In honor of the release of the new Child’s Play film, I’m reviewing the original film from 1988. Halloween (1978) created a formula that would shape the horror/slasher genre in the 1980s. Shortly after three major slasher film franchises were born Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Child’s Play.
The formula was fairly simple, create a monster from a serial killer. Whether it was Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, or Jason Vorhees (whose mother was the serial killer) this was the formula. Child’s Play changed that formula and added an element that I’m sure was unheard of at the time. They stuck to the serial killer part, but the actual villain itself wasn’t the boogeyman; it was a doll. That doll would dominate the genre for the better part of the 90s.
Child’s Play follows Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) and his mother Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks). Ms. Barclay is a single mother doing her best to take care of her son. Her son is borderline obsessed with Good Guy, a character on a TV show he watches every morning. For his birthday, all Andy wants is a Good Guy doll. Andy’s mother does get him a doll, but this is no ordinary doll.
The doll is possessed by the Lakeside strangler, Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) aka Chucky. During a shootout with the police, Ray is shot, and as he’s dying he transfers his soul into the doll. The doll is sold to Karen by a back alley peddler. Then, Chucky begins to commit murders. Chucky being a doll, makes it easy to think Andy is the killer. Also, if Chucky doesn’t transfer his soul into Andy’s body within a certain time he’s stuck as a doll forever.
The film is directed by Tom Holland, the mastermind behind the classic vampire film Fright Night. Holland’s style is all over Child’s Play, he treats the film more like a mystery/suspense film than horror. While the elements of horror are there, the film also follows detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) much like it follows the Barclay family. He’s been the detective in charge of Ray’s case, and he would like to see it through. This plays more into Holland’s territory. If you’ve seen then Fright Night then you completely understand the style of how Holland works suspense with horror.
The writing for this film is done well. The original story is written by Dan Mancini who has pretty much overseen every film in the Child’s Play franchise. He’s so deeply involved in these films, and the change from mystery/suspense to full-on horror has been a sight to see. The films have gotten a bit more comical as the series has progressed. Child’s Play is very entertaining, to say the least.
Overall, this film is genuinely what you’d expect from an 80s horror movie. A very synth-filled score, eye-popping/dark toned colors, and a villain you can easily hate. These days slasher films have tried to become more complex, but the original ones were very generic. This film is thoroughly enjoyable especially if you’re a fan of mysteries or detective films.
Much like the films before it, there are few deaths, but they’re interesting deaths. The quality of the acting is good, the screenplay is fun, and it’s a very campy 80s film. Child’s Play is nowhere near the greatest film ever, but it fits in its area of horror. If you haven’t seen it and plan on seeing the reboot, I highly suggest you do before watching the reboot.
Rating – 6/10
Child’s Play is available to stream on Amazon Prime!
The film stars Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Brad Dourif, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow, Jack Colvin, Raymond Oliver, Neil Giuntoli, Alan Wilder, Aaron Osborne, and Juan Ramirez.