The tagline for Child's Play was "You'll wish it was only make-believe." Strangely enough, that's exactly the way we felt by the end of the movie. Why didn't United Artists leave this misbegotten supernatural dolly film back in the realm of the pretend?
The fear that inanimate objects could come alive to terrorize us is an old one; many a ghost story and Twilight Zone episode has been based upon it. The scariest element, though, is the uncertainty involved in the object's animation. Is the doll actually alive, or is the character being plagued by the doll simply going insane? And how are we, as viewers, supposed to tell the difference?
Child's Play, however, robs us of that uncertainty by making it painfully clear that the doll is, in fact, alive. What little enjoyment we get out of this movie comes when one of the several oblivious characters either recognizes Chucky for what he is, or dies a miserable death at his hands.
Who's Chucky, you ask? Dear friend -- have you been living without electricity for that long?
Ultimate Evil may not need a towel,
but it does require mass transit.
Chucky is Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), aka The Lakeshore Strangler. One night, after being mortally shot by a do-gooder cop, this friendly neighborhood serial killer transfers his soul into the body of a "Good Guy" doll. The Good Guys are a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids. If you are collecting Beanie Babies today, there's a pretty good chance you don't know what a Cabbage Patch Kid was, and if you're collecting Beanie Babies in the hopes of making money, you might want to educate yourself on what a Cabbage Patch Kid was as soon as possible. In any case, Good Guy dolls each have their own unique names, and they talk when spoken to.
Little Andy (Alex Vincent) wants a Good Guy doll and his hard-working mother, Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks), can only afford one buying from a scavanger she meets in a back alley. The doll, of course, is the one upon which Charles Lee Ray cast his mojo.
The movie actually seems to think it has us fooled by not letting us know for sure if the Chucky doll is alive. That's a bit silly, seeing as how this kind of movie is a cop-out if it turns out the little kid did it all. In any case, it is brutally obvious to anyone with a brain that the doll is the evil party after the first murder. But as this is a horror/slasher film, it takes the characters forever to figure it out.
Toy collecting at its most desperate.
The most interesting thing about Child's Play is Chucky. A normal doll enhanced by the motivational force of a serial killer would be one thing, but Chucky is a little more complicated. For one thing, the voodoo that transferred Charles into Chucky has cursed Chucky to slowly become human, albeit a twisted, doll-sized one. This drives Chucky to find a way to transfer his spirit into a real human in hopes of regaining the possibility of a normal life.
In terms of the special effects, Child's Play is pretty good. Chucky is convincing when it comes to facial expressions, even though we suspect that a seperate head was sculpted for each different expression (or change of expressions). In the later movies, Chucky's face seems to be more fluid.
But, alas, we have bad news. We didn't like this movie very much. Maybe Stomp Tokyo is getting old, but we just can't watch a movie that features almost nothing but people looking around rooms nervously for minutes on end, seeing things in the corners of their eyes, looking behind furniture until BANG! they get murdered in some ridiculously gory and unlikely fashion. We just need more to get our blood up these days, and Child's Play is pretty slow to get moving and features lots of unlikely plot developments.
This is not to mention that the movie keeps introducing more and more characters for no better reason than to have more people not believe that Chucky is actually alive. Perhaps the most amusing of these is Jack Colvin, who plays a child psychiatrist here, but is probably best known for playing the reporter chasing Banner on the old Incredible Hulk TV series. It would have been funny if Andy and told him, "Don't make Chucky angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry," but the movie misses this, and nearly every other opportunity for humor.
Heck, we can make-believe movies a lot better than this.