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Slappy Was the Blueprint: How the Dummy from Goosebumps Became A Horror Icon

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The Scholastic Book Fair was a religious holiday for me growing up. It was the moment middle schoolers felt like they had real agency to make their own decisions with money, and the only time it was actually cool to want to read (the coolest of the cool kids only bought erasers and stickers to trade among each other). Entering the loud gym where the sale was housed always felt like a rush—and when it was finally your turn, you felt like royalty. 

Colorful chapter books lined the metal bookshelves like a candy store, and I had five dollars in my tiny pockets to burn. There was so much to choose from in the early 2000s—A Series of Unfortunate Events was a smash hit, Bunnicula was the underground niche pick, and you could never go wrong with the creepy Animorphs series. But for me, the second I saw the oozing font and dead-eyed dummy staring back at me on the cover, I knew I had to have Night of the Living Dummy topping the massive Goosebumps display. I handed the nice cashier five dollars (who also asked, “Are you sure?” when she noticed my selection), took a sparkly bookmark on my way out, and proudly ventured home. I was on top of the world, only to be quickly dragged down once I began reading about the doll’s evil antics later that night. Slappy would haunt my nightmares for weeks—to the point where I hid the book in my basement and locked the door behind me.

One of the quintessential faces of the Goosebumps series, Slappy the Dummy first debuted in 1993 and immediately skyrocketed to fame. R. L. Stine would write nine different Goosebumps books centering the character and created an entirely separate Slappy series called Goosebumps SlappyWorld. Slappy was the main antagonist of the 2015 live-action movie starring Jack Black as well as its 2018 sequel, got made into actual ventriloquist dolls (perfect to add to your Chucky, Tiffany, and Annabelle collections), and became a Young Adult horror icon.

Like the killer dolls listed above, Slappy would come alive in a very similar way. If one mutters the phrase Karru Marri Odonna Loma Molonu Karrano, which translates to you and I are one now, it’s all over. Slappy will then do everything in his power to make you his servant, framing you for his crimes and pushing you away from the people you love and care about. Sound familiar? 

But Stine’s influences for the undead dummy are somewhat surprising. You’d think the main one was Chucky, arguably the most famous killer doll first appearing in 1988, but Stine hasn’t cited the little menace. 

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The main inspirations for Slappy were the 1883 classic book The Adventures of Pinocchio and the 1978 psychological horror film Magic starring Anthony Hopkins. (In the Goosebumps TV series, Slappy would even don a voice that sounds the same as Fats, the dummy from Magic originally voiced by Hopkins. And as a Buffy the Vampire Slayer mega-fan, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Sid, the cursed puppet who looks eerily similar to Slappy, from season one.) There’s a callback to Chucky’s famous “Wanny play?” catchphrase in the Goosebumps TV show, which feels more like an easter egg than an influence. Regardless of where the idea for Slappy came from, Stine successfully created a horror figure for kids that would allow them to explore further into the horror genre—I would know, I was one of them. If it weren’t for Slappy or the Goosebumps franchise, would I have been comfortable seeking out more mature, intense horror flicks to discover Ghostface, Michael, or Freddy? Probably not—we all had to start somewhere.

We don’t all decide to turn on the TV and begin with Puppet Master, Child’s Play, or Dead Silence. Some of us start small and end up locking our books in the cold, dusty basement out of extreme fear (and throw their American Girl doll down there for good measure. Their eyes literally open and close). We build resilience like we do anything else—muscle, relationships, knowledge. And sometimes it takes a well-dressed dapper dummy to illustrate that.

The next book fair came around, and I ignored the Goosebumps table during my initial walkthrough. My eyes kept darting to the green and purple setup, too curious to look away. Was Slappy’s second book there? Did I actually want to know what was going to happen to him next?

I reluctantly walked over and picked up Night of the Living Dummy II. The cover was somehow scarier than the first, deceivingly pink with Slappy’s same dead eyes. I smiled, handed the same nice cashier my five-dollar bill feeling overly victorious, and rushed home to do my math homework so I could hide under the covers and finish Slappy’s latest adventure all in one night.

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Beyza Ozer (they/them) is a writer and editor living in Chicago. You can find their work in Dread Central, Hear Us Scream, Poetry magazine, Poets.org, and other publications online and in print. They are the editor of Monster Camp, a queer horror newsletter. They co-host the Fear Queers podcast and its new series Hellmouth Homos, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch show. They drink way too much Diet Coke.

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HELLO DOLLY!: Ranking All the Dolls in the Chucky Franchise

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And hello to all you horror heads as well!

I’m still bounding with energy from that wicked Chucky Season 2 finale (recap here), I need somewhere to put it. We’ll be waiting a hot minute until Don Mancini brings out the next gem in the series. With my brain hollowed out and replaced with killer doll knowledge, why don’t we occupy ourselves with some rankings?

I’ve taken it upon myself to rank every iteration of the dolls in the Chucky series, for better or worse, on a set of highly scientific and measured criteria that make me objectively right.

This is for sure not just opinion and speculation.

…Probably.

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And one more thing. Childs Play (2019) Chucky is not any Chucky we recognize in this house. Lars Klevberg and Orion Pictures shouldn’t have shown that to me, but they did, and I’m not going to show that to you. It’s terrible. The one and only disqualification. Disqualified.

Would-Be Chucky Army (Chucky Seasons 1 & 2)

A moment of silence for the many copy-pasted dolls that lost their life to Andy Barclay’s self-sacrificing truck crash, and the ones lost to The Colonel’s interior decorating aspirations.

Bloated Chucky (Curse of Chucky)

I wish there were more to say, but outside of the introduction of Nica, this movie and this design committed the greatest sin of all: being boring. This version of Chucky is just very puffy, like allergic reaction mid hangover kind of puffy. I know he’s supposed to be…fleshy & intimidating, I guess? But it’s just not doing it for me. That’s basically it.

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Belle Doll Disguise Chucky (Chucky Season 2)

This one shouldn’t even be on the list since he only had about 10 seconds of actual screen time, but I’ll let it slide because it was a pretty hilarious reveal.

Chucky Trio (Cult of Chucky)

Don’t let their placement fool you, I love these and all the other dolls above them. But it’s cutthroat here on the listicle circuit.

It’s such a fun departure for the series to let Brad Douriff go nuts in a recording booth and do a one-man play between three separate Chuckys who are coordinating to possess his estranged daughter like it’s the weirdest soap opera ever put to film. The movie is a head trip, and just when you think it’s winding down into a predictable lull by the third act, the Chucky throuple reminds you that Don Mancini is no hack. The power of three, in combination with their distinct styles, weapons, gruesome kills, and drastic improvements on the Curse doll makes them stand out above the rest.

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TIE: Buff Chucky & The Colonel (Chucky Season 2)

Chucky is at his best comedically when he’s taking himself seriously, but the script isn’t. And with the floodgates opened by the war of the dolls in Season 2 of Chucky, we got two new Chucky variants that are ridiculous, and infinitely more entertaining than they should be.

If you had told me back in Season 1 that we would get a Chucky who is doing anabolics and squatting 300 on the rack every day, I would have laughed in your face; I would have laughed harder if you told me that he would freak me out. And what can be said of The Colonel? It’s Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, and just like Kurtz, he grows creepier the longer you look at exactly where he’s standing and how he got there.

GG (Seed of Chucky, Chucky Season 2)

Oh, GG. What a sweet genderfluid monarch you are, too good for your own good. While Lachlan Watson’s performance as both halves of the spiritually entwined twins Glen and Glenda was one of the best parts of Season 2, this is a battle of the dolls.

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Formerly stylized by fans as Glen/da, now going by the more neutral GG, this doll has a unique design reflecting the evolution of the nonbinary character and their identity struggle. I like that some elements of both parents got carried over to their child, and who can forget Billy Boyd’s iconic voice performance? Still, their screen time is relatively low compared to most other dolls, and we don’t see them in much action. They’re more about the talking than the killing and stalking, you know?

Grandaddy Chucky (Child’s Play)

Before you start flaming me on Twitter in front of everyone, take a moment to calm down and remember how good this movie is. This ranking can’t take that away! It’s a low spot, I know, but I still think he looks fantastic!

Honestly, he would go to the number one spot if his facial animatronics were as good as they were in any of the other films, but right now, he gets to stay where he is for 1. his icon status, and 2. his sheer durability. My god, does this doll get jacked up. Burned, shot, stabbed, exploded, decapitated, I seriously don’t think he reaches this level of superhuman (superdoll?) durability in any of the other movies. Who would have thought this was the true power of Voodoo for Dummies?

 Tiffany (Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky, Chucky Seasons 1 & 2)

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Okay, my Jennifer Tilly bias is showing here. Look, what can I say? I’m a man of simple tastes, I see a Tilly, I love a Tilly, and the design team making Tiff embody all the energy and character of her actress aesthetically makes me love this tiny plastic Tilly!

She might be David Kirschner and Kevin Yagher’s magnum opus in character design just for how strong her contrast is against the newer, grungier Scarface Chucky introduced in the same film. The Belle doll-turned-Blondie fan communicates all of Tiffany’s melodrama and loudness perfectly. It’s a bold but perfect partner in crime design, and with her perennial iconic style, we must stan.

“This Is the Best of The Movies” Chucky (Child’s Play 2)

Honestly, I find it so hard to pick between this design and 3’s. On the one hand, Child’s Play 2 Chucky is menacing and was the first truly upgraded Chucky, giving his motion and facial expressions a lot more credence in a film that is frankly better in all measures. Every doll owes its evolution to this one’s leap in advancement.

The doll and its kills outshine the original and do exactly what you want from a sequel. Getting a cue from Puppet Master’s Blade with that knife prosthetic in the factory finale and just becoming increasingly menacing over the runtime, he also shades his particular brand of evil with the barest hint of that humor and some very funny dry one-liners (“How’s it hanging Phil?”). He is a cut above most Chuckys.

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 Extra Chunky Salsa Death Chucky (Child’s Play 3)

But this Chucky? This Chucky was the blueprint for the silliness that would eventually become a hallmark of this series, and all the variants we would eventually see.

This was when Chucky entered his quip era and cemented himself as a goofy ass villain. His scheming and cartoony expressions in this movie make him such a lovable goober. He’s not that scary, but he is on the same level as 2 when it comes to physicality. For me, he has the goofiest and most satisfying death of any doll in the series with that face slice into industrial fan combo. This version of Chucky being so great makes up for 3 being one of the weakest entries in the series and carries the entire film on its back.

Scarface Chucky (Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky)

Rude f**king doll indeed. Bride of Chucky is far from a perfect film, but it has a perfect Chucky in my eyes. Does it have that late 90s edge that dates it like the rest of that movie? Yes! Does it look like Tiffany gave up on the sutures halfway through? Also, yes! Is it also the most enduring and recognizable Chucky design, not just to horror fans but pretty much everyone on earth, even when he’s been reduced to 3/4ths of a head? A million times yes!

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It’s so textured and battle-damaged, which is appropriate since it keeps things fresh for the fourth entry in the series. Also, I would have paid triple the price of admission to see another movie about Andy carrying around Chucky’s decapitated, messed-up talking head.

Hackensack Chucky, AKA, Good Chucky, AKA, Prime Chucky (Chucky Season 1 & 2)

He’s the worst…but also the best.

Spanning several functionally identical plain jane bodies, this most joyously evil era of Chucky doesn’t have any aesthetic modifications like the counterparts at the #2, #7, and #9 rankings (beyond improvements in animatronics and seamless integration). But over 16 episodes, these dolls still showed you exactly how evil a plain old Chucky can be.

Though awful in Season 1, this era’s most notable lowest low is during his stint as “Good Chucky” in Season 2. The Hackensack Gang and a good chunk of the audience were duped into thinking that the kid’s attempts at brainwashing Charles Lee Ray had worked; for our naivete, we were awarded one of the most harrowing character deaths in the entire franchise.

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Pouncing back on Jakes insecurities tenfold, attacking Lexy’s addictive nature, and exploiting Nadine’s goodhearted nature, killing off two fan favorites within a matter of a few episodes, I truly think this was the first time I wouldn’t say I liked a version of Chucky after everything. This is why Prime Chucky’s fate felt so much more satisfying, being rewarded for his duplicity by taking his own holly jolly chainsaw to the face, courtesy of Lexy. What a Christmas present!

AFTER DOLL IS SAID AND DONE…

Disagree with any of the rankings? We’d love to hear from you on Twitter, so hit us up there and stay tuned for more articles, more Chucky mayhem to come and more Horror Press.

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Our 10 Favorite Takeaways from ‘Shudder’s 101 Scariest Movie Moments of All Time’

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Shudder’s 101 Scariest Movie Moments encapsulates many of the most extraordinary scenes in horror cinema history. With input from a multitude of famous faces in horror, including but not limited to: Tom Savini, Rebekah McKendry, and Tony Todd, is it any wonder that by the time credits rolled on the eighth and final episode, we were left thinking about so much more than just scary movie moments? From behind-the-scenes trivia to director inspiration and our psychology, here are some of our favorite things that stood out while watching Shudder’s 101 Scariest Movie Moments of All Time.

What Gets Under Our Skin

While providing commentary on the eyeball skewer scene from Zombi (Zombie 2), film scholar Rebekah McKendry Ph.D. explains why eyeball horror is so effective. Since many of us have gotten an eye injury at some point, we can imagine the pain associated with what we’re seeing. For this reason, Rebekah McKendry explains that eyeballs, fingernails, and teeth are all parts of us “that we embody with” and tend to make effective scares when we see an injury to them on the screen.

The First Appearance of Jason Voorhees

Renowned special effects artist Tom Savini explained that Friday the 13th was initially scripted to end with the Mrs. Voorhees decapitation scene. However, inspired by the iconic ending in Carrie, Tom Savini insisted that the movie needed a “chair jumper” ending. Thus, the jump scare dream sequence was born, delivering the first depiction of Jason Voorhees.

Tom Holland’s Inspiration for Child’s Play

The horror film director that introduced the world to Chucky, Tom Holland, explains that while he was shooting Child’s Play, he wanted a creative way to display Chucky’s perspective. Thus, he took inspiration from the low-to-the-ground POV shots of the Zuni doll in Trilogy of Terror.

Unsung Heroes in Horror

One of the lesser-talked-about titles from the list, Black Sabbath marked a unique landmark in horror. Rebekah McKendry explains that this film is the first time we see a female actress not looking perfectly coiffed on screen. Black Sabbath set a new standard that is now commonplace in horror today.

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Candy Man, Candy Man, Candy- Damn. That’s a Mouthful of Bees

Tony Todd, who played the titular Candy Man, reflected on the scene where his character opens his mouth, revealing a mouthful of bees. The bees were real, and as we all ask ourselves if we could go to those lengths as a performer, Tony Todd attributes his ability to tackle any experience to his background in theatre, citing, “We were taught to be fearless. And you approach every role as if it’s that thing […] that’s going to make that magic moment. I knew it when I read the script. Nobody’s ever done that before, and nobody’s done it since.” Though, he can still remember the buzzing feeling inside his mouth.

Stephen King’s Influence on Scary Movie Moments

While the widely acclaimed horror writer did not appear on the show, many movies based on his work did. Of the 101 films on the list, a Stephen King adaptation made up eight of them – a quarter of them directed by Mike Flanagan. Interestingly, Mike Flanagan explained that Doctor Sleep’s original “baseball boy scene” was a lot longer. But it was cut down after Stephen King’s comment to the horror director during a screening, remarking on the length of the brutal scene.

Mike Flanagan’s Favorite Movie Recommendation

Speaking of the director of Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan explained that whenever a person asks him for a movie recommendation, Lake Mungo is a go-to choice. He is such a fan of the film; he says it was a source of inspiration for his successful Netflix series Haunting of Hill House.

The Film that Made a Lasting Impression on Greg Nicotero

Master of special effects Greg Nicotero was nearly ten years away from landing his first significant job with 1985’s Day of the Dead when The Omen was released. On Shudder’s 101 Scariest Movie Moments of All Time, Nicotero explains that he was transfixed by how they achieved the multi-angled decapitation scene in 1976’s The Omen. Greg Nicotero now owns the prop head used in that scene as a testament to this adoration.

Vampires That You Won’t Fall in Love With

While scenes involving vampire films appear numerous times, a particular type of vampire was most welcome. As Joe Bob Briggs’ discussed what made Nosferatu so great, he attributes the film’s success to Max Schreck’s interpretation of the role and how he was able to highlight the vampire’s strangeness by moving “like an insect.” “This Dracula is a predator and a stalker,” Joe Bob Briggs states, not the type that will ever make the leading lady swoon.

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A similarly functioning type of vampire was brought up later in a discussion about 30 Days of Night. Lydia Hearst and film scholar John Jennings spoke about the romanticism stripped from the vampires as a “species” that only wants to eat you. These vampires exude a particular type of horror because their viciousness cannot be swayed. To briefly reiterate a point I touched upon in “History of Vampires,” vampires are best when they’re bestial; therefore, it was refreshing to see this brand of vampire showcased and celebrated as such.

Inspiration and Meaning of Us

Tananarive Due spoke of Jordan Peele’s inspiration for Us. The whole storyline stemmed from one question: “What if you were getting on a subway train, and you looked across the platform and saw a replica of yourself?” Tananarive Due explains that Us is Jordan Peele’s attempt to answer that question. She remarked on the resulting message about privilege and how Us forces us to look at our own and asks us what we are doing with it.

If you haven’t seen it, watch Shudder’s 101 Scariest Movie Moments of All Time, streaming on Shudder. In a series packed with so much trivia, haunting imagery, and food for thought, all coming from some of the most notable voices presently in horror, choosing only ten standout moments is no easy task. Is there anything that stood out to you when watching that you wish had been included? Sound off in the comments, and let us know.

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