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The Test of Time: Child's Play (1988)

12.15.2016by: Ryan Doom

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

Director: Tom Holland
Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, and Brad Dourif

Without a doubt, something that all horror producers and writers (and probably everyone else involved) hopes for is the creation of a franchise. Let’s face it; if a horror idea kinda works and makes some decent coin, we all expect more entries to come. It’s all about finding a project that works. It could be a high concept, a low concept, or a lucky concept. With writer Don Mancini, he created something using all three. But does it still hold up against the Test of Time?

Under the examination: CHILD’S PLAY.

"The power of Christ compels you act!"

THE STORY: Single mother Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) isn’t having the best Christmas season ever. She’s working a crappy retail gig with an asshole boss and she can’t find a Good Guys doll, the one thing that will bring true happiness to her son Andy (Alex Vincent). As luck would have it, she buys one named Chucky from a homeless dude. As luck would also have it, the thing happens to hold the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), who recently got dead thanks to Det. Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon). And that’s just the first 15 minutes. Things kick off when Chucky kills Karen’s friend, and Norris has to investigate. He thinks Andy did the deed, but they all quickly find out that might not be the case. (spoiler: Chucky did it).

Sure, this looks like a good idea.

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: Despite the fact that CHILD’S PLAY has a kid actor who can’t act, the film works pretty damn well, finding that good balance of horror, silliness, and originality thanks to a fast paced script by Don Mancini, John Lafia, and director Tom Holland. The thing never has a dull second, moving from one moment to the next. In fact, viewers don’t have time to question much because as soon as one sequence ends, we’re off to the next!

Even though we know Chucky is the killer (since we witnessed Charles Lee Ray transferring his soul into the doll), director Tom Holland (FRIGHT NIGHT) waits about 40 minutes to deliver the first truly creepy moment. Until then, there’s mild speculation that Andy could have done the killing (not really), but that changes when Karen goes home alone with Chucky after her son is held by authorities. Exhausted and defeated, she notices that she never put the batteries in the doll even though he’s been talking quite a lot. When she inspects him, Chucky comes alive in an absolutely freaky scene, especially when he rolls under the couch. Of course, it gets silly immediately with the first Chucky attack we actually see, but it remains great.

The doll that ruined all dolls. 

(Quick side note: The sign of a good movie is often how many memorable and entertaining scenes it has. And CHILD’S PLAY has several: the opening shootout, the death of Karen’s friend, Chucky’s attack on Det. Mike Norris (which I really enjoyed), THE SHINING homage with the whole Chucky stabbing of the bathroom door, and the great but completely ridiculous ending.)

Oh, and I have to mention Brad Dourif, who brings it as the voice of Chucky. He has a way of speaking with humor and anger that truly makes Chucky come alive. It’s pure perfection.

Fun for the whole family!

WHAT BLOWS NOW: Well, like all movies that center around a kid, it’s only as good as what the little fella can do. Smartly, director Holland hired the very capable Hicks (who I remember best as the whale lady from STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME) as the mother to ensure that CHILD’S PLAY had good performances because the kid…not so much. He tries and does fine, but he comes across obnoxious and unbelievable. At least Andy gets to say a classic about-to-kill-the-bad-guy-but-must-say-something-before-I-do line: “This is the end, friend.”

Obviously, there’s a lot of silliness involved with CHILD’S PLAY. Before the CGI age, we have a mixture of a puppet, animatronics, and people playing the role. That stuff all looks great. However, when Chucky attacks, it looks like a deleted MONTY PYTHON sketch with a doll attached to someone’s back.

See, it is a Christmas movie.

THE VERDICT: No one, I mean no one will confuse CHILD’S PLAY with a cinematic masterpiece, but sometimes that’s ok. This is a frequently silly movie, but damn it if it isn’t entertaining, mostly thanks to a little doll and the voice of Brad Dourif, who truly gives an inspired vocal performance.

GET CHILD’S PLAY BLU RAY HERE

GET CHILD’S PLAY DVD HERE

Ok, that's awesome to see.

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