Child's Play

Shocktober Reviews: Child’s Play (1988)

There was a time when the movie going public did not know that Chucky was an evil doll who murdered people. One of many slasher movie icons of his time, the psychopathic plaything has risen to notoriety with a franchise of films spanning almost three decades. With as much fame as the character has garnered and the eventual comical turn that the movies took, it’s easy to forget that it all started with a truly horrifying slasher flick. A slasher flick packed with solid acting, gruesome effects and a concept that would stand the test of time.

Child's Play

Child’s Play begins with the death of serial killer Charles Lee Ray (played expertly by Brad Dourif) at a toy store in downtown Chicago. With his last breath, he grabs a Good Guy doll and performs a lightning inducing ceremony. The next day, single mother Karen Barclay (played by Catherine Hicks) purchases the very same Good Guy doll for her son Andy (Alex Vincent). After Andy’s baby sitter is murdered, a police detective who was a witness to Charles Lee Ray’s death begins to investigate and suspects that Andy may have something to do with it. Is it the young boy after all or has his new toy taken on a life of its own?

There is a lot to love about this movie. First and foremost, every actor involved gives a very convincing performance. From the young Alex Vincent to the veteran Chris Sarandon, there is not a single performer who doesn’t give it their all. Given the penchant for movie studios to hire newer or less experienced actors for horror movies, it’s always refreshing to see a stellar cast. Catherine Hicks seems genuinely terrified when trying to escape the murderous Chucky’s attacks. Alex Vincent, aside from being painfully adorable, reacts to every scene with glowing authenticity and Brad Dourif delivers one of the best voice over performances I have ever seen. There is a guttural nature to his screams and attacks that is truly terrifying and yet it doesn’t detract from the whit and nuance that he provides as a serial killer possessed doll.

On the directing side, Tom Holland is certainly no slouch. His ability to create a claustrophobic atmosphere whenever Chucky is on the attack really adds to the overall terror of the film. There are also plenty of quick cuts and off angles that make switches between animatronic toy and body double seem fairly seamless. At certain points in the movie, Chucky looks lively enough to jump out of the screen.

As far as the story is concerned, there is a little to be desired. While the movie starts strong with an air of mystery as to whether or not Chucky is actually alive or if little Andy is committing the murders himself. Once the movie moves away from this, introduces Chucky as Charles Lee Ray and explains that his switcheroo was a result of a voodoo ritual, things get a little wonky. Andy is locked up in an insane asylum that apparently keeps children locked up on the same floor as mentally disturbed adults and his mom just kind of accepts it. Chucky visits an old “friend” who feels more like a plot device than an actual character. All in all, things get sloppy. However, the movie still moves at a quick enough pace that by the time you begin to notice a few inconsistencies, you’re already into the exciting finale.

I’ll be honest in saying that Child’s Play continues to surprise me. It has been a staple in my film watching life and even looking at it with a critical eye, I still find it immensely enjoyable. It contains all the ingredients of a great horror movie and I will continue to recommend it to anyone looking for a good scare.



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