Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Six Creepy Mannequin movies

Mannequins are a strange obsession. I remember seeing an episode of "Hoarders" where this guy was so into collecting mannequins, he rented a separate apartment just to keep them all! They're also a recurring theme in horror flicks of all kinds. There's something unnerving about them, maybe because they're almost - but not entirely - realistic. Here's a list of six times mannequins crossed the line from benign retail accessory to shudder-inducing threat!

Scream Bloody Murder (1972) aka My Brother Has Bad Dreams

Originally released in November 1972, Robert Emery's Scream Bloody Murder was eventually retitled My Brother Has Bad Dreams, most likely to differentiate it from another, similar movie called Scream Bloody Murder released merely six weeks after Emery's film. This ultra low budget nightmare is a character-driven drama involving a brother and sister who are still coping with the years-prior murder of their mother at the hands of their father.  Karl is the brother, a young man in his early 20s who still has the mind of a child. Dangerously disturbed ever since he witnessed the mother's murder, the film chronicles Karl's descent into total madness after sister Anna takes a lover, a young drifter named Tony. Karl's obsession with mannequins is one of the film's creepy through-lines; in one scene he smashes one with a fire poker, he sleeps with one he keeps hidden in his closet, and in the film's deliriously downbeat conclusion he 'escapes' with one on a motorcycle, only to meet a tragic end that has to be experienced to be believed.

Tourist Trap (1979)

Probably the first horror movie people think of when you start to talk mannequins, Tourist Trap is a very creepy movie about a group of friends on a road trip who are victimized when they stop at a rundown roadside attraction run by the slightly sinister Mr. Slausen (Chuck Connors). The film makes an awkward but futile attempt to disguise the fact that Slausen is the villain, giving him a bizarre plaster doll mask to wear during the attack scenes, but this is way more than a slasher movie. Slausen is telekinetic, and has the habit of turning his victims into mannequins. It's never quite explained how this occurs, or whether the victims are really dead. One terrifying moment occurs when Slausen, while wearing the mask disguise, chases final girl Molly (Jocelyn Jones) with the disembodied mannequin head of her friend Woody. He holds it up to her and the mouth drops open, Woody's terrified voice emerging and begging her for help. This uncertainty becomes the very thing that gives Tourist Trap its impact, as any attempt to explain it all would have been silly. The film's final image, of an insane Molly 'escaping' with a car full of her mannequin friends, is ridiculously disturbing.

Maniac (1980)

Notorious for its graphic violence, William Lustig's 1980 film Maniac also features a bizarre depiction of mannequins as surrogate companions for a deranged person, this time a serial killer who victimizes beautiful women. Villain in question Frank claims the scalps of his victims as trophies, each of them nailed to the head of a mannequin and displayed in Frank's claustrophobic New York apartment. The film's murder sequences are grueling, but one unforgettable moment comes at the conclusion, when the mannequins come to life and decapitate Frank in a bizarre hallucination sequence.

I Dismember Mama (1972) aka Poor Albert & Little Annie

Harrowing psychological thriller Poor Albert and Little Annie got a reissue a few years after its debut, under the more memorable title I Dismember Mama. Zooey Hall plays the film's lead character, a psychopath with mother issues, although he's no Norman Bates. Hall's character, Albert, acts out with murderous rage whenever he has the opportunity to attack a woman, but he develops a fascination for Annie (Geri "Fake Jan" Reischel), the young preteen daughter of one of his victims. Albert sees Annie as the one female who is untouched by the 'impurity' he finds in most women, and they share an idyllic day trip together. It ends badly, though, as any movie titled I Dismember Mama will. Albert winds up chasing Annie through a warehouse filled with mannequins, many of which are pre-decorated with garish makeup and flashy clothing. Reischel, who was about 12 years old when she filmed this movie, has a scene where she dons a mannequin's clothing, and imitates the exaggerated makeup, in order to disguise herself and hide from crazed Albert.

Lisa and the Devil (1973)

This arty horror tale represents what director Mario Bava chose to do after producer Alfred Leone gave him funding to create his dream project. The (very) loose plot finds a young woman named Lisa, played by Elke Sommer, caught in a dreamlike situation from which she cannot escape. Abandoned by her touring party in a strange country, Lisa encounters a man who seems to mistake her for someone he already knows. After accidentally killing him by pushing him down a stone staircase, Lisa later sees him again, this time as a mannequin carried by Telly Savalas. Confused and terrified by the experience, she seeks refuge in an opulent house presided over by butler Savalas, and containing a strange assortment of characters. But are they mannequins, too? Is she? This final realization predates movies like "The Sixth Sense", "The Others" and "Dead and Buried" by many years, but Bava's film is far more cryptic than those movies. In the most disturbing way, we know even less about what just occurred than we did when the movie began.

Don't Open The Door (1974) aka Don't Hang Up

An obsession with mannequins and dolls is one of the creepy elements of S.F. Brownrigg's Don't Hang Up. Amanda Post (Susan Bracken) visits the creepy 'museum' of collectibles that Claude Kearn (Larry O'Dwyer) keeps, many of which belong to Amanda's family. In desperate fear that she may reclaim the items, Claude makes a bizarre attempt to endear himself to her by showing her a weird tableau he created in an alcove of the museum: a mannequin dressed to resemble Amanda's deceased mother is seated at a dressing table, as if brushing her hair. When Amanda reacts in horror and anger instead of delight, Claude cannot understand why, so deep is he in his delusions. No mannequins come to life in this movie, but there is one moment where the killer switches places with a mannequin in order to surprise an unsuspecting victim.


Doug said...

Two super creepy short films about mannequins that can be found on youtube: David Schmoeller's The Spider Will Kill You (1976) and Living Dolls (1980). Also, check out Tales From the Darkside episode 4.2 Mary, Mary.

K.R. said...

I haven't seen it in years, but it seems like the made for TV movie THE STRANGE AND DEADLY OCCURANCE from the 70s had a creepy mannequin sequence, and of course, THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

Unknown said...

Doesn't a mannequin get hacked up in Criminally Insane?

Anonymous said...

Interesting list. I'm looking for a movie or TV show which had a very brief scene of a talking woman mannequin or talking woman doll sitting near a fireplace or sitting inside a house. I have a vague memory of such a scene on TV in 1976. Is there any such movie or TV show from the 1960s or 1970s with such a scene. It would have to be from 1976 or before. It would take a very knowledgeable person who knows about movies to know which movie this is.

Lord Pyro said...

Well, in my case, I have been looking for a movie (or TV show) where there is a cursed mannequin who, when attacks his victims, it splits off his body parts and its floating head turns its face into a large eye. I watched just a few minutes whe I was a child, till I fell asleep. I would like to see it again, but I do not know its title. Sometimes I think it was just a dream, but I remember watched it on TV.

Lord Pyro said...

Well, in my case, I have been looking for a movie (or TV show) where there is a cursed mannequin who, when attacks his victims, it splits off his body parts and its floating head turns its face into a large eye. I watched just a few minutes whe I was a child, till I fell asleep. I would like to see it again, but I do not know its title. Sometimes I think it was just a dream, but I remember watched it on TV.

Unknown said...

I'm looking for the movie where the character goes into room and its filled with mannequins covered in sheets. Something is under one of them?

Anonymous said...

I'm looking for a movie that has a man turns a woman into a statue. While applying the cement or something on the statue, he told her to move or changing pose, then the statue changes pose. Please help me.

Anonymous said...

Many years later I am still looking for a certain horror mannequin movie. I don't know it's name nor when it was exactly made. I only saw a trailer for it on a rented VHS tape. I don't remember what movie the rented movie was either. I saw this trailer somewhere around 1991 I think? As late as 1995. The trailer was NOT for "mannequin (1987)".

The trailer was creepy. The story of the trailer showed us this guy that was working at an office I think? He was awkward so he got himself a mannequin and dated it for a long time. However one day he gets a new female co-worker. They hit it off and he starts dating her... getting rid of the mannequin. However the mannequin now seemingly comes to life and becomes jealous and starts stalking him... and tries to murder the new woman? You never see the mannequin moving in the trailer, you only see her leg as she is sitting in a car... so for all I know maybe it was just the guy being insane and having a split personality? Anyway... this is all that I know about the movie. If anyone know what movie it is... please tell me.

Anonymous said...

I havent found any movie from the 1970s or earlier which bas a scene of a talking woman mannequin sitting near a fireplace. The closest thing I could find is the movie Burnt Offerings released in October 1976 on TV. It stars Oliver Reed, Karen Black, and Bette Davis. Karen Black transforms into the mysterious elderly Mrs. Allardyce at the end of the movie. She transforms into an old lady and sits upstairs in an attic, and not near a fireplace. Shes a real live person in old lady makeup and not a mannequin. When her husband Oliver Reed approaches her in the attic she turns around and says, I've been waiting for you Ben. Her husband is so horrified by her transformation he jumps out the window and falls to his death. So there it is. Maybe I remembered the scene wrong. Its called the Mandela Effect. Maybe I imagined actress Karen Black to be a mannequin in this short scene. Why do we see things wrong? Why do we remember things wrong? Burnt Offerings 1976 the movie can be seen on youtube.

Cowhick said...

I am looking for a movie about a man that puts these models on a conveyor belt and they go into this machine and transform into mannequins. I think sometimes he is able to reverse the process and they come back. I would say it is probably no later than 1974.

jeffcowhick@yahoo.com for responses please.

asher said...

The film had a dream sequence where this teenage girl goes with her class to an art museum. They look at a painting that implies the figures in the painting are nude but they all have mannequin heads. The girl hears her classmates laughing and when she turns to them they all have mannequin heads. It's part of an off beat 60s movie. She winds up befriending her rapist or something.