At some point in life, everyone has had a doll —pardon, "action figure"— collection in their possession that they admired and played with, creating fanciful stories and battles, pretending to be someone else. A mother, a father, a doctor, a general... God.
Even after growing up takes that delight away, many adults still enjoy keeping or adding to such a collection as a Kitschy hobby. However, there are some adults who had a less than ideal childhood, breaking their minds to such an extent that only a fantasy where they have complete control can make sense. And dolls? They just don't cut it anymore.
Enter the Living Doll Collector. He or she will collect people, dead or alive, as if they were dolls and use them in macabre mimicry of their maddened imagination. There are a lot of variations here; the people may be kidnapped strangers, crushes, or family, and are dressed up and forced to act out roles in an inescapable"Dream House". If they resist or the collector doesn't have the means to control or imprison them, well, corpses complain a lot less. Embalming optional.
If the collector has powers, this gets a lot creepier.
If he or she can make People Puppets, then the still conscious puppets will be forced to do things against their will. Someone with powerful enough Hypnotic Eyes or Mind Control techniques can eventually program people to be anything from empty automatons to actually believing they're the collector's long lost dead little sister. A necromancer might dress up their zombies as maids and butlers, and even lovingly comb their (remaining) hair, preferring their company to that of the living. The Hive Queenmay do this to her drones.
It's also possible the collector was a completely normal person once upon a time, and has simply fallen to the Power Perversion Potential of their abilities by treating people less like people and more like, well, dolls. For a deranged enough collector, Interrogation by Vandalism usually works when applied to the dolls, though it may backfire if said dolls are capable of self defense. They may be trying to enforce some kind of inner illusion or fantasy, in which case pointing it out to be fake (and dispelling the control over the dolls) can break them out of it and either make them see reason, possibly even releasing the dolls... or get really angry.
It's worth mentioning that sometimes the living doll turns out to not be quite so under their control after all and is basically playing along. Maybe because they like the game, or in order to stage an escape.
A creepier form of the Marionette Master. Usually gets the spotlight in The Doll Episode. See also Marionette Motion.
See also Showing Off the New Body and Necromantic. Contrast Puppeteer Parasite, who are parasites that possess people. See also Demonic Possession, Wax Museum Morgue.
See also The Collector.
Sora put it best, "What kind of sicko turns people into keychains" indeed.
In Slayers Next this happens in the legendary haunted tower. The culprit almost collects Lina and her group, as whoever loses their challenges is transformed into a doll.
Sabrina in the Pokémon anime did this to people, turning them into dolls with her psychic powers.
Naruto has Sasori of the Red Sand, who turns humans including himself into his ninja puppets, which have the same abilities they had in life. He can use up to 100 at a time; he has more.
And then we have Kankuro, whose ninja puppets were also made by Sasori years ago. And he ends up collecting Sasori himself later.
Though to be fair to Chiyo and Kankuro, they only use people-puppets when they where created by Sasori, rather than collecting them themselves. And Chiyo went out of her way to create a technique to bring people back to life to fix her family if she could get Sasori back from playing omnicidal maniac. Both of them seem disgusted at the idea of actually killing people specifically to make puppets themselves.
Fullmetal Alchemist has a character who kidnaps young women and attaches their souls to dolls he made to look like his disappeared girlfriend. Made all the creepier when the girlfriend returns years later and he rejects her for the lifeless doll.
Godchild has Rebecca, a crippled girl who's been turning people she "loves" into dolls. She has two methods: place a victim's hair, teeth, and bones into a doll that looks just like them so their soul gets trapped inside their "human-shaped coffin," or drug her victim into a vegetative state so they'll become a "living doll" that she can dress up however she pleases while her equally-insane housekeeper takes care of their physical needs.
In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Ryou Bakura is an unwilling one of these, as his Super-Powered Evil Side has a nasty habit of trapping his friend's souls in cute little figurines.
Kirakishou from Rozen Maiden is a strange case... a living doll that collects humans like they were dolls.
In the Batman comics, the Mad Hatter sometimes kidnaps blonde girls and uses his mind control technology to force them to play at being Alice.
Marvel Comics gives us the Puppet Master and the Purple Man. One used radioactive (later revealed to be magical) clay to control people like puppets, the other uses pheromones to make them do his every bidding.
Iron Man rogue The Controller is this but then using cybernetics. The more people he controls, the more powerful he becomes.
In the Scott Pilgrim comic, the seventh and final Evil Ex, Gideon Gordon Graves is revealed to have put his six ex-girlfriends into suspended animation. And he plans to do the very same thing to Ramona.
The Cell. A Serial Killer abducts women, drowns them, bleaches their corpses and then masturbates whilst hanging himself above them by chains attached to rings in his back before dumping them out by the highway.
Naturally, The Collector, a 1965 film in which Terence Stamp is a butterfly collector who decides to kidnap and keep Samantha Eggar as well. See Literature for the original book.
The guy from Love Object abducts a woman and tries to "transform" her (via a makeover and an attempted infusion of embalming fluid) into a replicate of the sex doll he ordered and grew obsessed with. The ending of the film (his victim dies before he can complete the process, and he gets away) implicates he will try to do it to another woman.
The villain from Devil Doll abducted people and transformed them into literal living dolls: action-figure-sized mini-assassins propelled by the force of his own will. Not nearly as squicky as most examples, although he does sometimes treat the "dolls" with the affection due an obedient pet.
Shaun from Shaun of the Dead could count after keeping his zombified friend in a shed so that he could continue playing games with him. Not that it's likely Ed really minded all that much.
Peter Sellers, in the 1971 movie Hoffmann, plays a rather more subtle and psychologically creepy version of the Terence Stamp character in The Collector. Here, Sellers' character uses mind-games and psychological control to bend younger women to his will, forcing a young Sinead Cusack to strip for him and go to bed with him.
In American Gothic (the 1988 movie AKA Hide And Shriek, not the 1995 TV series), what the daughter of a family calls her "big dollies" are actually the corpses of people her parents have murdered.
In The Miracle Worker, Anne Sullivan describes her own time in the orphan asylum/poor house growing up as a child. She and her brother lived in the room where the babies of prostitutes were kept until they died (of the STD's they contracted from their mothers), and were kept there until burial. She and her brother would play with them. It's unclear from the script if they stopped playing with them after they were dead.
The real Anne Sullivan owned several beautiful dolls and continued to dress and play with them long after she began working with Helen Keller. Some biographers think she saw Helen as a sort of living doll, since she could communicate with her and guide and direct her character.
Coraline: The Other Mother, who is revealed to keep children she's lured into her Otherworld as living dolls, sewing buttons onto their eyes and eating them up inside, leaving them as nothing but ghosts. Creepy.
The ship (and its resident AI) Sleeper Service in Iain M. Banks's Excession]] contains huge recreations of battle scenes, with every soldier represented by a living being held in some sort of stasis field. In a subversion, they are all volunteers happy to be part of such a work of art.
The John Fowles novel The Collector is about an unsocialised loner nerd who wins the big one on the football pools. He promptly quits his job, buys a house and kits out a dungeon. And then he goes after the beautiful woman he has been stalking, who didn't even know him, drugs her, takes her home, and makes her his "guest". But she is a prisoner for life. Knowing this she withers and dies. He disposes of her body, and the book ends on our "hero" stalking the next potential occupant of the dungeon... See Film above for the movie of the book.
In Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, this is Graendal's hobby. She finds noble and/or handsome persons, enslave them using an extremely powerful mind control magic, and make them serve her, often in a humiliating and depraved way.
Live Action TV
The UnSub in the Criminal Minds episode "The Uncanny Valley" is doing this: kidnapping women, drugging them, dressing them in very specific homemade dresses, and posing them. The UnSub, a Pyschopathic Girl Child was raped and given ECT by her pedophile psychiatrist father, and was kidnapping the women to recreate the only doll playset she'd ever owned, which said father had taken from her and given to his next unfortunate victim after his daughter got too old for him.
Don't forget the episode "Cold Comfort", where the unsub kidnaps women and embalms them alive, keeping them for several months until they decay too much, at which point he finds a replacement and the cycle continues. It is later revealed that his nanny/au pair (who basically raised him) died while his parents were away, and he was left alone with the body for several days; he was found curled up with her corpse. His victims are given make-overs to more closely resemble his nanny - even to the extent of being dressed in the outfit she was buried in.
There is also the eighth season episode "The Lesson", with an old man that kidnaps people to make them into living puppets. Living stringpuppets.
There was an episode of Law & Order: SVU involving a Lolicon with obvious Mommy Issues who did this, dressing little girls up (before doing "stuff" with them) to look like the dolls in his mother's extensive collection.
Night Gallery episode "A Death In the Family". An undertaker preserves dead bodies and treats them as his "family".
An episode of Super Force had a deranged man who kidnapped women, put them in suspended animation, and arranged them on display stands in a private museum.
An episode of the 2003 Twilight Zone reboot featured a little girl who turned all her babysitters into Barbie dolls because she was lonely and didn't want them to ever leave.
In BJ and the Bear, one of the lady truckers winds up in the dollhouse of a rock star (Paul Williams) who collects beautiful blondes in a set of rooms without doors. He dresses them up and "plays" with them in predictable ways.
The killer in the Rizzoli & Isles episode "Welcome to the Dollhouse" kidnaps his victims, murders them, dresses them as dolls from the 1980s and leaves them posed at bus stops.
In Dollhouse, Terry Karrens is a serial killer who "collects" realistic-looking dolls and names them. The creepiness goes up several notches when one slumps over, because the drugs that he'd used to paralyze her were starting to wear off.
The first killer in the second season of Hannibal abducts people along with their cars and injects them with silicone so that their shape will hold. As an imprisoned Will tells Beverly, the victims make up a color pallette.
In Vampire: The Requiem and Vampire: The Masquerade, this is very, very explicitly laid out to be one of the big dehumanizing aspects of the vampiric discipline Dominate. One bloodline in Requiem, the Melissidae, are themed on wasps and bees, and have advanced powers that allow them to make people their mental puppets.
Warhammer 40,000 has the mad Necron overlord Trazyn the Infinite, a robotic tyrant and historian whose "collection" of artifacts and individuals takes up most of the subterranean caverns of his throne-world of Solemnace. He is particularly keen on producing recreations of great moments and famous battles from history, using captured alien soldiers transformed into hard-light holograms and positioned accordingly. When his collection is damaged or disturbed by intruders he makes a point of seeking out fresh individuals to replace the losses - occasionally complaining that the squad markings and equipment of his victims is too different, and therefore his display is ruined.
The first Baldur's Gate game had Bassilus, an evil cleric who used Create Undead to "bring back his family" out of locals. Since Create Undead creates undead rather than truly resurrect them, they were just shambling zombies that he was delusional enough to think were fine.
You can with careful dialogue choices, get him to realize they're not his family, it causes him to destroy the zombies before attacking (otherwise, he'd attack you with the zombies).
A creepy serial killer like this pops up in the Heavy RainDLC "The Taxidermist".
Touch Detective features a little girl who lives at the observatory, and with the help of one of its workers, kidnaps people to act as her brainwashed living dolls — what little we see of this suggests they're reduced to a near-inanimate state by the brainwashing, capable of little more than speaking a "pre-recorded" line.
Relius Clover from BlazBlue has a nasty habit of doing this in two forms; the first is the Murakumo units he helped create, LivingWeapon's formed from clones of Saya and stripped of all emotion to make them willing servants to the NOL. The second way is to play this trope much straighter, by turning his own daughter into Nirvana and using the experiance he gained from this to turn his wife into a much stronger doll.
His son, Carl, also follows this trope in the same way as Kankuro and Chiro from higher up this page, as he uses Ada (now Nirvana) as his main weapon in his quest for revenge against his father.
Charles Dalimar from the Ravenhearst hidden-object games abducted a woman and her daughters and forced them to play out the roles of his "family".
Did you ever think the Doll Room in Mad Father was a tad random at the beginning? Well, if you examine the dolls, you'll understand why Dr. Drevis has dedicated an entire room to them. Spoilerific tip: the chair at the front of the room is reserved for Aya.
In The Order of the Stick, the Creature in the Darkness kept a paralyzed O-Chul as a playmate for a while, calling him Mr. Stiffly and holding tea parties with him.
The villain in the Pilot Movie of Bonkers is The Collector, a creepy-looking Toon who collected other toons. He turns out to be a human in disguise.
In one "Treehouse of Terror" segment on The Simpsons, Comic Book Guy becomes a collector of cult actors, who plans to trap Lucy Lawless in plastic. She kicks his ass.
On The Powerpuff Girls, a toy collector has every piece of Powerpuff merchandise ever, yet felt that his collection was incomplete without the girls themselves. So he kidnaps them and puts them in boxes.
Avatar: The Last Airbender : Hama uses her Bloodbending skills to kidnap random Fire Nation civilians and keep them locked up in a cave. She also has a bunch of regular puppets she keeps locked in a cabinet in her house: this is so that, if her victims are discovered, she can claim it was at least Foreshadowed.
An episode of Richie Rich had a villain who would kidnap notable people, shrink them with a Shrink Ray and keep them under glass.
One villain in Courage the Cowardly Dog used a magical stage to transform people into string puppets. Courage sadly is unable to free Muriel and Eustace from the stage before they have already been transformed (thank goodness for Negative Continuity). In the end, the villain falls victim to the allure of the stage himself and starts a performance to an imaginary audience which ends with him becoming a puppet too.