The Eighties Fever: ‘Child’s Play’ (1988)

What happens when you review thirty year old films from the perspective of someone who gets classified as a millennial, but wouldn’t really consider himself one? With both popular and obscure films on the list, it’s a mixture of new insights into old films, all while celebrating what might just be the greatest decade ever. This is The Eighties Fever.

Viewing: First Time

The Child’s Play or Chucky franchise has been a mainstay in film for the last thirty years. The series has varied from straightforward horror to almost full on camp over the seven installments. I was drawn to the first film because of two reasons: 1980s and red hair. It’s quite possible that if Child’s Play had been released in 1990 I would never see it. But, 1988 fits my parameters and the Blu-ray was bought. Also, for those that might not know, I’m a ginger. So for Chucky to be a horror icon with red hair, well, I just had to check it out.

Child’s Play is a 1988 supernatural slasher directed by Tom Holland. Its cast includes a bunch of you-look-familiar actors which include Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, and Brad Dourif. Child’s Play owes a lot to these three particular actors as they drive the story and make the viewer invested. It doesn’t always work out, but overall, there’s some damn solid acting in this film.

Okay, so here’s the gist of Child’s Play. It centers on Chucky, a serial killer, who as he’s dying transfers his soul into the body of a Good Guy doll. A widowed mother buys the doll and gives it to her son Andy for his birthday. Chucky, in the body of a possessed doll, then goes on a revenge trip to kill the people who got him killed. Thankfully, he’s eventually thwarted and burned to a crisp by the protagonists. It’s unique, and later on Chucky needs to transfer his soul over into the body of Andy because the doll is becoming human. Okay, that part’s a little weird, but it still works in the context of the established reality set in the film.

Originally, screenwriter Don Mancini wanted to play the whole whodunit angle a bit longer in the film with viewers not really knowing whether Andy or Chucky was the killer. This is what I was originally expecting when I started the film. I figured it would be a slow burn for at least the film characters to realize that the doll is behind it all. That’s not necessarily the case, but the look in the mother’s eyes when she finds the batteries for Chucky, and realizes that the doll might actually be alive, is brilliant. That whole scene is possibly my favorite, and I was just waiting for a jump scare. I figured as soon as she lifted up that couch flap Chucky would jump out at her. But no, they played it slow, and waited until she’s about to throw him in the fire before he went all crazy on her. I loved it.

In fact, I love the whole idea of a possessed toy killing people. It’s a brilliant concept that the movie uses to perfection. No one is going to believe that a toy killed someone. The characters in the movie say it even. Movie viewers love it when they know something the characters in the film don’t. I was practically screaming to my TV saying, “It’s the damn doll! Look at the doll’s feet they’re coated in flour!”

I’ll briefly talk about the character of Chucky and his flaws. On the production side, a brilliant use of puppetry, animatronics, and child actors/little people to bring Chucky to life. I wasn’t necessarily on board with the decision to make Chucky look more realistic as the film progressed. I found it much more frightening that the toy with an innocent face was behind the killings. As soon as you open it up allowing Chucky to have more realistic facial expressions, I felt something was lost. Sure, they pawn off this realistic look to Chucky slowly becoming human again. I chalk this up to Mancini having to come up with a way for the protagonists to kill Chucky. The whole voodoo spell aspect was a bit too much sometimes, but overall it worked fairly with the tone the film set.

Final Verdict: I’m slowly starting to make my way through the first installments in multiple horror franchises, and right now Child’s Play is leading the pack. It’s right up there with John Carpenter’s Halloween. It doesn’t really on visual horror that is meant to scare you. Instead, it relies on giving you that feeling in the pit of your stomach that the toy on your book shelf might just possess the soul of an infamous serial killer. Child’s Play is a film that engages the viewer until the end. The 80s gave us a plethora of horror icons and Chucky is able to stand proudly alongside them in being able to deliver quality horror cinema.

Grade: 8.8/10