Child’s Play is the first film in the long running horror film series of the same name; although many other people refer to it as the Chucky film series. This is the first movie to feature the foul-mouthed killer doll Chucky. As with many other horror movies released in the 80s, Child’s Play and the entries that would follow it has developed a cult following among fans of the horror genre.
Regardless of its moderate success, there was a decent amount of controversy surrounding the film upon its release. During the initial release, a large crowd of protesters formed at the main entrance of MGM calling for a ban on the film because, they claimed, it would incite violence in children. In fact, the film’s franchise was plagued with accusations of inciting violence in children as a later film in the series would be cited as the inspiration for two murders in the UK in which a 16-year-old was forced to listen to recordings of the gang leader repeating the catchphrase “I’m Chucky, wanna play?”.
Director Tom Holland, in response to both murders, defended the film, stating that viewers of horror movies could only be influenced by their content if they were “unbalanced to begin with”. This statement is something I completely agree with but that’s just my opinion.
Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), a voodoo-practicing serial killer known as the “Lakeshore Strangler”, is on the run from Chicago police. After detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) shoots him down in a toy store, Charles transfers his soul via a voodoo ritual into a “Good-Guy” doll, which then causes the store to explode. Detective Norris finds Charles Lee Ray’s body next to the doll, thinking he has killed him.
Now named Chucky, the killer doll is purchased from a hobo by single mother Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) as a birthday gift for her six-year-old son, Andy (Alex Vincent).
While babysitting Andy that night, Karen’s co-worker, Maggie, is later killed when she is hit in the head with a hammer, thus backing through a window falling several stories to her death. Detective Norris arrives at the scene of the crime initially suspecting Andy of the murder, and Karen furiously tells him and the police to leave.
Andy skips school the next morning (apparently on Chucky’s orders) and travels with Chucky to downtown Chicago. Once there, Chucky breaks away from Andy and enters an abandoned home, the hideout of his former associate, Eddie Caputo. While Eddie is asleep, Chucky turns on the gas stove, but blows out the pilot light. Eddie awakens and searches the house, causing it to explode when he fires his revolver in the kitchen, igniting the gas. After Andy is again suspected of the murder, he is placed in a mental hospital.
That night, Karen discovers Andy was telling the truth when she realizes Chucky’s batteries were never placed inside, meaning Chucky has been functioning despite lack of batteries. When inspecting Chucky, Chucky comes alive, bites her and escapes.
Detective Norris finally agrees to help after Chucky almost kills him in his car.
Chucky goes to a witch doctor and Charles Lee Ray’s former voodoo teacher. When asked why he bled after being injured, Dr. John reveals to Chucky that the longer his soul remains trapped within Chucky, the more human he becomes. In order to escape Chucky, Chucky must possess the first person to whom he told about his possession, which is Andy. When the witch doctor rejects Chucky’s plea for help, Chucky fatally wounds the witch doctor using his own voodoo doll and a knife, leaving him for dead. Chucky escapes just before Karen and Detective Norris arrive on the scene. Before dying, Dr. John tells the pair that although Chucky is a doll, his heart is fully human and vulnerable to fatal injury.
At the mental hospital, Chucky steals the key to Andy’s cell, but discovers Andy has escaped, he then follows Andy home and knocks him unconscious with a wooden baseball bat.
As Chucky begins possessing Andy, Karen and Detective Norris arrive and stop him. Chucky slashes Mike, and then goes after Karen and Andy. The pair trap Chucky in the fireplace and burn him. Thinking Chucky is dead, Karen and Andy leave the room to help Mike, but Chucky follows them and attempts to kill them. Chucky is again thought to be killed when Karen shoots Chucky, severing an arm, a leg, and his head but is he….
Child’s play starts off quite slow but it does this to build suspense and it’s very effective in my opinion, it makes the moment that Chucky finally comes to life that much more impactful.
Brad Dourif does a superb job with Chucky’s voice, adding some much needed wit to the character. Catherine Hicks also does a great job as the mother; she comes across surprisingly realistic, thanks in part to the very well-written dialog. Chris Sarandon adds his talents as the detective investigating the mysterious murders surrounding Chucky and Andy. Talking of Andy, I was very impressed with the acting ability of Alex Vincent at such a young age.
Some people have criticized Child’s Play because as the audience we are fully aware from the beginning that Chucky is possessed and alive. I can definitely understand this criticism but I did enjoy the idea that I was aware of the truth but the characters were not. I do think it would have been interesting if we were left to question whether or not Andy really was doing the killing all along though.
I guess I could maybe understand why someone might find Child’s Play and the concept of a killer doll to be scary but I’m definitely not one of those people. I didn’t find Chucky scary in the slightest; in fact I would say that I found him to be more amusing than scary. Regardless of this, there is definitely a creepy atmosphere to the film, with its dark, dreary representation of 80s America.
The effects are top notch and really hold up well, although the voice to lip synching for Chucky seemed a little off to me. Also, I thought the ending was a little overdone and could have ended sooner than it did.
Child’s Play is a very entertaining horror film, with a bit more originality than you might expect. Even though the film moves along fairly slowly at the start, it really picks up and I was very intrigued to see what would happen. This is a must see for any 80s slasher movie fan.