Tiny, Terrifying and Poised to Kill: A Halloween Horror Film Homage

Happy Halloween, Everyone!


It’s no secret that dolls are one of the most popular terrifying creatures of choice. As children, we make them our friends. We trust them, love them, collect and cuddle them. But what happens when this most sacred of possessions turns against us? Hollywood loves capitalizing on this trust/fear relationship we have with these smaller-than-life objects. Here we’ve captured our TOP THREE most menacing examples of little play things gone wrong:

Sharp-Toothed Attack Dolls
Film: Barbarella (1968)

“What lovely little children, their dolls are made of wood. Their teeth are shiny metal, to eat you as they should.”
So went the scene description right off the soundtrack album for this particularly bizarre 3-minute segment in the sexy cult sci-fi flick Barbarella. Slow-moving, vicious, and owned by emaciated gaunt-faced kids, these darlings emitted a particularly shrill & frightening scream every time they’d open their jaws to gnash. Poor Jane Fonda never stood a chance.

“Fats” the Ventriloquist Dummy
Film: Magic (1978)

Fats the Dummy is a tad bit neurotic. He has his own thoughts. His own feelings. AND intimate one-on-one conversations with his “pal” Corky, brilliantly portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. But jealousy always leads to no good. We pity the woman who gets in between a man and his little wooden friend.
This 33-second trailer had Suzz running from the TV room during her childhood. Yes, it still has the same effect TODAY:

The African Zuni Fetish Warrior Voodoo Doll
Film: Trilogy of Terror (1975)

Our number one choice for most terrifying-thing-under-two-feet should come as no surprise. The African Zuni Fetish Warrior Voodoo Doll has struck fear and loathing in the hearts and minds of MILLIONS since his debut with scream queen mistress Karen Black in the final segment “Amelia” in Dan CurtisTrilogy of Terror. To add to the thrill, this iconic trio of stories was actually a teleplay, not a theatrical film. How horrid to have this nightmare invade your comfy 1975 living room! Aired on ABC Television on March 4, 1975, Trilogy of Terror, which starred Karen Black in all three segments, was one of the few films on network television to carry the “parental discretion is advised” warning – makes it a winner in OUR book.

Though our current films utilize the splashy, often unremarkable CGI effects many of us have come to endure, we think there is truly nothing so terrifying as a stop-motion figure making its way from one side of the screen to another. As we watch this little guy chase poor Amelia around her home with his piercing battle cry  — the sound of which is entirely indescribable — we get that sensation of horror on the inside but still chuckle that uneasy chuckle on the outside. That’s the real beauty of this effect: our minds try to make sense of what’s happening all the while knowing, hey, it’s JUST A DOLL. Whether Dan Curtis knew this from the onset or not, he created a legendary figure who’s cult status yielded a follow-up, Trilogy of Terror 2, in 1996, also produced and directed by Curtis. As with the 1975 film, a single actress (Lysette Anthony) starred in all three parts of the film. If you’re curious about what happens with our beastly little friend after he is found in Amelia’s home, the final story in ToT2, “He Who Kills,” picks up where “Amelia” left off. As with most sequels, especially those that blatantly capitalize on a specific feature of its predecessor, the magic of the first film isn’t really there. It was also the late 90’s, a totally different era in film with a completely different audience. There are more shots of the Zuni chasing Anthony through her home (and lucky for us he’s still animatronic), but as fun as it is to see this little guy wreaking more havoc, there’s a bit of “been there, done that” to the effects. But if one let’s the imagination run loose, it’s still an incredibly effective premise and one that hasn’t been captured since, even with the creation of similarly themed films Dolls, Puppet Master, and of course the Child’s Play series. The Twilight Zone even had its fun with the spooky Talky Tina who threatened to kill anyone who stood in her way.

See some great clips and behind-the-scenes of Trilogy of Terror and Trilogy of Terror 2 on TrilogyOfTerror.com. Whoever created this site is certainly one hell of a fan.

We couldn’t end our foray into the land of the UNenchanted without a fabulous snippet of Curtis’ original “Amelia.” Just pretend you’re anywhere from 7 – 10 years old living a 1970’s sheltered life:

* * * *

If you’re anywhere near Portsmouth, NH, tonight, we highly recommend their annual Halloween Parade which starts right at 7PM. Check out all the details at SpookyPortsmouth.com. Have a horrific night tonight, and be sure to make time for a titillating film or two!


Published by Lowell Film Collaborative

The Lowell Film Collaborative is a grassroots initiative in Lowell, MA, whose mission is to bring more cinematic awareness to the community.

One thought on “Tiny, Terrifying and Poised to Kill: A Halloween Horror Film Homage

  1. I’m so glad you decided to post this today!
    What a great way to pay tribute to these “most menacing examples of little play things gone wrong.”

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