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Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 244: Child's Play

Child's Play
Wanna play?

Believe it or not, but I didn't always like horror movies. When I was young, I was actually terrified of scary movies. I specifically remember being scared even when commercials came on for scary movies. Freddy Krueger was very scary with his burnt face and blade-covered hand. There was one other horror icon that scared just as much as Krueger if not more: Chucky. As silly as it sounds now, the thought of a doll coming to life and trying to kill struck a chord with me. I mean, it's an R-rated horror movie sort of geared towards kids. While movies like Toy Story show the fun and lovable side of toys coming to life, Child's Play showed the much darker and scarier side.

Child's Play is a 1988 horror movie starring Brad Dourif (Deadwood, Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers) as serial killer Charles Lee Ray. Charles Lee Ray, also known as “Chucky” and “The Lakeshore Strangler” is being pursued by Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon, The Princess Bride, The Sentinel). Shot by Norris and abandoned by his cohort, Eddie Caputo (Neil Giuntoli, The Shawshank Redemption, Next Of Kin), Chucky breaks into a toy store for cover. Knowing he is about to die, Chucky uses a voodoo ritual to transfer his soul into the plastic body of a “Good Guy” doll. The next day, Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks, Ryan's Hope, 7th Heaven) buys a Good Guy doll from a street peddler for her son Andy's birthday. Having to work the night shift, Karen asks her friend Maggie to watch Andy. Andy tells Maggie that his doll told him his name was Chucky and that he wanted to watch the 9 o'clock news. Maggie laughs it off and puts him to bed. Later, she is shocked to find Chucky in front of the television, watching the news. A small figure is seeing toying with Maggie throughout the apartment, eventually hitting her with a hammer and knocking her out a window. Detective Norris speaks with Andy, who is the prime suspect for Maggie's death. Andy insists that Chucky killed Maggie, but no one believes him. The next day, Andy skips school with Chucky and goes to the house of Chucky's former partner, Eddie Caputo. Chucky sneaks into Eddie's house and turns up the gas on his stove, causing it to explode and kill Eddie. The authorities find Andy at the scene and place him in a psychiatric ward for children. Karen is the only one who believes Andy and tries to get Chucky to talk to her. She discovers the doll's batteries had never been used and when she threatens to throw him in the fireplace, Chucky comes to life and attacks her and escapes. Detective Norris is soon attacked by Chucky with a large butcher knife and crashes his car. Norris is able to shoot and injure Chucky, much to the doll's surprise. Chucky visits the man who taught him voodoo and discovers that his transformation is becoming permanent and must find another body. He decides to transfer his soul into Andy's body. Will Karen and Det. Norris be able to stop the killer doll before it's too late?

Becoming a doll was actually an improvement, looks-wise

The killer doll genre is nothing new, but with the Gabage Patch kids craze going on during the 80's, Child's Play struck a current note in the public's eye. Chucky is probably the most famous killer doll in horror thanks to multiple sequels and toy sales. The movie has a good mixture of subtle, “lurking in the shadows” horror and in-your-face slasher horror. Child's Play works so well because, despite being a silly premise, it's treated like a serious horror movie. Sure, it has its over-the-top moments and a fair amount of sick humor, but there is plenty lot of suspense and action to keep things entertaining. The movie reminds me of the “Talking Tina” episode from The Twilight Zone where only the father hears the doll talk about murder. Child's Play uses the same principle of no one believing the doll is alive. We, the audience, know Chucky is alive and are frustrated when the characters don't know. This knowledge allows the movie to play up the fear factor and lead to some good scares. Oringinally, though, the script was more mysterious, stretching out the possibility that Andy is actually the killer. I think that would have been much more interesting to watch with the potential for more scares, but I don't think the movie would have been as fun.

Another factor that helped the movie be entertaining was the acting. Chucky is scary thanks to Brad Dourif, who is no stranger to the horror genre. His style is a mixture of glee and psychotic rage. The movie's usage of a little person to show Chucky in full motion certainly helps him appear more life-like. Both Catherine Hicks and Chris Sarandon play their roles well. My biggest issue with the movie is Andy. Why do all kids in horror movies have to be extremely annoying? On a scale of 1 to 10 on the annoying scale, Andy is an 11. I blame it on a mixture of lazy writing and poor acting. I don't understand why they couldn't just treat him like a normal, if troubled, child. I almost felt like cheering for Chucky to get him just so I wouldn't have to listen to him anymore. The movie has a good amount of blood and violence with a lot of variety. 

Paul Ryan's eyes look exactly the same

Child's Play is a fun horror movie based on a silly premise. It's mixture of horror, action, and off-beat humor created an entertaining experience that spawned a long line of sequels, toys, comic books, and even an appearance in WCW. While the sequels have become a parody of themselves, the original movie was serious enough to be considered a solid movie. The scares are good and there is plenty of violence to go around. Brad Dourif is great, using just his voice to create an iconic horror character. The character of Andy is incredibly annoying, to the point where I didn't really care what happened to him. While not a “thinking man's” horror movie, Child's Play is good fun and highly enjoyable.



  1. That first paragraph is about me, right? It's pretty spot-on. But I first saw Child's Play when I was four and I've never gotten over the terror. To this day, it's one of the few movies I flat-out refuse to watch. I'll just have to settle for reading about it.