Why Horror Movies Love Dolls

Some time ago, the recent horror film “Megan” directed by James Wan was released. Following the acclaim of the live-action dark doll protagonist in the film “Wednesday,” “Megan” presents another cinematic endeavor wherein a doll figure takes center stage as the horrifying protagonist.

Upon contemplation, it becomes evident that dolls hold a recurring presence in the realm of horror movies, whether they embody physical manifestations or actual sentient beings.

So, what precisely draws horror movies to embrace the concept of dolls? Horror dolls, destined for the limelight in blockbuster productions.

Indeed, numerous horror films have a penchant for incorporating the “doll element.” For instance, Japanese horror cinema often showcases intricately crafted dolls, either haphazardly positioned in unknown recesses or held tenderly in the arms of children.

Subsequently, a multitude of horror films emerged, featuring dolls as their central characters. The name Annabelle, for instance, has undoubtedly cast a haunting shadow upon countless viewers, who have encountered her unsettling presence. Since her introduction in “The Conjuring’s” climactic conclusion, she has continued to grace the silver screen in successive installments.

From “Annabelle 1” to “Annabelle 3,” this antiquated feminine doll serves as the narrative core, skillfully weaving tales of terror.

Moreover, one of James Wan’s most renowned works, “Dead Silence,” similarly incorporates the essence of dolls. The plot unfurls alongside enigmatic ventriloquist dolls, gradually unraveling clandestine mysteries.

Additionally, the film “The Boy” features a collection of exquisite and delicate dolls, while “Dolls” boasts a group of captivating and refined figurines. Truly spine-chilling! Why, then, does the horror genre favor these eerie dolls?

In truth, the affinity that horror movies exhibit toward doll elements serves to heighten the overall cinematic experience. According to scientific research, the underlying cause of the fear evoked by doll elements can be attributed to the uncanny valley effect.

The concept of the uncanny valley effect was initially proposed by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970. In simple terms, when a non-human object closely resembles a human, people tend to find it increasingly endearing. However, as the resemblance to a living human being intensifies, a sharp decline in affinity towards the object occurs, eventually giving rise to terror.

The “valley” that precipitates this decline is aptly labeled the uncanny valley. Objects situated at the bottom of the uncanny valley exhibit strikingly non-human characteristics due to their “highly anthropomorphic” state, resembling lifeless, cadaverous forms.

These human-like yet inhuman attributes, including hollow eyes and peculiar smiles, provoke a growing sense of revulsion. Consequently, a plethora of horror films artistically depict the uncanny valley effect, ingeniously incorporating it into their narratives.

Furthermore, delicate dolls can symbolize vulnerability and serve as metaphors for distressing childhood experiences. Through this dual role, dolls foreshadow plot developments and intensify the menacing atmosphere.

Undoubtedly, dolls often hold a cherished place in many people’s childhoods, while simultaneously harboring lingering memories of unpleasant encounters during that formative period.

Consequently, dolls occasionally function as metaphorical conduits, paving the way for subsequent storylines and reinforcing logical coherence, thereby circumventing gratuitous plot devices.

Simultaneously, the unpleasant experiences associated with dolls typically allude to criminal acts, thus infusing horror films with an atmosphere of dread and visually impacting the audience.

For instance, the French film “Nightmare in a Dollhouse” features a scene in which a perverse corpulent man dresses the protagonist as a doll and subjects her to torment, only to be met with retribution. In this sequence, a room filled with dolls suddenly erupts in laughter.

This occurrence references the man’s childhood experience of being ridiculed by others, which ultimately compelled him down the irreversible path he now treads. Dolls, typically associated with innocence and charm, assume a macabre significance, providing a stark contrast that contributes to the overall sense of horror.

Indeed, the more commonplace an object is in daily life, the more chilling its involvement in uncanny and inexplicable events becomes.

Dolls, with their inherent cuddliness and charm, embody this notion quite effectively. Thus, when they transform into menacing and aberrant instruments of death in movies, they elicit a powerful jolt of contrastive stimulation.

The original essence of the doll becomes distorted, no longer offering solace to the soul but rather presenting itself in a grotesque visage, parasitizing other entities. Sinister eyes, a cold demeanor, and an enigmatic presence all signify the specter of death.

Consider the “Master of Horror Films,” Wen Ziren, whose movies particularly revel in the contrast introduced by the doll element. Each doll represents a distinct host in his works.

In “Saw,” for instance, the doll, originally evoking the image of a jovial circus clown, assumes the role of a murderer. Especially in the first installment,the doll, named Billy, serves as the messenger and embodiment of the sadistic serial killer Jigsaw, creating an unsettling and eerie atmosphere.

In conclusion, horror movies often incorporate dolls as central characters or elements due to their ability to evoke fear through the uncanny valley effect and the symbolism they carry. The uncanny nature of dolls, with their human-like appearances yet lifeless attributes, taps into our innate discomfort with objects that closely resemble humans. Additionally, dolls can symbolize vulnerability and childhood experiences, serving as metaphors for distressing events and enhancing the overall narrative of the horror film. By distorting an object associated with innocence and charm, horror movies create a powerful contrast and generate a sense of dread and horror in the audience. Dolls, once cherished companions, become agents of terror and death, making them a potent tool in the horror genre’s repertoire.

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