s imagination can concoct.

But what happens when our playthings get tired of being pushed around? When they decide to find out what we look like with our heads twisted around—or how far our arms can bend back—or what we’re stuffed with?

Join us this month as we follow the adventures of some dolls who give a whole new meaning to the term “action figure”. It might start out as just fun and games…

…but trust us, it’ll end in tears.




1000 Misspent Hours and Counting Magic (1978) You’ll have some inkling of what Corky is really afraid of, however, from the first time you see him talking to Fats backstage. What probably started as an innocent method of developing the dummy’s character and keeping in practice throwing his voice has taken on a decidedly sinister aspect now. Indeed, the conclusion that Corky’s head is no longer screwed on quite straight is practically inescapable.
And You Call Yourself A Scientist! Child’s Play (1988) In the end, Child’s Play manages the not inconsiderable task of being both an effective horror movie and great fun. The film’s premise, and its realisation of its living doll, add an inescapable edge of the ludicrous to the proceedings, but at the same time the whole thing is played so admirably straight that the viewer is compelled to take it seriously too. There is even, in the film’s closing moments, not merely the usual tiresome kicker, but a chilling hint that those involved in this horror will struggle to get over it.
And You Call Yourself A Scientist! Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge (1991) While I have my problems with it, I can imagine this film working well for a neophyte, as an introduction to the franchise. After all, despite its shortcomings it does get right the most important thing: the puppet-work is very skilful, the puppets have plenty to do overall, and each of them is given a good share of the action. Add to this a mad-science subplot, a ranting Richard Lynch, and by far the most interesting Andre Toulon we’ve had so far, and you’ve got a fun little standalone film—whatever its sins as a franchise entry.
And You Call Yourself A Scientist! Dead Silence (2007) Various aspects of the film seem to me to be behind my lack of reaction to it. In the first place, though ventriloquists’ dummies always do unnerve me, in and of themselves, the real horror of such stories tends to lie, not in the dummies per se, but in the ambiguous relationship between dummy and ventriloquist. It is no surprise that one of the most effective and disturbing sequences in the film is a flashback to Mary Shaw and Billy performing together: a performance that concludes, not with Mary, but Billy going into an explosion of anger at the suggestion from an audience member that he isn’t “a real boy”. The brief, apparent separation between the two makes this a chilling moment. The separation is illusory, however, with the progressive revelation that the dummies and their controller are not in conflict, but working together; very much together. What appears to be autonomy of action is merely an extension of the dummies’ normal function. The lack of ambiguity undermines their scariness.
Braineater Child’s Play in India Papi Gudia: It has a huge impact on the tone of the story that Karisma is not only not Raju’s mother, but is also coping with too much success, rather than too little. Never mind that the police are disturbingly casual when they bring Raju back to his absentee guardian: “Your little brother was abducted from the talent show by a serial child-murderer; but really, there’s nothing to worry about!” Never mind that young Raju takes all of this in stride, and never mind that Karisma subsequently does nothing to change her schedule or her behavior. What I’d like to know is this: why is this immensely successful young woman buying her little brother a crappy doll from a damaged-goods street vendor?

Mantra: This is not to suggest that The Doll in Mantra is as ludicrous as the one in Papi Gudia. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mantra’s Doll is designed to look almost innocent in the clear light of day… but in the right combination of shadows, and accompanied by the weird, shimmering mirror-light that comes with him, that Doll seems to come alive. It takes on new and sinister expressions even without being animated. That’s what makes the occasional use of a kid in a Doll suit comparatively disappointing: the fact that they were able to wring so much character out of a prop, using only simple puppetry and changes in lighting.

Zapatlela: Marathi cinema beat Bollywood to a version of Child’s Play by three years. Not only did they get there first, they also managed to make a version that was less a remake than an entire from-the-ground-up reconception. Perhaps realizing that a straightforward remake of Child’s Play would not go over well with a conservative Marathi audience, the film-makers made a critical change to the structure of the story: they made it a comedy

Ammo Bomma: But dubbing apparently wasn’t enough for the Telugu film industry. Thus they turned around and made their own version of Zapatlela — not their own interpretation of Child’s Play, but a literal, often shot-for-shot remake of the Marathi film. After all, why shouldn’t they? It’s only natural for a healthy local film industry to want to put their own personal stamp on an idea they know has been a hit elsewhere, right?

Well, that may be true, as far as it goes… but Ammo Bomma (“Oh God! The Doll”) was made in 2001, a full eight years after Zapatlela had been released. That’s hardly striking while the iron is hot.

Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension
Teleport City
The Unknown Movies Attack Of The Beast Creatures (1985) So, what is a beast creature? Well, from what I see here, there is a strong possibility they are distant cousins of Zuni fetish dolls, one of which was seen in the classic made-for-TV movie Trilogy Of Terror. They are about the same height, also have long black hair and white eyes, though the eyes of the beast creatures uniformly glow in the dark like flashlight bulbs. Instead of having brown wooden bodies, they have paper-mache bodies the color of watercolor red, which visibly starts coming off when they get submerged in water…