Child’s Play, the original 1988 movie, is an honest horror film with a very tense first part and a second part which, although worse than the first, is still fun and, at times, frightening if you invest a little in its history and its vodoo mythology. In other words, the film didn’t need yet another remake, this is what Hollywood does these days: remakes, reboots and sequels, so there you go. And since I avoid that stuff like the plague, today I’m writing about Tom Holland’s Child’s Play, the one that came out 32 years ago.
The film begins with a violent shootout between a criminal played by the legendary Brad Dourif and a detective played by Chris Sarandon, that is Prince Humpdink of The Princess Bride (released the year before). Before dying from gunshot wounds in a toy shop where he had taken refuge, the criminal manages to complete a voodoo ritual and to transfer his consciousness / soul into a horrible puppet popular among six-years old children in the dark, wet and cold Chicago of the film. One of these kids is Andy (Alex Vincent). His mother (Catherine Hicks, she was the oceanographic researcher in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986) struggles economically and buys the doll from a homeless man who had cleaned up the ruins of the shop that went up in flames due to the aforementioned rite.
From then on, the story is linear: the dangerous criminal first kills a friend of Andy’s mother (Dinah Manoff), then takes revenge on the companion who had abandoned him (Neil Giuntoli), then tries to kill the detective, and finally enters the body of the poor child who will surely be traumatized for life, as suggested by the final frame of the film. The first part works great: the director doesn’t show much of Chucky, the doll, and the viewer almost has a doubt as to whether Andy is inventing everything he says about it or not. The police naturally suspect the child, who by the way is very polite and particularly intelligent for his age, and the mother reluctantly admits to have a problematic child and sends him to a specialized mental health institution. But once the protagonists discover the truth about Chucky and the detective survives an murder attempt by the puppet, things change quickly.
I won’t reveal the ending. However, since there’s no John Carpenter behind the camera, but rather there’s Tom Holland, don’t expect a particularly surprising or intelligent finale. In any case, the movie is entertaining and there are even a few references to Psycho (1960) and The Shining (1980)!
I doubt that the second part of this movie can really be thought of as scary, but the first part which plays the mystery card on Chucky’s real powers is certainly more interesting. According to Don Mancini, the main screenwriter, the story was originally more ambiguous and with profound meanings to be linked to the solitude of the fatherless child with a mother forced to work long shifts in a department store. As it’s easy to guess, the final product lost all ambitions of social commentary, but it remains a good entertainment product. The fully practical special effects are amazing, the actors do an honest job, the cinematography fits well with the dark atmosphere of the film… In short, it’s a good product of the horror genre of the eighties. It was a good box office success, also given its relatively small ten million dollars’ budget, and it generated infinite sequels of dubious quality and, in 2019, also a remake that I haven’t seen nor intend to see. Ciao!