1988 / Tom Holland / MAX / R
Always check your children's toys for batteries, folks!
A Rundown of Child's Play
We open to a police chase followed by a gunfight. Charles Lee Ray is the Lakeshore Strangler of the Chicago suburbs. After Charles is shot and his driver leaves him bleeding in the streets Charles makes his great escape into a brightly lit toy shop. Detective Mike Norris follows Charles but cannot keep up with the dying man through the cluttered aisles. Good Guys dolls crash to the floor as Charles struggles to keep himself from bleeding out. As his last-ditch effort, Charles recites a Voodoo spell, transferring his consciousness to one of the Good Guy dolls. Lightning and thunder shake the sky.
Andy Barclay is turning six years old, and all Andy has asked his single and struggling mother for is a Good Guys doll. While on her work break Karen Barclay takes the opportunity to purchase a Good Guys doll from a back alley scalper. Little does Karen know that not only is the doll possessed by the notorious Lakeshore Strangler, but that the doll, also known as Chucky, wants to get much closer to her son than anyone could have imagined. Murder and puppetry ensue, and it's glorious.
The Team Behind Child's Play
Leading this film is Catherine Hicks as Karen Barclay. Her character goes through a wide range of emotions throughout this film and they're all believable, which is surprising when you consider that she spends a good portion of the film trying to convince a cop that her son's doll is alive. Catherine may be recognized by older audiences as Annie Camden in 7th Heaven. Alex Vincent takes up the role of Andy Barcley, the innocent and terrified child of Karen. Children actors have it tough and are criticized to the same extent as professionals who have been in the industry for far longer. Is Alex's performance perfect? No, some scenes are better than others, but I think the scriptwriting does the heavy lifting for him. Alex has reprised his role as Andy for many of the sequels, and most recently the Chucky Syfy channel series. The detective and sworn enemy of the killer doll is played by Chris Sarandon. Chris is the voice of THE Jack Skellington, and was in 2011's Fright Night as Jay Dee.
Finally, the most iconic role of the film and a voice that will be mimicked for generations is Brad Dourif. He is Charles Lee Ray, he is the Lakeshore Strangler, he is Chucky. Brad continues to voice the character, but in 2019 they brought in Mark Hamill to try and reinvigorate the franchise. That attempt was unsuccessful, thus Brad was called on to take the helm for the Syfy series. You may also recognize him as Sheriff Lee Bracket in Rob Zombie's Halloween films.
Jake's Take on Child's Play
This film captures the disappointment a child feels when they open up a gift so anticipated only to discover something like socks... again. Growing up in a capitalist society sets these unrealistic expectations for both the child and the parent. Child's Play is the kind of film that will continue to stand the test of time. It teaches a lesson every parent and child must learn, and raises conversations that otherwise aren't had. Is it about a killer doll? Yes. Is there Voodoo involved? You bet. But underneath the ridiculousness is the message to not overindulge in materialistic items.
The puppetry in Child's Play is just pure fun. This film coming out in 1988 means that it was able to learn from films such as The Thing (1982) and Gremlins (1984). I'm not claiming that Child's Play can hold a candle to either film when it comes to the expertise of those practical effects, but this film does look better than most puppet films that have come out since. Sometimes you can tell that you're looking at a short person in a suit, and other times you'll find yourself confused as to what's the puppet and what isn't.
Is Chucky scary? Maybe in a childlike sense. What's more frightening is the capitalistic nature of our country to advertise to children. Brad Dourif brings this foul-mouthed murderous doll to life with each rageful outburst, and it's meant insight unease. Child's Play is a top 5 in my book, and that's not going to change anytime soon. If you haven't watched the original, and you're only familiar with later installments or the reboot, then you're truly doing yourself a disservice. Go watch Chucky at his peak. All of the installments after the first film really miss out on what sets this killer apart.