- Brad Dourif as Charles Lee Ray/Chucky
- Catherine Hicks as Karen Barclay
- Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay
- Chris Sarandon as Detective Mike Norris
Dolls have always been a source of terror in the horror genre and the addition of Chucky who features in Child’s Play ranks as one of the freakiest. A creepy slasher film, Child’s Play moves at a thrilling pace and delivers the scares with some well-executed(pardon the pun) scenes of gruesome havoc and murder.
Child’s Play opens with Detective Mike Norris in pursuit of renowned serial killer Charles Lee Ray, who has an obsession with voodoo . Charles manages to hide in a nearby toy shop after his getaway driver Eddie drove away upon seeing police. Mortally wounded by Mike and swearing revenge on both him and Eddie, Charles through use of dark magic transfers his soul into a ‘Good Guy’ doll. The next day is the sixth birthday of Andy Barclay who is excited to get presents from his widowed mother Karen. Seeing that her young son desperately wants a Good Guy Doll, she buys one from a peddler, little realising that it is the one that Charles is inhabiting. Young Andy is over the moon with the doll who has the name Chucky and is barely seen without the toy. Yet after the horrifying death of Andy’s babysitter who was pushed out of a high window, the malevolence becomes known. Andy knows that Chucky is the culprit, but everyone just thinks that Andy is lying and that his talk of the doll coming to life are completely ridiculous. Mike Norris is put on the case and is baffled by the mysterious death, initially believing Andy could be a suspect as he was the only one home when the babysitter was murdered. Yet as the blood continues to spill thanks to the doll, it’s up to Karen( who comes to realise the truth in Andy’s claims) to protect her son from the horror as he becomes the next target of the murderous spirit in doll form. Part of the reason is because Chucky must transfer the evil soul of Charles to the first person he revealed himself too as he is becoming more human by the minute. This means that young Andy is in very real danger. It’s getting people, most of all a skeptical Mike, to believe in the evil doll’s intention that is going to be Andy and Karen’s problem as his life is put in jeopardy repeatedly, he is placed in a mental hospital and Karen must finally see the evil that poses a threat to her son’s life.
Tom Holland’s direction is to the point and filled with imaginative touches that relish the tension and terror of the presence of Chucky. While it is no surprise to the audience that Chucky is the instigator of the horror that is blamed on Andy, this device actually works in the movie’s favour and still contains chilling suspense. We are put in the position of frightened Andy who in the beginning adores the new toy but slowly sees that the games he plays are horrifying and out of control. By using the technique of having us in Andy’s shoes, we want the grown ups to take notice and finally see the engulfing terror brought by the evil doll and this is where Holland’s strong suit lies. I will admit that as the film went on, some of the fact that the grown ups don’t realise what’s going on got a bit frustrating and a few instances have some tin-eared dialogue, but this thankfully was made up for when the real horror is unleashed and such things take a back seat to effectively staged scenes of creepiness. Chief among these is the murder of Andy’s babysitter and the big showdown between Chucky, Karen, Andy and Mike. It surprised me too how well some of the effects hold, particularly in the creation of evil Chucky. Granted it’s a film from the 80’s the effects have something of a dated quality that is to be expected, but many of them are still largely impressive and not overused. And with the creation of Chucky, a new creature of dread was born to terrorise viewers. An electronic pulse sets the unnerving tones of Child’s Play from the beginning with a synth heavy and echoing score backing up the strange supernatural parts of the film.
A competent cast inhabits their roles very well, in particular Brad Dourif. Voicing the malevolent Chucky to sneering perfection, his inflections are decidedly creepy and frightening. Dourif briefly portrays the human serial killer in the thrilling opening sequence and does that well, but his excellence begins with his voicing of the now iconic killer doll. Catherine Hicks is emotionally effective as the terrified mother desperate to get to the bottom of what is going on and protect her son, despite her confusion of what is truly going on at first. The little Alex Vincent stands out as the traumatised child Andy who comes under attack and suspicion due to Chucky. For a child so young, Vincent displays a naturalness that generates audience sympathy without getting overly cute. Rounding out proceedings in Child’s Play is Chris Sarandon starring as the detective involved in both linking cases and someone who is unwilling to believe in any hocus pocus. Sarandon does a credible job in the part as his views are turned upside down.
Some me parts of it show the film’s age, but Child’s Play largely holds up well as an eerie horror film that introduced the world to the malevolent Chucky and no doubt creeped everyone out in the process. I have a feeling that the sales of dolls may have taken a nosedive when Child’s Play was released in cinemas.