child's play | tom holland | don mancini | john lafia | catherine hicks | chris sarandon | alex vincent | thriller | united states | chucky | possessed | killer doll | brad dourif | dinah manoff | tommy swerdlow | jack colvin | neil giuntoli | juan ramirez | alan wilder
Film: Child’s Play
Director: Tom Holland
Writer: Don Mancini, John Lafia and Tom Holland
Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon and Alex Vincent
This film is interesting in that I saw the sequels before ever seeing this one all the way through. I grew up on them. This original was one that I saw parts of on the movie channels. My first watch was on DVD and then got to see it again in the theater on 35mm. I’ve now watched it with a commentary of Catherine Hicks, her husband who oversaw bringing the doll of Chucky to life as well as her co-star of Alex Vincent. I would normally pop in at different times and knew much everything that happened though. With where the franchise is now, this one has obvious historic significance for creating the character of Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif).
Synopsis: a single mother gives her a son a much sought-after doll for his birthday, only to discover that the soul of a serial killer possesses it.
Where I want to start is something that I had heard from others as well as I noticed myself, this one is much darker than any of the rest and the fear is higher. Chucky has funny lines, but I think that might be the natural charisma of Dourif as well knowing where the role goes. Part of me is also interested more in a concept that wasn’t explored for this first one that would have changed the course of the series forever.
In the beginning, Andy Barclay (Vincent) gets his Good Guy Doll. We don’t see it move and it only talks by saying the lines that were recorded for it. The first half portrays that maybe the crimes are being done by Andy while he blames it on Chucky. Upon this most recent watch, we see things that point to Chucky. There is an idea that Andy could be doing things. This would have killed the franchise or changed the course, but I almost think this could have made for a darker movie. That is just my personal feelings on trivia I discovered, but back to my thoughts on what we got.
I still find this to be a strong product. The story is good because Chucky strategically reveals his secret to a child. No one is going to believe that his doll is alive and we see this from his mother, Karen (Hicks), and the police officer who is investigating all of the murders, Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon). There is an issue I have though is that when Chucky’s associates are murdered and Andy is the suspect, there would be zero connection between Andy and this man. Clearly Chucky would, but I will say that it would be difficult to believe. That was just an issue I had with the thought process behind the film.
What helps make this work is how well it is edited. It builds tension on a steady pace. The climax was satisfying. I have heard people not buying that this doll would be that menacing due to his height. There is a fear of seeing something that is not normal and not being able to process it as my counter. This is just well-made with how it moves through things.
We also get good acting which helps. Hearing the commentary, Hicks is strong and believable in her processing of what is happening. She claims to tell when an actor isn’t a parent, but I thought she did well in faking it here. There is an element of her struggling as a single parent that is good. It adds something her plight along with her son. I believe that she is doing the best she can and it felt real. When her best friend dies, she is in shock and hearing what Andy says upsets her. It isn’t until she makes a discovery that she believes him. Sarandon is good as the police officer. I do think that he is a little too dense on believing, but what Andy and then Karen are selling are hard to believe until he sees it. Vincent kills his role which was quite surprising for his age. It is also his first, or close to it, acting role. I thought it was good and he makes me tear up at one point seeing his despair. I also want to say that Dourif is phenomenal as Chucky and Charles Lee Ray. The rest of the cast rounds out the film well with what is needed.
Along with the acting, the effects are important to a movie like this, which I also thought were also good. The biggest thing is bringing the doll to life and I thought it looks solid. Hearing the commentary from the guy behind it was interesting. There are a few times that I notice things that don’t really hold up, but for 1988, it was state of the art. They blend well with using smaller actors and robots, which I commend for going the practical route. Part of it is that they had to. I also thought that the kills were good and the realism of them was there. I like the look of the blood as well. I do know that writer Don Mancini didn’t like the idea of incorporating voodoo, but I think it is needed for me.
The last thing would be the soundtrack and design. None of the song selections stand out. They don’t necessarily need to. It fit what the movie needed so I commend them there. I did like how well Dourif does the voice though. It feels like it is coming from the doll. I’m a big fan of him and it feels like he’s having a blast in his portrayal. I also like using the voice that these Good Dolls would have as well.
Now with all of that said, this film is good. The concept does seem to be a little bit hooky, but I think it works. This is a good supernatural slasher in my opinion. The story is good. The editing builds the tension to the satisfying conclusion. The acting along with the soundtrack help to heighten and allow it to play out as it should as well. The effects of the film were good as the deaths look real and bringing the doll to life. I recommend seeing this film. This one isn’t as fun as the sequels. It is however the darkest of them all. For that reason, it is my favorite.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10