Home Year 1988 Child’s Play (1988)

Child’s Play (1988)

"Mum! It's not what it looks like! Honest!"
“Mum! It’s not what it looks like! Honest!”

Twitter Plot Summary: When Brad Dourif is killed by police, his soul ends up inside a Chucky doll.

Genre: Horror/Mystery/Thriller

Director: Tom Holland

Key Cast: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Brad Dourif, Alex Vincent, Dinah Manoff

Five Point Summary:

1. Someone punch that child in the face. Not only for being annoying, but for crimes against fashion.
2. Well if you’re gonna go, that’s a heck of a way to do it.
3. Chucky’s a ginger, it’s no wonder he’s evil.
4. Gimme gimme gimme shock treatment…
5. She’s surprisingly accurate with that gun.

I’d heard a lot about the Child’s Play/Chucky series for many years but it’s only now that I’ve had opportunity to start watching them. I’m a longstanding fan of Brad Dourif as well, so it’s surprising I haven’t seen this until now. Still, that’s why I’m doing this blog, to watch more films that I’ve previously not had opportunity to see, be they good bad or just mediocre. Child’s Play isn’t an excellent film, but it seems to know that it’s a daft idea to start with and subsequently doesn’t get any ideas above its station. As such, it’s a perfectly good and perfectly entertaining entry in the 80s horror playbook.

With that in mind, I love how 80s the concept is – serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Dourif) dies in a toy shop after a shootout with cop Mike Norris (Sarandon), but not before he spouts some mystical mumbo jumbo which transports his spirit into a nearby Good Guys doll. You can see the irony in that name already. Yet despite the 80s concept it works as something more than your standard B-movie horror flick. Whether intentional or not the various deaths are really funny, be it being thrown from the top floor of an apartment block or blown up along with the house you’ve been lured to. In that respect it shares qualities with many other stalwart horror franchises of the era, but it does at least do something new with the format.

"Show me on this doll where he touched you."
“Show me on this doll where he touched you.”

The effects are surprisingly good for the era, Chucky is creepily realistic and realistically creepy despite being a child’s toy. Tom Holland wisely chose to follow the Jaws route to showing the villain of the piece. When he does finally show his face, in possessed form rather than as a basic toy, it’s worth the wait. When Dourif’s voice kicks in things really kick up a notch, and even if you can’t believe that a toy would be possessed by a criminal, you can at least suspend your disbelief and absorb yourself into the world of the film whilst the story plays out. It’s great entertainment despite being inadvertently hilarious – a sign of things to come for the franchise, it seems. For now though, Chucky remains limited to terrorising Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks, aka Dr Gillian Taylor in Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home) and her son Andy. Whilst she tries to persuade the police, primarily Chris Sarandon as Mike Norris, that her son’s toy is possessed, they naturally don’t believe her until they see it for themselves.

Later entries in the franchise would go on to deliberately up the humour content, but that aspect was always present and forms a core part of this origin tale. The only difference is that more of the focus for this film was focusing on the horror aspect with incidental moments of humour, and it’s a balance that works. The way everybody reacts to the killings is handled realistically, and it builds to an entirely appropriate final third that doesn’t ruin what has preceded it.

Favourite scene: I think the first death/plummet wins it. Nice setup, surprisingly funny resolution.

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

Silly Moment: Apart from the fact it’s a possessed doll? The house blowing up.

Score: 3/5


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