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No matter how ready we are for it, there is just something about a murderous doll that is unsettling. Hitting the rewind button all the way back to 1988, with Child’s Play we get that rare iconic introduction of a truly unique horror icon that still manages to be scary while keeping just a little bit of tongue and check sensibility to diffuse those genuinely horrific moments.
Struggling single mother Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) only wants the best for her young son Andy (Alex Vincent) so when the chance to get the hottest new toy on the market, a talking “Good Guy” for a fraction of the cost, she jumps at the chance to make this birthday a special one for him. Little does she know that this birthday is going to be more special then she could have imagined in all of the wrong ways as recently deceased serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) who recently lost his life in a gun battle with police officer Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) has found himself reincarnated in this doll as “Chucky” as this “Good Guy” is up to no good in hopes of continuing his murderous ways.
Granted I will be the first to admit that the premise on this one is more than a little silly, it works because it owns it from beginning to end, never deviating from the path that the narrative sets us on.
Co-writer and director Tom Holland doesn’t hit us over the head with anything all that high concept and provides with a clear arc for us to follow. Ultimately a story of self discovery that generates some genuine terror when don’t so is committing the actual murders for at least the first half of the movie. Despite some of the kid-centric elements this was a movie that was always meant to be terrifying as innocence gets corrupted by something from the TV that turns very very nasty in real life. So much of it plays like a borderline satire in many ways but it never skimps on being so incredibly creepy in just the right allotments. The action movies at a solid pace and we are engaged from minute one thanks to some solid performances.
The great Brad Dourif found the voice of a character that would keep him working for a solid decade as he brings a genuine joie de vivre and sense of dangerous fun to the role of “Chucky”. He’s playing inside certain archetypes but the writing allows him to flash a legitimate sense of humor which only adds to the character and why this film is just so damn beloved. Both Chris Sarandon and Catherine Hicks did the bulk of the work as the “adults” in this narrative but Alex Vincent’s borderline sickly sweet young kid playing off of Dourif’s comically perverse and twisted machinations is why this one is such a gem. It keeps us guessing, is it the kid, is the doll, could it be both? It allows us to get scared and fun all at the same time.
It’s not necessarily one of those one’s that immediately stands out in the horror canon, but Child’s Play gets us into the serial killer who likes voodoo mode so damn quick that you can’t help but get entertained because you know one way or another that “Chucky, is coming to get you!”
- Directed by: Tom Holland