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 truth of the matter is that this film’s “doll”, which was 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 toy store, where, before being shot dead, he performs an ancient ritual that transfers his spirit into a nearby “Good Guy” doll. Meanwhile, single mother Karen (Catherine Hicks) is 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 street person, with no questions asked as to where he got it. Needless to say, Andy is elated when he opens his present, but that happiness soon fades when he realizes his new friend, which he nicknames “Chucky”, is very much alive, and doing horrible things like murdering Karen’s best friend, Maggie (Dinah Manoff). After taking his revenge against those who wronged him, Ray intends to transfer his spirit one last time, moving from the Chucky doll into Andy himself!
From the way it stalks young Andy to the temper tantrums it sometimes 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’s 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 the film is every bit as vital to its success as the visual effects, transforming a lovable toy into an evil creature right before our very eyes.
For those who believe a walking, talking doll will evoke more laughter than screams, I ask 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 toy can be.