Child’s Play – USA, 1988

Child’s Play is a 1988 American supernatural horror feature film directed by Tom Holland (Rock Paper DeadTwisted Tales; ThinnerFright Night) from a screenplay by Don Mancini, who went on to write six sequels, directing three of them. The movie stars Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent and Brad Dourif.

The official taglines were “You’ll wish it was only make-believe” and “Something’s moved in with the Barclay family, and so has terror.” The plot was inspired by the story of Robert the Doll, which was supposedly possessed by evil spirits.

With a budget of $9 million, the film took $44,196,684 at the box office worldwide, even before massive video rentals ensured that it developed a cult following. In the Child’s Play series it was the only one released by MGM/UA, as the rights to the series were sold to Universal in 1990, right before production started on Child’s Play 2.

Subsequent sequels were Child’s Play 3; Bride of Chucky; Seed of Chucky; Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky. A TV series is in development for the Syfy channel.

In 2019, Child’s Play has been remade by MGM/Orion Pictures, although none of the original filmmakers were involved.

Plot:

Gunned down by Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon), dying murderer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) uses black magic to put his soul inside a doll named Chucky — which Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) then buys for her young son, Andy (Alex Vincent).

When Chucky kills Andy’s baby sitter, the boy realises the doll is alive and tries to warn people, but he’s institutionalised. Now Karen must convince the detective of the murderous doll’s intentions, before Andy becomes Chucky’s next victim…

Reviews:

“Technically this one doesn’t disappoint. Sure it’s a bit dated, but with the decades to pass comes a certain nostalgic charm that intoxicates. This movie looks and feels like the best of ‘80s horror and it’s difficult to deny that. Solid acting, direction and screenwriting go a long way.” Matt Molgaard, Addicted to Horror Movies

It has some slow points once Chucky is introduced because you just want more Chucky. The scene in which Catherine Hicks’ character discovers Chucky is alive is a classic and still a great jump.  Much like Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm StreetChild’s Play’s ability to balance humor and horror with Chucky is great.” JP Roscoe, Basement Rejects

” …the basic premise of Child’s Play is undeniably “preposterous”, but perhaps for that very reason the film has attained a cult status. The Child’s Play franchise may have ultimately tipped more toward the humor than the horror side of things, but the first film, while silly and probably unintentionally funny at times, packs occasional startles and offers an undeniably creepy mood.” Jeffrey Kauffman, Blu-ray.com 

“The visual effects are still pretty solid after all this time, using a combination of puppets and a little person in costume. In fact, the entire package, including the acting, is top-notch. The great, rat-faced character actor Dourif only appears onscreen for a brief time, and then only gets to speak during the climax, but he’s a major part of the film’s success.” Combustible Celluloid

“Mr. Holland treats his audience intelligently. You don’t believe in killer dolls, he suggests, and neither do the perfectly reasonable people in this film; it’s all a game. He creates an artifice with just a tiny chink to admit true horror: the most reasonable people on the screen believe in the living, murderous doll.”  Caryn James, The New York Times

Child’s Play is better than the average False Alarm movie because it is well made, contains effective performances, and has succeeded in creating a truly malevolent doll. Chucky is one mean SOB. The movie also has an intriguing plot device, which is that nobody, of course, will believe that the doll is alive.” Roger Ebert

Child’s Play has that typical, late ’80s wisecracking, smartass attitude that dumbed down audiences seem to love. Yes, we’re being too highbrow here. But if the primary objective of a horror film is to scare, Child’s Play proved ineffectual for us: it’s blustery, gassy comedy that might thrill, but it never truly chills.” The Terror Trap

“While some of the supernatural stuff about witch-doctors and Mojo dolls is a bit daft, Holland’s sure handling of the suspense and shock moments lends the film a sharp and scary edge.” Nigel Floyd, Time Out Film Guide

“The best of the series mostly because Chucky isn’t so much a cartoon here and is a quite menacing children’s toy – the punchlines hadn’t quite taken over yet. Manages to build decent suspense during the first murder (the babysitter) and when Sarandon is caught in a car while Chucky’s knife plunges into his seat.” The Video Graveyard

“Once revealed, Chucky goes bananas and the subsequent effects vary from the inane and silly to the shocking, with just enough humor to keep things level. The acting is decent, with Sarandon solid and subtle as the detective, Catherine Hicks genuine as the mother and Vincent pretty believable as the 6-year old (well, he is 6).” Richard Harrington, The Washington Post

Cast and characters:

  • Catherine Hicks … Karen Barclay – Honeymoon from HellGhost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead; Death Valley
  • Chris Sarandon … Mike Norris – The Resurrected; Bordello of BloodFright Night; The Sentinel
  • Alex Vincent … Andy Barclay
  • Brad Dourif … Charles Lee Ray / Chucky (voice)
  • Dinah Manoff … Maggie Peterson
  • Tommy Swerdlow … Jack Santos
  • Jack Colvin … Dr. Ardmore
  • Neil Giuntoli … Eddie Caputo
  • Juan Ramírez … Peddler
  • Alan Wilder … Mr. Criswell
  • Richard Baird … News Reporter at Toy Store
  • Ray Oliver … Dr. Death (as Raymond Oliver)
  • Aaron Osborne … Orderly
  • Tyler Hard … Mona
  • Ted Liss … George
  • Roslyn Alexander … Lucy
  • Bo Kane … Male TV Newscaster (as Robert Kane)
  • Leila Lee Olsen … Female TV Newscaster (as Leila Hee Olsen)
  • Ed Gale … Chucky Stunt Double

Related:

Child’s Play 2 – USA, 1990

Child’s Play 3 – USA, 1991

Seed of Chucky – USA, 2004

Curse of Chucky – USA, 2013

Cult of Chucky – USA, 2017

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