Child’s Play (1988) – 31 Days of Horror: Oct 07

by Jovial Jay

It’s been many years since I’ve seen Child’s Play so I wanted to revisit the original film for this years watch list.

The premise of inanimate objects coming to life to terrify humans is not a new idea, but this film turns the theme up to 11!

Before Viewing

The trailer for Child’s Play has a very authoritarian voice, reminding us about our favorite birthday gifts. A mother buys a large sized doll for her son, who is very excited to be getting a “Good Guy” doll for his birthday. The narrator then tells us that most accidents happen in the home, as we see something scurry by. When the babysitter goes to investigate she manages to fall out the window!

The young boy claims that the doll has come to life, but neither the mother or the police detective believe it. That is, until the mother is attacked by something. She tries to convince the detective, but he still won’t believe her. Is it maybe her son doing the killing?

I think most people are familiar with the premise of this film (and its many sequels) but at the time, and based on the trailer (and the films title) it could be totally possible that the boy is the one doing the killing. Let’s take a stab at this film, and see if it still holds up!

Presented below is the Trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - HalloweenAfter Viewing

Regardless of what you may think about Child’s Play from the trailer, any questions are answered in the first few minutes of the film. Convicted Lake Shore Strangler, Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) runs from police Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) after being shot. He runs into a toy store, where dying, he performs an incantation and transfers his soul into the body of a Good Guy toy doll.

Single mother Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) purchases the possessed Good Guy Doll, Chucky, from a homeless man for her son Andy’s (Alex Vincent) birthday. The doll speaks and moves, like many toy dolls do, but Andy hears different things from the doll. He claims that Chucky is really Charles Lee Ray, and he was sent down from Heaven to protect Andy. After an accident where Karen’s friend Maggie (Dinah Manoff) falls from their 5th floor window, suspicion soon turns to Andy as a potential threat.

Karen threatens Chucky to talk, after discovering that the batteries he requires to work were never installed. Chucky attacks her and manages to escape. She finds Detective Norris and tries to convince him that Andy has been telling the truth. He dismisses her ravings as delusional, until Chucky attempts to kill him as he is driving home.

The two adults must then rescue Andy from the institution where 6-year old Andy is being held before Chucky can find and transfer his soul into the young boy’s body. Andy manages to escape and heads home, where the final confrontation between Chucky, Mike and Karen takes place. They try to burn and shoot the doll, but he keeps coming back to life. Finally one well aimed shot to the heart seems to kill the possessed child’s toy. But with movies like this, you can’t keep a good monster down!

Hi, I’m Chucky, and I’m your friend till the end. Hidey-ho!” – Chucky

I think Child’s Play still holds up really well, as a good horror film. The film explains just enough about how Chucky manages to do the things he does to satisfy cursory questions, and then gets out of its own way as a child’s doll hunts the protagonists. The terror, especially in the scene where Karen finds the still-unopened batteries, is a good example of how effective this film can be.

The visual effects for bringing Chucky to life are also very well done. Depending on the needs of the shot, the filmmakers use a toy doll, an animatronic one, or a person dressed in a Chucky outfit. The fact that the monster in this film is actually supposed to be a toy, allows for the filmmakers to keep it from having to look super-realistic. The horror comes out from the fact that a supposed inanimate object can actually move and hurt us.

My biggest issue with the film is the multiple “fake out” endings. These are the moments, when the creature is supposedly defeated only to come back to life moments later when the hero has let their guard down. Usually there is at least one of these fake-out endings to most horror films, but Child’s Play does it three times, which seemed a little tedious. I can understand how this sort of fright would play in theaters, but it may be the one aspect of the film that I thought didn’t hold up.

Assorted Musings

  • As of this writing, there have been 7 Chucky films in total: Child’s Play #1-3, Bride, Seed, Curse and Cult of Chucky. There’s also talk of a reboot of the series being made soon as well.
  • The director of this film (Tom Holland, no relation to the current actor portraying Spider-Man) and Chris Sarandon (who played Mike Norris) made another horror film together a few years before this called Fright Night. That will be a subject for posting later in the month!
  • Another film about a boy named Andy with toys that come to life was not as horrific.
  • Thinking about Child’s Play always reminds me of the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode that spoofs the killer doll conceit.
  • Ed Gale, the actor who is in the Chucky suit in some scenes, is a midget, who has also been in Phantasm II, as well as Howard the Duck and O Brother, Where Art Thou.

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