Can I Play With Madness? A Look at Horror Collectibles.
A fan’s love of the horror genre is usually shown via their extensive DVD or VHS collections, their breadth of knowledge—however obscure—or the classic posters that proudly adorn their walls. But there is another way of feeling more connected to the universes depicted on screen, and it’s now very big business. Blame George Lucas and Kenner, if you will, for their plan to create the toy-line that tied into the release of the Star Wars films, but there is a continuously burgeoning market out there for fans of horror genre fare to buy and collect their favourite characters and other related collectibles and put them on show in their house. Or, in some cases, buy them and store them away in the hope that they will one day be worth a lot more than they paid for them.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when horror collectibles became the consumer behemoth that it is today, but we can probably say the idea gestated when cinema realised that incorporating toys into the genre was a good idea. There has been a rich history of killer dolls in horror movies over the years but the real kicking off point must be the original outing of Chucky in Child’s Play. Toys had always been creepy, just watch the original Poltergeist to attest to that, but some bright sparks spotted the connection between genre fans enjoying the film product and giving them the opportunity to take home a copy, regardless of how much they were reduced in size, of what they had seen on the screen, and a business was born.
Of course, with such a wide ranging subject, there’ll never be enough space here cover everything—items which range from the obvious collectibles such as posters and tie-in books, through to statues and pinball machines as well as the not-so-obvious tie-in items such sex toys or toys specifically targeted at children for characters that they are clearly way too young to know about, let alone actually see the movies that they appear in–so we are going to focus on the most popular collectibles out there. In this particular article we will be looking at action figures.
If you’ve got a favourite horror character, then there is more than likely an action figure or model of them out there. Everything from the original Universal creatures and their respective Hammer House reprises right through to the modern killers and slashers are out there if you know where to look and what to look for. As is the way with these items, the quality of figures has got better and better over the years, to the point that the likenesses now are amazingly similar to their celluloid counterparts. The best examples of these are McFarlane produced series of Movie Maniac figures. Although the line also included non-horror characters, they had a good line including Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Leatherface as well as more random figures such as the Tooth Fairy from Darkness Falls and even a couple of figures of the eponymous character from The Blair Witch Project, even though we never saw her!
NECA released a similar line, called Cult Classics, which included the usual suspects in addition to more interesting figures, including Shaun of the Dead, Ash from The Evil Dead series, characters from The Lost Boys and some of specifically recognisable zombies from Dawn of the Dead. Two of the strangest releases of recent times are the NECA created 8-bit versions of Freddy and Jason from their respective ‘80s Nintendo console games, which use the colours that the characters were pixelated in.
In addition, you can find 18” figures that are motion activated and say one of their famous lines—although quite why there is a motion activated Jason Voorhees figure is anyone’s guess. After all, he’s never been the most chatty slasher icon, has he? There are also plenty of figures around for the best known franchises, such as The Walking Dead, which has two collections that cover the television series as well as the comics. More recent toy-lines also include the Funko Pop range, which cover almost any pop culture referenced character you can think of. Within that range are a plethora of horror based characters that have been cutely stylised and look very nice standing next to each other on a shelf.
There are yearly comic conventions or other similar genre get-togethers around the globe where you can pick a lot of these toys / collectibles up from, and it’s always good—if you’re interested—in keeping an eye out for the announcements and big reveals at the Toy Fairs that also do the rounds, especially the one based in New York. At some of these conventions, you can pick up some really limited edition figures that are exclusive to that event, making them rather valuable from the get go. For the serious collector, you also need to keep an eye out for variant releases of the figures you want. These can be something simple like a change of clothes or just the colour of them. There have been variants where the same figure is released again in limited numbers with a blood splatter on them. Of course, if you want your toys to keep their value, you will be expected to keep them carded or boxed, which is to say that they must stay as close to mint condition in their original packaging as possible.
If you want to see just how crazy values can get for some of these of these collectibles—particularly the older figures—you need look no further than eBay. For example, a recent auction for a Dracula figure from a line called Famous Monsters of Legend started at $399.95 before a total of 50 bids took the final amount up to a staggering $20,100, and this was for a figure that wasn’t even in mint condition. We’ve added a picture below of the still carded figure. If you don’t believe us, just check the auction ended page.
Perhaps it’s only right that Kenner—who released those original Star Wars toys back in the late 70s and early 80s—have brought everything full circle with their newer lines of ReAction figures. These are based on the templates of those older figures but changed to represent other characters and they have covered quite a few horror stalwarts. With limited articulation, these are more a case of nice-to haves rather than a must buys.
Of course, there are any number of other toys, collectibles out there—Freddy water squirter, anyone?—and we have barely scratched the surface of what’s available, but we will return with our opinion on the top 10 collectibles and a guide to horror board games over the coming weeks. In the meantime, get yourself on an auction site, other selling page or website or even pop along to a convention and see what you can find. You might be amazed at what has been released, both licensed and unlicensed.
One thing is for sure, horror toys and collectibles are not going anywhere any time soon. If you’re not interested in any of them then so be it. But nostalgia is here to stay and so collectors will continue to add to their collections rabidly every time something new is released.
Now, go play!