I might have mentioned in the past that there are only a couple of things that actually scare me moviewise. One of them is demonic possession, I don’t dig flicks that deal with possession. Ever since “The Exorcist” traumatized me as a child in 73′ I try to stay away from those type of movies although I have found myself sitting in a bijou watching a few of them over the last few years. For example, I was one of the unfortunate ones who sat through “The Devil Inside” on opening day a few weeks ago. All I’m gonna say about that is I have had more than a few devil’s inside of me in the past but some chocolate Ex-Lax fixed them right up. The other subject I don’t dig too much are dolls. Yeah, that’s right…I said dolls. Dolls that walk, talk & kill, especially the ones that kill you. I don’t dig that at all and for this irrational fear I thank Mr. Rod Serling & the “Living Doll” episode of “The Twilight Zone” that featured an adorable doll named “Talky Tina” who just loved to tell poor Telly Savalas that she didn’t like him & she was “Gonna get him”. There were a few more episodes of the show that featured talking dolls or ventriloquist dummies that just weren’t very nice to play with at all & I was mortified by all of them. I still am as a matter of fact, my family loves to watch me squirm whenever I get the cojones to sit & try to watch “living Doll”. I just can’t do it though. Make of that what you will…
When “Child’s Play” was first announced I though to myself that there was no way I was going to see it. I mean not only does the doll talk (A foul mouthed little thing) but he could get up & chase your ass around while holding onto a knife. Fuck that noise…I was NOT going to see that. But of course I relented & ended up being tremendously scared & terrifically entertained as well. It turned out that this movie had some wit & some incredible SFX (For the time) that elevated it far beyond any similar type of film that came before it. Or after it for a long time quite frankly.
“Child’s Play” tells two stories actually. One of them deals with serial killer (& occultist) Charles Lee Ray. The second story deals with young Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) & his overwhelming desire for a certain doll for his birthday. a doll called “Chucky”. Their stories intertwine fairly quickly & from then on it’s war! The film begins with Ray being pursued by detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) through the streets of Chicago. Being mortally wounded & desperate for escape, Ray breaks into a large toy store looking for someplace to hide. But he realizes that he is dying & so he performs a ritual which transfers his soul into the nearest thing he could get his hands on…a “Good Guys” doll. As he (quite convincingly) performs the ceremony we see the clouds in the night sky darken, lightning & thunder loudly crash over the city & the wind picks up considerably while he performs the ceremony before he expires or is captured, whichever comes first.
Of course he completes the ceremony & of course he gets bought by Andy’s mom, Karen (Catherine Hicks), in an alleyway from a homeless man who managed to retrieve one of the dolls that wasn’t destroyed in the explosion at the toy store that occurred when Ray completed the ceremony. And of course Charles wants out of the very confining little body he’s now in. What better place to transfer his soul into but little Andy’s body? After all, Andy is a child…and Ray could live his life all over again from scratch basically. That would be extremely sweet for a insane serial killer to be able to do, wouldn’t you think? In the interim, Ray uses the doll’s small size to his advantage & murders more people. Y’see in addition to his prowess with a knife & his expertise in the occult, the doll is as physically strong as Ray was as well. A formidable threat indeed.
Although there have been plenty of films that featured dolls that kill “Child’s Play” benefited from the technology that was available when it was produced. In films like this the dolls were mostly staid, unmoving objects that we never really see wielding a weapon effectively. And their mouths just sort of moved up & down, much like a ventriloquist dummy would move it’s mouth. There were exceptions of course, the “Zuni Fetish” doll from the TV movie “Trilogy Of Terror” is one of the more unnerving ones. That little f*cker ran about in a frenzy cursing & swinging that spear of his willy nilly trying to get at Karen Black. But special effect maestro Kevin Yagher’s animatronic Chucky doll was a sight to behold back in 1988. His face contorted & displayed emotion (Mostly anger) & his lips mouthed the words that he spoke perfectly. Of course in scenes where we see Chucky running a small person was dressed as him but the editing is so spot on & seamless that the illusion is believable & more importantly…scary.
Brad Dourif is some kind of animal wearing a human’s skin. He’s scary just to look at & that’s impressive because he is not a physically imposing man. He’s small, thin & wiry but he has a knack of being able to put a maniacal bent to his eyes & he conveys a palpable sense of anger when he has to. His voice work as Chucky is unparalleled. He’s only in the movie as Charles Lee Ray for the first few minutes of the movie. From then on he’s the voice of Chucky & he makes the little guy a ferocious sounding force of nature. His roars of anger are incredibly intimidating to this day & in conjunction with Yagher’s animatronic wonder, Chucky is truly a villain that demands respect. He earns his place in horror history.
The script (By Don Mancini) is effective considering the silliness of it’s central conceit & manages to have some fun along the way as well. Director Tom “Fright Night” Holland keeps a tight rein on the festivities & solidified his reputation as one of the go to directors of horror films from his work here. As Karen, Catherine Hicks comes off as a bit too googly eyed at times but she does display a love for her son that is effective. Chris Sarandon is excellent & does a very good job at having a kind of “not believing his eyes” look once it’s apparent that there’s a doll coming after him but the film’s central character is Andy and as played by Alex Vincent he is a bit of a wet noodle. Perhaps it’s because he is so young & a child might be a bit frozen if faced with the same situation but I still found his performance to be a bit wooden. It doesn’t kill the movie though.
“Child’s Play” was a wildly popular film & Chucky has made quite the name for himself over the years. In addition to 4 sequels (And a remake slated for 2014) he has become a something of a cultural icon as well, making appearances on all types of media from all around the world. It’s not uncommon for a parent to call their child Chucky when the child is acting up nowadays as a matter of fact. I for one think that the character is everything you could ask for in a villain. He’s devious, angry, evil, violent, funny & downright frightening to boot. The fact that he’s about 2 1/2 feet tall makes no difference…he can hold his own against any of the big boys on the block & he’s probably relish the opportunity to have a shot at a few of them as well. All hail “Child’s Play”! All hail CHUCKY!!
Child’s Play (1988)