Tuesday, November 12, 2013

#1,184. Child's Play (1988)

Directed By: Tom Holland

Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent

Tag line: "Something's moved in with the Barclay family, and so has terror"

Trivia: Don Mancini and John Lafia were barred from the set after threatening to sue Tom Holland over a writing credit dispute

The entire cast of 1988’s Child’s Play is upstaged by a talking doll. 

Now, that may sound like an insult directed at the movie’s human stars, but the fact of the matter is that this film’s “doll”, brought to life by the combined talents of Brad Dourif (who provided the voice) and effects designer Kevin Yagher (who gave it an almost life-like appearance), is truly an amazing piece of work.

To escape the police, wanted murderer Charles Lee Ray (Dourif) hides out in a toy store, where, before being shot dead, he performs an ancient ritual that transfers his spirit into one of the shop's many “Good Guy” dolls. 

A day or so later, single mother Karen (Catherine Hicks) is out looking for the perfect birthday gift for her young son, Andy (Alex Vincent). Desperate to find a “Good Guy” doll, which is the most popular toy in town, she ends up buying what seems like the last one from a vagrant, with no questions asked as to where he got it. 

Needless to say, Andy is elated when he opens his present, but his happiness soon fades once he realizes his new friend - which he nicknames “Chucky” - is very much alive, and doing horrible things like murdering his mom’s best friend, Maggie (Dinah Manoff). 

After taking his revenge on those who wronged him, Ray intends to transfer his spirit one final time, moving from the Chucky doll into Andy himself!

From the way it stalks young Andy to the temper tantrums it occasionally throws (kicking, screaming, biting, and even stabbing its human counterparts), Chucky is one eerie doll. Looking like a child’s toy at the outset, Chucky slowly evolves into a more sinister creature as the movie progresses, with a receding hair line and a gleam in its eye that is almost demonic; the scene where Karen first realizes Chucky is alive is a definite high-point (when she threatens to burn him in the fireplace if he doesn’t talk, Chucky launches into a tirade of expletives before inflicting a nasty bite on Karen’s arm). 

Using everything from animatronics to a little person in a suit, Yagher and his crew make the Chucky doll look as real as they possibly can. To provide Chucky with his one-of-a-kind personality, the filmmakers hired actor Brad Dourif, who impressed the hell out of me in movies like One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Ragtime. While the actor himself is only on-screen for a few minutes (in the opening scene), Dourif’s voicework throughout is every bit as vital to the film's success as the visual effects, transforming a lovable toy into an evil creature right before our very eyes.

For those who might think a walking, talking doll will evoke more laughter than screams, I ask that you to reserve judgment until after you’ve seen Child’s Play. My guess is you’ll be as surprised as I was at just how creepy a kid's toy can be.

1 comment:

PooBahSpiel said...

I remember seeing this when it first came out. It was creepy as hell. You have to love those '80 horror flicks. That had it down.