Genre: Slasher Running Time: 1 hr. 27 min.
Release Date: November 9th, 1988 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Tom Holland Actors: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow
hild’s Play” exploits a fantasy/nightmare that many can relate to: toys coming to life. The basic fear of supernatural evils commanding something as docile as a doll for the purpose of covertly committing murder may sound hokey (or in the realm of juju, completely natural), but director Tom Holland (“Fright Night,” “Thinner”) has crafted something genuinely creepy with Chucky, a now iconic ‘80s villain. Dated, but with above-average acting, superb animatronics, beautifully eerie cinematography that catches the wicked figurine lifelessly resting in various backgrounds, and expertly-timed suspense, “Child’s Play” is one of the most memorable horror films of all time.
Six-year-old Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) just wants a “Good Guys” doll for his birthday. So when his mother Karen (Catherine Hicks) is able to obtain one at the last minute from a street peddler, Andy is ecstatic. But his new stuffed companion, named Chucky, isn’t just a toy. Serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) mastered unspeakable voodoo just before getting dispatched by Officer Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon), enabling the murderer to transfer his soul into the doll. When Andy’s babysitter winds up dead, the clues point to the young child, but Karen knows her son is innocent. Chucky initially only reveals his true self to Andy, but as the bodies keep piling up, Mike and Karen begin to believe the boy’s claims about the talking, stalking doll.
Although horror films have long since surpassed “Child’s Play’s” gore and shock value, the anticipation that builds up as the film progresses is handled surprisingly well. Everyone thinks Andy is crazy – and Chucky doesn’t reveal his abilities to the audience until a particularly terrifying moment when Karen discovers that Chucky has been operating without batteries. As Chucky’s face twists into an unnatural grimace, fearful suspicions will certainly be confirmed. Perhaps what makes the possessed plaything even more frightening is the excellent blend of animatronics and live action. Although the majority of the doll motions are governed by tiny robots, occasionally a little person will be inside of a Chucky costume, surrounded by oversized sets. The shock of seeing ultra-realistic (in fact, genuinely human) movement coming from what was previously defined as a stiff-jointed puppet is nothing short of breathtaking.
Like all great movie villains, just when viewers think they’re finally dead, they’re not. Comparable to “The Terminator,” Chucky is relentlessly determined and nearly unstoppable. The “tough” cop Mike is constantly down for the count and it’s up to a young boy and a frenzied woman to calculate the evil toy’s demise. Some may be skeptical of a petite doll’s ability to wield death, but he uses clever strategies to compensate for his diminutive stature. Plus, no one suspects the inanimate object. A perfect character design for Chucky gives him that fiendishly creepy edge, along with drastically changing facial features that accommodate scarier expressions, mouth shapes, and cold, sunken eyes. Clearly capturing the attention of millions, four theatrical sequels were produced (debuting in 1990, 1991, 1998, and 2004), all progressively – and expectedly – growing more ridiculous through the years (though they couldn’t stymie the impressiveness of the original).
– Mike Massie