Child's Play (1988)
Directed by Tom Holland.
Cast: Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent, Chris Sarandon, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow, Jack Colvin, Juan Ramirez, Raymond Oliver, Neil Giuntoli, Alan Wilder, Brad Dourif.
1988 87 minutes
Rated: (for strong violence and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 2008.
Chucky says Aunt Maggie was a real bitch and got what she deserved.
Long before the satirical, outrageous-based 1998's "Bride of Chucky
" and 2004's "Seed of Chucky
," "Child's Play" actually aimed to rattle its audience and be taken seriously. Directed by Tom Holland (1985's "Fright Night") and written by Don Mancini, who would go on to pen every installment of the franchise, this delectably creepy first film is easily tops. When Chicago's "Lakeshore Strangler" serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) is fatally shot by policeman-in-hot-pursuit Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) while hiding out in a toy store, a voodoo spell allows him to transfer his soul into a Good Guys doll. Enter hardworking, recently divorced mom Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks), who buys a doll for cheap from a street peddler and brings it home for son Andy's (Alex Vincent) sixth birthday. When babysitter Maggie (Dinah Manoff) is found dead on the very same night, having fallen out the window of their apartment, evidence points to Andy possibly being involved. He is adamant, though, that it is Chucky (his doll) who saw the accident go down.
Putting a menacing spin on the childhood idea that ours toys are alive, "Child's Play" is a character-based thriller with a particularly creepy dark streak and a rare protagonist who is barely out of kindergarten. The film's economically incorporated special effects, a mixture of animatronics, puppetry and human stand-ins, bring Chucky to vivid life, while Catherine Hicks (later going on to star in the long-running television drama "7th Heaven") and young Alex Vincent (in his acting debut) are always convincing as an endangered mother and son faced with an unthinkable terror. With humor taking a backseat to good, old-fashioned suspense, and a sterling climax that raises the ante on the notion of an "unstoppable" killer, "Child's Play" is an impressive horror highlight of the late-'80s film scene.