For those of you who remember this franchise starter as a garish Johnny come lately to the ’80s slasher boom, it’s time to give CHILD’S PLAY a serious re-watch. It’s surprisingly subtle and compact, and director TOM HOLLAND (FRIGHT NIGHT) is wise enough not to show all the cards he’s holding until completely necessary. Consumer-in-training Andy Barclay has his eye on a “Good Guys” doll for his birthday, thanks to his favorite show, a serialized commercial. Mom Karen, CATHERINE HICKS, is a retail clerk who can’t get behind the 100-dollar price tag. Her gal pal Maggie, LEE GRANT spawn, DINAH MANOFF sets her up with a vagabond who’s selling it for cheap. Little does she know that the toy has seen some voodoo action lately and is housing the spirit of “The Lakeshore Strangler” Charles Lee Ray, a brilliant BRAD DOURIF. Soon Andy is whispering to his buddy privately and anyone that crosses the rascal’s path winds up dead. Killer doll movies are innately fun and Child’s Play is a deserving classic of the sub-genre. For a great deal of time, his animation is shown only briefly in “corner of the eye” shots that work exceptionally well. They never over reach with the special effects and the movie holds up better for it. The film plays with the idea that Andy could be the culprit but, of course, we all know better. When the Chuckster finally exposes himself, it’s a savage, profanity laden scene that still takes the viewer aback. There is an element in this first chapter that is dropped from the subsequent sequels and that is the engulfing danger of the city around them. Chucky brings Andy on a subway ride into rat-infested squalor and HICKS is warned about parts of town, “That are bad at night.” It spends a lot of time scratching the open wound of a single mother’s anxiety about raising her child in an unpredictable urban environment. But this is really Andy’s story, a kid vs. doll tale. ALEX VINCENT is exceptional as a boy who’s hurt by his plastic pal’s trickery and betrayal. The scene where he looses it behind bars at the children’s correction facility is somehow hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. A lot of horror films can loose their power over the years but this one, like the murderous doll that inhabits it, just gets stronger.
Chucky grabs the toy hammer
“Chucky says Aunt Maggie was a bitch and deserved what she got.”