What’s scarier to a kid than one of their own toys coming to life and killing people? That’s why Child’s Play has persevered over the years. That and it’s charismatic villain Chucky. Child’s Play is most memorable to those of us that saw it as children. Not only because Chucky was a child-sized villain, but because his primary target was a child. We’ve probably all stared into the dead eyes of a doll at some point and thought “Maybe that doll is just pretending to be inanimate.” Child’s Play explores that fear and although it rarely rises above typical slasher fare, it definitely has some solid scares.
The film opens with Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) chasing serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) through the streets of Chicago. Making their way into a toy store, Ray is shot and mortally wounded. Then with one last ounce of strength Ray grabs a Good Guy Doll and recites a voodoo chant. By the time Norris finds Ray he appears to be dead, but of course that’s part of the game. Later, we are introduced to Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent), an innocent 6-year old that wants a Good Guy Doll for his birthday. Andy’s single mother Karen, (Catherine Hicks) unable to afford a doll instead buys one from a bum off the streets. When presented to Andy the doll introduces itself as Chucky. Of course we already know that he ain’t a child’s play-thing.
The early half of the film is surprisingly suspenseful. The voodoo stuff is stupid but the slow buildup to when we first see Chucky alive is very effective. We see strange things happening but whenever the camera cuts to Chucky he’s just sitting there lifeless. It reminds me of the classic Twilight Zone episode “Living Doll” about the killer doll that wont stop tormenting Kojak. Every once in awhile you’ll here the pitter-patter of feet or Chucky wont be where a character thought they put him. All that is great, but once he’s moving around and calling Andy’s mom “A stupid bitch” it loses the suspense and becomes more of a dark comedy. Which is the direction writer Don Mancini took with most of the sequels.
As for Chucky I have to say, he is indeed a memorable character. Of course you have to give credit to Brad Dourif and his maniacal vocal performance. Although I forgot how good the animatronics were in this film. Chucky’s expressions and movements hold up fairly well. Never did I think, “Oh that looks hokey or fake.” Maybe it’s because Chucky is technically an inanimate object, so his abilities should be limited. What doesn’t hold up in this film is the logic.
Over time Chucky finds his new form becoming more and more human. Of course no one wants to be a doll forever so he must find a new host. Abiding by voodoo bullshit, he must find the first person he revealed himself to. Not the first person who found him as a doll, but the first person he revealed himself to be a living doll to. This means he must capture Andy and perform more voodoo bullshit. It doesn’t make sense why these Voodoo rules are so specific. It seems to me they just needed to find a reason for Chucky to go after Andy. Also, why is Chucky so strong? He’s a child’s play-thing! Yet he strangles people and pushes them out windows. Spoiler Fortunately there’s no tacked on ambiguous ending to Child’s Play. Chucky gets burned, shot, and killed.. Game Over. There wasn’t any loose ends, so I’m not sure how they managed to spawn so many sequels. That being said when it comes to Child’s Play, just play with it once and then move on to another toy.