Playtime’s Over: ‘Child’s Play’ Retrospective
There's no game playing in this
One of the first horror movies I saw as a child, and one that legitimately scared me was this one. It features a very iconic slasher villain on par with Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. Released in 1988, and directed by Tom Holland, comes the supernatural horror slasher film Child’s Play.
The film’s plot revolves around a young boy named Andy and his mother Karen, who live alone in their apartment. For Andy’s birthday he wants a really famous doll and Karen buys one off the street for him. However, they are both unaware that the doll is actually inhabited by the spirit of a serial killer who used a voodoo spell to transfer his soul upon his death.
The film opens with serial killer Charles Lee Ray, played by Brad Dourif, being abandoned by his accomplice Eddie Caputo, played by Neil Giuntoli, and running from detective Mike Norris, played by Chris Sarandon. Charles makes his way into a toy store where he has a brief shootout with Mike. Mike wounds Charles and in his dying breath Charles uses a voodoo spell to summon a storm and transfer his soul into the body of a nearby doll. Lightning from the storm blows up and burns the toy store.
We’re introduced to Andy, played by Alex Vincent, who’s fixing a very unique breakfast for his mother. He convinces her to get him a doll he’s obsessed with for his birthday. His mother Karen, played by Catherine Hicks, searches for it with her friend Maggie, played by Dinah Manoff. They meet a homeless man who sells them a doll he found. Karen takes it back to Andy to his delight.
Not long after Andy starts playing with his new doll does strange things begin happening. Maggie babysits him and finds the doll, named Chucky, sitting in front of the television. She accuses Andy of this after putting him to bed, but he denies it. Later, Maggie is sent flying out the window to her death.
Mike returns to investigate Maggie’s death and soon makes Andy a suspect. Karen ask Andy what happened, and Andy says Chucky killed Maggie. Karen of course doesn’t believe him.
Later, Andy and Chucky decide to take the subway through Chicago. Chucky has Andy take him to where his partner Eddie is hiding. Wanting revenge for abandoning him, Chucky blows up Eddie’s hideout with him still in it. Andy is found by the police and blames what happened on Chucky. Once again no one believes him, but this time they put him in a hospital.
This is the scene that scared me as a child. Karen returns home with Chucky. She examines the box he came in and finds the batteries inside. She examines Chucky and finds that he can move on his own. As she threatens to toss him into a lit fireplace he suddenly springs to life and speaks in his normal voice. This is the scene that made me hide under the bed sheets. It was just a shocker to see the normally stoic doll just suddenly spring to life. Not just his voice, but his face shifts and frowns at Karen. He swears heavily at her, called her sexist terms, and bites her. Karen chases him as he escapes but loses him.
Karen soon runs back into Mike and explains to him that Chucky is alive and sentient. Naturally he thinks she’s just as wacky as Andy and brushes her off. It’s not until Chucky attacks Mike in his car that he finally starts believing the story.
Chucky later visits his voodoo master John Bishop, played by Raymond Oliver, and ask him how he can get out of the doll. Bishop says that Chucky is an abomination and scolds him for abusing his teachings. Out of spite, Chucky uses a voodoo doll to torture Bishop and forces him to tell him how to get out of the doll. Bishop explains that the longer Chucky stays in the doll the more organic it becomes, which explains why Chucky can now bleed. He says Chucky must transfer his soul into the first person he revealed himself to, which happens to be Andy.
Chucky leaves as Karen and Mike find Bishop crippled and wounded. Before he dies, Bishop tells them that they must injure Chucky’s heart to kill him.
At the hospital, Chucky sneaks in. Andy attempts to explain to a doctor that Chucky is coming for him, but of course they don’t listen. After some shenanigans Andy flees back to his apartment as Chucky gives chase. Karen and Mike too return home to help him. All of this leads to the film’s climax.
By far the most interesting thing about this film is Chucky. Because of who he is, what he does, his personality and how others react to him, Chucky became a breakout character among slasher villains. Unlike other horror movie icons, such as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, Chucky loves to talk. He’s fowled-mouthed to the point where every other word is strong profanity. He gleefully chases after victims and tortures them with a smile. He’s selfish and only cares for what he wants, even if he has to mow down a bunch of people along the way. When he’s angered he will stop to no end to kill and destroy whoever, whatever angered him.
He is also very petty and will go out of his way to kill others for the most trivial of reasons. For example, in this film he goes to great lengths to spectacularly kill his partner Eddie simply for leaving him. In later films Chucky would kill people simply for annoying him. That’s not to say he doesn’t kill just because he can, which he does throughout the series.
Andy is the film’s protagonist and the main character the film sympathizes with. He’s shown as a sweet kid who simply wanted a toy for his birthday. He gets caught up and blamed for Chucky’s shenanigans. It’s one of those stereotypical clichés where something out of the ordinary causes trouble, a child knows the source and attempts to tell a grown up, but they don’t believe them. It’s not until the other characters witness the strange event is when they start believing. Once Chucky starts coming for Andy you really start to feel for him and fear for his safety. The most emotional scene is when Andy cowers in a corner in his room at the hospital as he waits for Chucky to come. As I said, no one believes him about Chucky so he’s alone and vulnerable.
The other characters are basically summed up. They’re all dull and have little character, until they see Chucky that is. After learning about him they become more active, more developed, and actively seek to stop him. This mostly goes to Karen and Mike since the other characters who know of Chucky die before they get to do anything, except for Bishop.
Overall, I highly recommend Child’s Play. It’s a film with a story that keeps you invested, gives a spin to the typical antagonist in a slasher film, a likable protagonist, and makes you wonder what will happen next on your first watch-through. Chucky is a very interesting character and the visual effects are impressive. The whole movie has a creepy atmosphere where characters are taking their time walking slowly and examining things while Chucky ambushes them when they’re distracted.
Due to the film’s success, it led to many sequels. They go into more detail of the voodoo aspect of the series and shows how Chucky’s influence affected Andy. The series does go through a trope called Reverse Cerebus Syndrome, where something that starts off dark and edgy becomes lighter and more comedic. For years the Child’s Play series was portrayed as a horror comedy, but lately the series seems to have returned to its horror roots. While some of the later films are rather questionable, the first one is still worth checking out.
Original film trailer
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