Title: Child’s Play (1988)
Runtime: 87 minutes
Director: Tom Holland
Child’s Play is one of those films that I rented over and over again from Blockbuster when I was younger (much too young, in fact). It’s a film that helped me fall in love with horror, which makes this next statement so strange: this felt like a first-time viewing! I couldn’t remember some scenes, which is highly unusual for me. But, it made it that much more interesting.
A single-mother thinks she is giving her child the best birthday gift he could ask for: a good guy doll named Chucky. She had no way of knowing, of course, that this particular doll was the one that serial killer Charles Lee Ray happened to grab and proceed to transfer his evil spirit into before his body died. After Andy receives the gift, Chucky starts to come to life before his very eyes, and picks up right where Charles Lee Ray left off, murdering people one-by-one. Andy’s mother wants to believe that Andy is not a cold-blooded killer, but that would mean believing in his story that his good guy doll is alive. Her disbelief, though, may prove fatal for her and her son.
Where Child’s Play works best is in its creepy factor: a walking, talking, murdering doll is friggin’ creepy, no doubt about it. The special effects for Chucky are great, and look believable even today. Alex Vincent is not only adorable as Andy, but has some solid acting chops, which is why it’s so disappointing that he didn’t go on to a lengthy film career. Catherine Hicks and Chris Sarandon are both solid as the two adult leads trying to hunt down this evil doll. Really, the only thing that hurts Child’s Play is that it doesn’t go far enough: there isn’t enough tension, isn’t enough killing, and isn’t scary enough.
This is where the sequels (up to #3, that is) reign supreme, and Child’s Play is a rare instance where the series gets better with the sequels (again, up to #3 where things remained horror, and not horror/comedy). That doesn’t take away from how effectively creepy and unsettling Chucky has been for the past two decades. Child’s Play will always hold a special place in my heart as one of the reasons I am terrified of evil dolls/dummies.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.