Child's Play (1988)
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this could have gotten a PG-13 rating if it weren't for the F-words. There are a few killings, the violence mostly of an unreal horror-flick variety (an electrocution victim gets charred and bloody, like hamburger). Some kids do have fears about dolls coming to life -- Poltergeist exploited this phobia superbly -- and younger kids might be scared by visuals of a vicious killer doll (though when the diminutive Chucky hurls himself at victims older kids will probably be able to laugh it off). Sequels grew even more bloody and twisted, but also more satirical over time.
What's the story?
In Chicago, a fleeing murderer named Charles Ray (Brad Dourif), who just happens to be a disciple of voodoo magic, is cornered by tough cop Mike (Chris Sarandon) in a toy store. Fatally shot, the dying villain mystically transfers his soul into a "Good Guy," a popular doll with a battery-operated voicebox ("I'm your friend to the end! Hi-de-ho!") and rudimentary facial expressions. The innocent-looking doll is subsequently purchased by Karen (Catherine Hicks), a struggling young widow, as a plaything for her 6-year-old son Andy (Alex Vincent). At first Andy's stories about being able to converse with the doll "Chucky" and blaming Chucky for nuisances around the apartment, just seem to be the little boy's imagination. When a babysitter is killed, however, it's just the beginning of a new rampage by Charles Ray -- but how can Karen (or investigating officer Mike) believe little Andy's claims that the doll is guilty?
Is it any good?
While the premise of an evil toy has built-in appeal for youthful horror addicts, very little of CHILD'S PLAY is easy to take seriously. From its over-the-top '80s-action beginning to its Terminator -like conclusion, you'll be amazed the actors managed to keep from giggling. Some decent moments early on evoke much sympathy for unfairly accused Andy, and there are particularly effective shudders when the script just allows our fear to do all the work envisioning an ambulatory, killer doll at large. Brief glimpses of the small, scuttling figure around corners, quick cuts to Chucky's head barely moving -- suggestions like that are unexpectedly creepy.
But when the filmmakers finally unleash the full f/x, with Chucky snarling, swearing, biting, knifing, and flinging himself bodily at grown-ups, laughter is the gut reaction, and a parade of sequels ultimately degenerated into comedy, at least getting the inherent stupidity of the whole premise out in the open. Fans might claim to find a touch of social commentary in the ancillary detail that the Good Guy doll is supposed to be (like Tickle Me Elmo and XBoxes in past years) one of those in-demand Christmas gifts that cue shopper frenzies to buy them (as parodied in the non-horror Jingle All the Way). But if this was meant as any sort of slam against toy-industry overcommercialization, sorry; Chucky missed that boat several sequels back.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about what parts are scary and what are not. Ever find yourself being afraid of a toy or a doll? Child's Play 3 was a part of the James Bulger murder case in England, in which two boys had allegedly watched the movie before killing a younger boy. The video was blamed in tabloid press for inspiring the murder. Do you think horror movies can incite violence?