With Halloween around the corner, and my own collection a mini-celebration of how disturbing and dark toys can be in our time, it’s the perfect occasion to examine some of the most fearful figures ever seen. Unlike other lists in this vein, we’re not simply going to pick our favorite scary movies and plug in their action figures – toy-making is its own art, especially today. The only unofficial rule I had was: no more than one figure from each series (there are some lines from certain companies where multiple items could make the list, so in those cases I chose the best example).
10. Mosquitor – Masters of the Universe (Mattel). Looked at through contemporary eyes, ol’ Mossy here isn’t exactly Mr. Intimidating. Context is everything in this case – He-Man was a hero for kids, with a ridiculously PG cartoon (he was barely even allowed to use his sword for fear kids would imitate his actions), and suddenly along comes a foe for him whose key attraction is blood-dripping action. Push the button on Mosquitor’s back, and dark red imitation blood flowed and bubbled through his clear chest. The package tried to PC it down by saying something like “Mosquitor drains the energy of his foes as his chest pumps red fluid,” but we knew what was up. This is a mosquito on steroids, and he sucks He-Man’s blood. Pretty intense for the time. He’s getting an upgrade this year in the Classics line, but without the dripping blood, he’s just another muscular monster.
9. Baby Face – Toy Story (Thinkway). Yes, if you’ve actually seen Toy Story, you know Baby Face here isn’t a bad guy; just a victim of circumstance who looks a little different. But when you pull back this toy and watch it skitter across the floor like a cyber-tarantula, Disney cuteness ain’t the first thing that comes to mind. “You don’t wanna give this to your kid!” said the cashier at the Walmart where I bought it, “You don’t wanna raise no mean kids!” Au contraire, Madam… if I have a kid that’s creative enough to mix and match toy parts into something this cool, I’ll be a damn proud pop.
8. Castle Freak (Full Moon Toys). Charles Band’s Full Moon Entertainment tends to make movies for pennies on the dollar, involving tiny inanimate objects that have come to evil life (Puppet Master, Gingerdead Man, Evil Bong, etc.). When Full Moon branched out into toys, however, they did not similarly cheap out, nor did they stick to the little guys. Castle Freak here looks more scarily realistic than his onscreen counterpart, and with his real combable hair (should you want to) and maggoty cat corpse accessory, he comes off like a demented dolly. Which is probably the title of Band’s next flick.
7. Baby Alive (Hasbro). Ask most people what they least like the sound of when it comes to parenthood, and they’ll probably say it’s the constant messes and foul fluids, but for Baby Alive, those are a feature, not a bug. They don’t seem to make the vomiting version any more (not that my cursory search could find, anyway), but somehow there is a market out there for girls who want nothing more than to change diapers. And this is doubly scary, because if Daddy’s Little Girl actually likes one of the most off-putting things about babies… maybe she won’t put off having one until she should? Okay, it’s a stretch, but parents get paranoid like that.
6. Skull – Super Naturals (Tonka). That’s right, the guy in this column’s logo. You could call him a Skeletor rip-off, and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But his “action feature” is one that still beats the hell out of most today – his chest and face were a morphing hologram, that, depending upon how you looked at it, made him either a creepy, bare-chested old man, or a skeleton with one eyeball. Like the movie Pirates of the Caribbean but without the need for moonlight. Nowadays we can sculpt toys to be as detailed as those holograms, but back in the ’80s, that wasn’t happening.
5. Vinny the Victim – Stark Raven (Art Asylum). Back when just about any independent comic could get a toy made, and every new independent toy company was trying to lap up licenses, Art Asylum did some surprisingly nice work based on a comic few have heard of before or since – the apparent Batman rip-off Stark Raven (I say “apparent” because I’m not sure anybody ever read the comic to find out for sure). Larger than most figures at the time, these toys featured intricate details, and one of the spookiest characters we’ve ever seen in plastic. Vinny here, captured in the middle of being destroyed by some kind of supernatural force, had translucent skin that revealed his screaming skeleton inside. (There was also a fully painted version with no skeleton showing through, but what was the point of that?)
4. Henrietta – Evil Dead 2 (NECA). The most recent entry on this list deserves special praise for actually being scarier and more disgusting-looking than its onscreen counterpart. With a base that gives her a levitating effect, and interchangeable old woman/zombie-ostrich-thing heads, this Deadite combines every kind of gross human being you try to avoid into one monstrous creation. Plus, in theory, that’s Ted Raimi under all that makeup, sweating buckets. Imagining him swimming in B.O. inside adds an extra grossness to things.
3. Endoskeleton T-600 (Weathered Rubber Skin Version) – Terminator: Salvation (Hot Toys). Think what you will about the movie – and people certainly do – but we can’t knock its best new design. The proto-Terminators that Skynet hasn’t quite figured out how to blend in yet hit on several classic creep factors at once: the scary doll, the killer robot, the decaying toy, and the giant thing that’ll kick your ass. Hot Toys, as is their style, render it in ridiculously loving detail.
2. Hellen (realistic version) – Attack of the Living Dead (Mezco). Nowadays, zombie toys are commonplace. Before that happened, however, Mezco created their own in-house line of zombies, and while many fell victim to the cartoony stylization common to many of the company’s lines, these undead characters came in several versions, with the nastiest being Hellen here, kneeling in a puddle of blood while feasting on flesh. As the female in the line, she naturally sold out the fastest, and undoubtedly inspired some of the creepiest thoughts among collectors that you can imagine.
1. Talisac – 12″ Tortured Souls (McFarlane Toys). I have a big collection, and my bride-to-be, who collects dolls and plushes, is mostly fine with it. But there’s one guy she can’t bear to look at, and even tried to get me to throw out, and it’s this creepy example of surgery gone wrong. Originally named “The Fix,” which implies the ultimate drug addict on his last legs, Talisac got renamed when creator Clive Barker decided it fit the story better. Nonetheless, he’s still one screwed-up example of total torture, and the fact that he sports a transparent, artificial womb where his crotch should be, with a monster fetus inside, makes this figure touch on every single level of body horror.
Which scary figures did I miss? Sound off in comments below!