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10 Creepiest Horror Movie Puppets

Whether big or small, you’ll want to keep an eye peeled for these scrambling, treacherous playthings.
Horror Movie Puppets List
By  · Published on October 18th, 2021

5. The Conjuring (2013)

The Conjuring Annabelle

It says a lot about the creep factor of The Conjuring’s Annabelle that in a film already terrifying — for my money, one of the absolute best examples of a haunted house movie — one of the most thoroughly impactful scenes is the brief but chilling origin of the Warrens’ frightful doll. Apparently possessed by an “inhuman spirit,” Annabelle is a horror just to look at. You add in the unnerving backstory and the film’s overall atmosphere, and you have pure nightmare fuel. While the spin-offs focussing on the doll certainly have their moments, we have to give primary credit to The Conjuring’s fleeting take on the demonic doll. We get just enough of Annabelle to get the ball rolling and let our imaginations run wild. (Anna Swanson)

4. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Killer Klowns From Outer Space

The Chiodo Brothers are nothing if not special effects wizards. Their puppetry and creature creation is top shelf. In 1988, they stepped behind the director’s chair and put their talents on full display with Killer Klowns from Outer Space. The film highlights what makes the brothers special, with various klown puppets that have become iconic thanks to their creepy circus look. While the film is a cherished 80s favorite for horror fans, there’s no doubt that the likes of Jojo, Jumbo, Fatso, Shorty, and the rest of the gang have outlived the actual film. The Klowns have appeared at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, received replica puppets sold by the Chiodo Brothers, and become their own Funko Pop set. We may never get to see these classic horror movie puppets in action in the long-awaited sequel, but there’s no denying that klowns will forever live on. (Chris Coffel)

3. Magic (1978)

Magic Puppets

There’s co-dependent, and then there’s the relationship between Corky Withers (Anthony Hopkins) and his puppet Fats. Word to the wise: if you’re a ventriloquist and your dummy looks a hell of a lot like you, you’ve got bigger problems than having a bum act. On the advice of his mentor, Merlin, Corky spices up his professional magic act with a gimmick. And a foul-mouthed ventriloquist dummy does just the trick. And by trick, we, of course, mean “accidentally transferring his virulent id into a grimacing artificial vessel.” Soon Corky’s inability to control Fats off-stage and rapidly deteriorating mental health (which came first is hard to say) threaten to curtail his career and undermine his blossoming relationship with his high school crush Peggy (Ann-Margret).

Coolly directed by Richard Attenborough and based on a screenplay by the legend William Goldman (The Princess Bride, All the Presidents Men), Magic is an unsettling watch brimming with the misdirection characteristic of top-tier sleight of hand. When you have to intentionally reach inside yourself to manipulate leavers and gears – an eyebrow raise here a witty remark there – who, ultimately, is controlling who? (Meg Shields)

2. Dolls (1987)

Dolls Puppets Stuart Gordon

Dolls is something of a forgotten stepchild from Stuart Gordon — it never caught on like the two Lovecraft flicks that preceded it and never became the cult hit it deserved to be — but I remain a fan. It’s a bloody night in a creepy house, and in addition to the bloodletting, atmosphere, and dark comedy, we also get some unsettling puppetry.

To be fair, many of the killer toys here are brought to life through pretty rudimentary forms of “puppetry,” including hands just out of view and forced perspective shots, but that variety adds to the fun. Some are more elaborate as faces and jaws move, and sure, one’s just a dude in a giant teddy bear costume, but those pieces make for an entertaining whole. These horror movie puppets, figures, and dolls pervade the film, and we love it. (Rob Hunter)

1. Poltergeist

Poltergeist Puppet Clown

What’s the worst element about Poltergeist’s clown puppet? Location? You don’t want to mess with anything that can survive and slink around within that tiny crawl space between your floor and the bottom of the bed. Its clown face? Clowns, in general, are a big no-go. Their dark magic can stuff a dozen of themselves within one car, so making use of that tiny realm beneath your bed is no problem for such demons. How about its long spindly arms and legs? Ooooh, yeah, right now, that’s what’s giving me the shivers. The Poltergeist clown puppet has reach and speed because of those dangly monstrosities. When the flashlight hits its face, the clown puppet is on you like lightning. You can run, and you may get away, but it will only find its place under your bed or into your closet the next night. Your freedom from its claws is temporary. (Brad Gullickson)

Keep your tiny terror elevated by exploring more of our 31 Days of Horror Lists!

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)