It’s one of the most popular tropes in all of horror, a group of people or a single person comes across a magical, mystical, or demonic item that at first might seem harmless, but eventually becomes the tool of their greatest nightmares. This weekend one of the most popular cursed objects in cinema, the Annabelle doll, gets a second film so I decided to take a look at ten of the greatest horror film cursed objects ever. Who knowns, maybe Annabelle herself will make it onto this list!
For this list I used the term “cursed” loosely to describe any object or objects from horror movies specifically that are magical or otherwise bestowed with otherworldly, supernatural or strange abilities, attributes, or powers that usually mean consequences for those who own or come across the items. This list does not include cursed PEOPLE but rather inanimate objects that are cursed, but objects that are bestowed with the soul of a person or living being as a result of the curse do apply for this list as are items that are “possessed”. Like I said, I’m using the term loosely.
This is part of a pair of lists I am posting this week in conjunction with the debut of “Annabelle: Creation”. For cursed items featured in films OUTSIDE of the horror genre look for that list later on this week.
What is your favorite cursed object in horror film? Let me know in the comments below!
10. The Clown Doll, “Poltergeist”
This 1982 horror classic introduced the world to a fear of clowns long before the “It” miniseries solidified that fear in the hearts of millions. This was a tough call between the clown and the television, but I decided to include the evil stuffed clown on this list because It really is much more terrifying when you think about it. In “Poltergeist” a family becomes haunted by ghosts after a curse comes to fruition on their new home. Later we find that this curse was sparked from the home’s placement on an indian burial ground and that the bodies weren’t moved. The scariest part of the curse was the young boy’s clown doll coming to life briefly, dragging him from his bed and nearly killing him. It’s a terrifying and iconic scene that still sends chills up the spines of many and probably caused the sale of retro-style clown dolls to plummet in the 80s as well. The doll was reborn in the remake of the film a few years ago and was featured promptly in the advertising campaign, even if its appearance in the remake was brief and lacked the same frightening impact as the original.
9. The Basement Items, “Cabin In The Woods”
“Cabin in the Woods” was a fantastic serious satire of horror clichés, including the cliché this list was based on where a group of young adults comes across a haunted item with deadly consequences. In the case of this film though the curse is somewhat artificial as it is revealed that they are part of a ritual that requires them to choose their own fate from a series of cursed items in a cabin basement. Once there we see many alternate variations of iconic horror antiques, even paying tribute to some of the things on this very list. Each item is cursed in that it releases a specific evil from a collection of iconic horror monsters hidden within the facility below the cabin. The groups ends up settling for a diary that awakens a family of zombies and while the Buckner Book alone would have been worthy of this list I had to group all the items together as fitting homages to one of the genre’s most popular tropes. Fans still watch this scene over and over again to catch Easter eggs left behind by the filmmakers and each discovery is more nostalgic and creative than the next.
8. The Button, “Drag Me To Hell”
This one is a classic curse, and one of my personal favorites. “Drag Me To Hell” was a surprisingly popular and quality horror film that saw bank-loan officer Christine cursed by a gypsy woman who she denies a loan to for the sake of a promotion. Feeling wronged, the gypsy curses a personal item of Christine’s, a button she had ripped from Christine’s shirt. The cursed button acts as a beacon promising that in a few days Christine will be dragged to hell, but not before a series of scary torturous incidents plague her life. The cursed item is a mark seeking punishment on someone perceived to have done a wrong and throughout the film Christine tries to find a way to rid herself of the cursed item, eventually determining giving it back to the gypsy, who is now dead, is the only way to rid herself of her fate. Those who have seen the film know how that works out. It might be a simple item, but it’s a memorable one worthy of appreciating in the horror genre for the tragic consequence of the one who possesses it. The fact that nearly everyone wheres buttons also makes it a relatable item to fear, a common theme for many items on this list as out ability to believe we, ourselves, could one day hold such a cursed item is part of the horrors of this trope.
7. The Wishing Box, “Wish Upon”
Honestly I knew when I saw “Wish Upon” earlier this year I was going to do this list before “Annabelle: Creation”, and I did consider the wishing box could be a part of it. After seeing “Wish Upon” I KNEW it was going to be on this list as the newest cursed item in horror and one that appropriately steals the show in its own film. The wishing box, which is actually an old Chinese music box, comes into the possession of a young girl in this film who is granted seven wishes of her choosing, but the box has a blood price as every wish costs the life of someone the wisher happens to know. The final blood price? The life of the wisher themselves! And losing or giving away the box before making all seven wishes undoes everything the wisher had asked for to that point, making it a tempting item that makes the wisher choose between death or a short-term life from their dreams. The film also subtly explores a possible magnetic power the box has on the wisher as the main character finds herself addicted to the box and its power. The backstory presented in the film hints at a demon within the wishing box, making it one of the more creative cursed items in recent memory. The movie itself may fade into obscurity with time, but the tool of its terror deserves to be remembered.
6. The Mirror, “Oculus”
Few horror movie objects have the same impact as the mirror in “Oculus”. In terms of effect on its targets, this mirror is more than frightening, it’s menacing. Many see mirrors as dangerous tools and gateways to another world to begin with, which makes them the perfect items to base a horror story around, but to have one that can influence a target psychologically and induce hallucinations and even fool you into believing someone is or isn’t alive or dead is truly terrifying. This mirror has proven to be more popular than the film it stars in as the mind games and misdirection it uses to destroy its prey from the inside out make it among the more unique, subtle, and effective of horror items to ever hit the big screen. Not everything is always as it seems, but this haunted mirror makes sure you believe what you see and make you do what it wants you to do. It’s as if the mirror has a mind of its own and while much of the mythology of the mirror is shrouded in mystery, this cursed item brings to life the supernatural fears we all grew up hearings about the reflective tools in every home.
5. The 1958 Plymouth Fury, “Christine”
One of Stephen King’s most iconic fear-inducing antagonists, the car from “Christine”, a 1958 Plymouth Fury, is one of the most vicious sentient cursed items ever to be featured in film. We don’t know how or why Christine is the way she is, but by all definitions she is cursed as she acts as a living, reconstructing, terror-causing car that defends its owners with obsession. Her ability to rebuild herself makes her such a formidable foe to anyone who does her or her owner wrong and many do challenge her because, well, she’s a car…who would assume a car was capable of murder right? Some may see Christine as more of a positive haunted object as she defends her owner to no end, but she is relentless and, in many ways, unstoppable making those good intentions questionable when you realize she’s even willing to kill her owner if he or she got in the way. While we may not know WHY Christine is the way she is, or how to defeat the curse that comes with owning her, we as horror fans are still fascinated to this day with just how brutal she can be.
4. The Videotape, “The Ring” Franchise
“The Ring” franchise may seem outdated today, but the conduit used by Samara to essentially curse her victims is still as iconic today as it was when the VHS was still relevant. I could go on about the mythology behind this evil young girl but I don’t have the time…or patience. For the purposes of this list all you need to know is that she curses her victims utilizing a haunted videotape, giving victims only seven days to reverse the curse before she strikes at them. The videotape itself has become even more iconic than the evil girl who possesses it, and it has become a symbol of horror pop culture since its debut. While in the most recent entry in the franchise, “Rings”, the video tape was traded in for more modern video-viewing technology, the original tape that started it all remains one of the most troubling haunted objects of modern horror, especially since almost everyone watches videos and DVDs, especially bootlegs. Imagine if you received one that could literally kill you just for watching it? Seems like a ridiculous premise, but it’s one that struck fear into the hearts of many in the early 2000s.
3. Annabelle, “The Conjuring” Series
You knew she would be here. How could she not be? It’s a little ironic that a doll that was simply featured in the first “The Conjuring” movie became the most iconic haunted figure from Ed and Lorraine Warren’s collection in the cinematic universe exploring their adventures solving hauntings across the globe. The Annabelle doll in real life was a supposedly haunted Raggedy Ann doll, but in the film the doll is much more terrifying, looking more like a female version of Chucky (another “cursed” item that was considered for this list) than Raggedy Ann. While Annabelle played a minor role in “The Conjuring” she eventually got her own movie, the sequel of which inspired this list of course. A possessed doll with demonic and evil tendencies, Annabelle is a popular child’s plaything turned into nightmare fuel and, much like the clown from “Poltergeist”, inspired fear in something otherwise known for bringing joy to the young and young at heart. Annabelle was iconic before she hit the big screen, but her appearance in “The Conjuring” films made her a cinematic horror icon and by far one of he most popular haunted objects in modern film or horror in general.
2. The Lament Configuration, “Hellraiser”
The puzzle box, similar to a Rubix Cube, is a staple of the “Hellraiser” franchise and the most well know box is the Lament Configuration the box that, upon being solved, releases the cenobites, an otherwordly group of humanoids led by the infamous Pinhead whose mission is to explore the “carnal experience”. They torture and mutilate those who solve their cursed puzzle box with the solvers becoming marked victims of their torture upon opening the gate to another dimension from solving the cube. The scary part about this cursed object is that anyone and everyone could purchase or find it and become the next victim of the cenobites by pure chance. The demonic figures prove to be relentless in their terror, which they see as natural punishment of sorts for those who dare solve their box. The puzzle box is sort of like a dare, one that if accepted could mean your death and it’s one with an extensive mythology behind it that makes it one of the most legendary cursed objects in not only film, but multiple other forms of entertainment as well.
1. The Necronomicon, “The Evil Dead” franchise
Was there any question? No really, was there? The Necronomicon is a legendary cursed object, a book that can bring the dead to life and summon horrors beyond imagination. Also known as “The Book of the Dead”, the Necronomicon is bound in human skin and contains incantations that bring horrors to the world and create terror for those who dare open it and venture into the possibilities. The book calls on the living dead, demons, and more to torture its victims and contains powers that the cult classic “The Evil Dead” films have probably not even touched on yet to this point. The book made a return in the 2013 reboot “The Evil Dead” and brought on even more bloody terror in a cinematic experience that bended the boundaries of horror and gore at the time. Calling back to other entries in this list, it was also the inspiration for the diary read in “Cabin In The Woods” and predates every other cursed item on this list, having debuted in the first “The Evil Dead” in 1981. It is the cursed object so many others are compared to and inspired by and redefined the possibilities for the genre as it helped popularize the concept of cursed items driving the plot of horror stories for years to come. Today it’s a legendary book with many imitators, but few equals. For that reason alone it’s worthy of the top spot on this list.