Death - or the possibility of it - is at the cold, dark heart of most horror movies. So is fear of the unknown. While there are plenty of crazed killers - human or animal or monster, or some mixture - at least they are sentient beings, acting in recognisable albeit deadly ways. And if you can communicate with them, maybe - just maybe - you can reason with them, trick them, intimidate them, find some way to prevent the worst from happening.
But sometimes filmmakers imbue objects with a malevolent life force. Sometimes this can border on the ludicrous but at other times it can be both scary - seeing things that should be harmless or at least under our control turn against us - and a clever metaphorical comment on aspects of people and society.
In Fabric is an arty horror film that feels somewhere in between the lurid work of Dario Argento and a 1970s British horror flick. In it, a red dress from a creepy store with even creepier staff becomes a deadly force, ruining the lives of anyone who wears it, even unto death. The shots of the dress floating in the air or moving itself along the floor could, in other hands, look silly but here, they add to the atmosphere of the film which, like any good horror movie, isn't just about blood and scares: it critiques consumer culture, self-indulgence and the cost - in more ways than one - of fashion.
Motor vehicles are dangerous enough when badly driven. When they have evil minds of their own, though, the effect can be terrifying. Honk your horn, flip the bird, scream abuse: it won't make any difference.
Recall the eponymous, demonic Lincoln Continental Mark III that wrought havoc in The Car - while the vehicle itself looked pretty cool, the very 1970s fashions and some unintentional (?) goofiness lessen the effect somewhat (and the Church of Satan's Anton LaVey is credited as "technical adviser" - who knew he was such a car buff?) A much better "mysterious vehicle turns deadly in the desert" flick was Duel, director Steven Spielberg's career-boosting film about a battle of machismo as an ordinary man in his car is pursued inexorably on the highway by a truck with deadly intent (there is a driver, only bits of whom are seen, but the ending implies some sort of supernatural force was involved).
Then there's Christine, the vengeful 1958 Plymouth created by Stephen King that gave its (her?) name to John Carpenter's film. Or King's sole feature directorial effort, Maximum Overdrive, in which not just motor vehicles but vending machines, ATMs, hair dryers and other machines turn on people. The film was a flop: King, who also scripted, said he was "coked out of [his] mind all through its production and [he] didn't know what [he] was doing".
Dolls going berserk are a horror staple - ventriloquists' dummies (Dead of Night), children's toys (Child's Play), or clowns (Poltergeist) - all of which can be immensely creepy even when not wreaking havoc. Is it an uncanny valley effect, looking at that artificial face with its dead, staring eyes and wondering if they're looking into you?
In Torture Garden, one story is about a concert pianist's girlfriend who's up against a jealous rival: her boyfriend's piano, apparently haunted by his dead mother (how's that for subtext).
Claustrophobes will relate to the deadliness of The Lift, which can suffocate, crush, or decapitate people, or trick them into falling down the elevator shaft. And Death Bed: the Bed that Eats - a self-explanatory title - shows you're not safe anywhere.