The setup for Child’s Play is quite simple: two criminals are chased by the police and one of the two makes a run for it – leaving his partner Charles “Chucky” Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) behind. Charles then breaks into a toy shop to escape the detective Mike (Chris Sarandon) who has mortally wounded Chucky. So far so good, nothing out of the usual here… that is until Charles uses Voodoo magic to teleport his soul into a Good Guys doll.
We then go through the motions with Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) and her son Andy (Alex Vincent) who would like nothing more than to get a Good Guys doll for his sixth birthday. And if you can put two and two together the rest of the plot is not quite hard to guess.
For the complete retrospective click here. For Child’s Play (1988) drected by Tom Holland more after the jump.
Nobody believes you about Chucky!
The scary thing about Chucky is the idea that a monster is in Andy’s room and he is being manipulated by it. Early on Andy already admits to talking to Chucky and it is passed off as a childish game. Yet the more happens the stranger his friendship to the doll grows for everyone around him. Is Chucky alive or not?
The best horror aspect about the Child’s Play series for me always was the fact that the most terrifying thing imaginable was disguised as this cute bright doll which no one will take seriously. Chucky is alive but Andy will never be able to convince anyone. This powerless feeling coupled with the general feeling that parents just don’t understand children made Chucky one of the most frightening things when I was still a kid.
Not all things age as well as wine
Child’s Play frightened me to death when I was a child. But is it still as scary as it was?
Well, no… for the obvious reason that I have grown much older and the movie hasn’t aged that well – after all this is a slasher from the 80s.
Most notably the entire voodoo subplot is extremely corny – granted the entire concept of Chucky is corny but like most horror movies we accept the ridiculous premise and go with the rest of the story. Horror – after all – is about the irrational things we can’t explain and a possessed doll is pretty high on that spectrum.
But the movie delves pretty deep into the voodoo territory and there even is a scene where Chucky uses a voodoo doll to break the arms of his former voodoo teacher – and it is as ridiculous to watch as it is to read.
Also the entire suspense of whether the doll is possessed or not is already answered in the opening scene where we see the magic happening. A bit more ambiguity might have helped quite a lot instead of telling us the entire movie within the first 10 minutes.
The things I still like
Despite all the voodoo stuff and ridiculousness I am still scared by the premise of the puppet manipulating Andy and nobody believing him. What makes Chucky still stand apart from other cheap slasher is the amazing animatronic work done by the puppeteers. The quality of the sequels went down but the technical work grew better and better with each installment. Also the final appearance of Chucky is extremely horrifying and the while it falls into the standard structure of killing the villain over and over again at the end, it is still a good finale.
The score by Joe Renzetti is deeply unsettling and elevates the scary scenes.
Child’s Play is one of those movies that is in dire need of a remake. The premise is scary, there are some good parts but the movie can’t help but feel dated and shallow. The characters are nothing more than the stereotypes you get when you are watching and 80s slasher movie. There is a great premise which would work really well if the audience didn’t know whether Chucky was actually possessed or if Andy was making stuff up.
Still unlike many (or most) horror franchises the first part in this franchise isn’t actually the high point.