e. magill's                        

The Unapologetic Geek

MAIN LIST        

Slasher Summer: The Child's Play Reviews

I owe it to you, my dear readers, to be perfectly honest: I didn't want to watch any of these movies. Despite having never actually seen one before, I assumed the entire Chucky series was more screwball comedy than horror, and if any of the movies tried to take themselves seriously, there would be no way for it to work. However, when I took a deep breath and accepted my fate, imagine my surprise to discover that I really enjoy the whole franchise! Sure, it gets pretty campy pretty fast, but it starts on a firm, creepy foundation and builds on it with Brad Dourif's brilliant voice acting. Even when the series goes completely sideways in Seed of Chucky, I find myself gleefully entertained. I'm man enough to admit when I'm wrong, and man, I was wrong about Chucky.

Child's Play
Child's Play

The Premise: A single mother buys a doll for her son, Andy, on his birthday, unaware that the toy is housing the soul of a serial killer bent on revenge.

The Verdict: Depite an utterly ridiculous premise and schlocky opening, Child's Play manages to be both creepy and disturbing. In a standard slasher film, the main character arc involves a meek young woman pushed to the breaking point and forced to turn into a fighting, self-assured hero. Here, however, the main character arc is given to a six-year-old boy. (His mother at times acts as the protagonist, but really, this story revolves around the kid.) Putting such a young character into slasher movie situations where he must witness murder and fight for his life is harrowing, especially given that the actor who plays him, Alex Vincent, is surprisingly good. I don't think any parent can watch the scene where he breaks down, crying and saying, "Please, he's going to kill me, please, please don't leave me," and not be adversely affected.

The production takes more cues from classic horror than you'd have any right to think, and it's a lovingly crafted passion project that shines with naturalistic set design, clever cinematography, and perfectly timed suspense. The setting helps distinguish the film from its contemporaries, with deep urban Chicago replacing the suburbs of Halloween and Elm Street or the deep woods of Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw. The cast is excellent, too, with Catherine Hicks and Chris Sarandon standing their own against the kid and the doll, with whom Brad Dourif infuses life.

Still, the spell can wear off from time to time--through some unconvincing special effects involving the now-infamous Chucky (obvious body doubles, weird size changes, no real lip-synching, etc.)--making all the suspense and anxiety of the film wash away in an instant. However, divorced from the baggage of its campier sequels and preconceived notions, it's an unexpectedly good horror film.

CHILD'S PLAY 2 (1990)
Child's Play 2
CHILD'S PLAY 2 (1990)
Child's Play 2

The Premise: After being rebuilt by the Play Pals Toys company for quality control purposes, Chucky sets about tracking down Andy, who has been placed in a foster home.

The Verdict: With the initial set-up in place, along with some better special effects, this sequel has the freedom to be a more conventional slasher film (albeit sillier than most), with Chucky racking up a much larger and more creative body count as he zeroes in on poor little Andy. Andy--despite being continually tortured by the writers who see fit to remove his mother from the equation before the movie even begins--feels less vulnerable this time around, having been forced to prematurely grow up. Still, no one believes his story of the psychopathic doll, which is understandable from a real world perspective but gets a little tiring as a recurring narrative trope. Chucky is also a more realized character, with Brad Dourif having a lot more time to flesh out his dialogue and attitude (pun intended). It's still not really scary and the acting isn't quite as good as the original (the prodigious Alex Vincent notwithstanding), but it is pretty damn entertaining. The final act is especially fun, with Chucky fully unhinged while chasing Andy and his foster sister, Kyle, through an implausibly hazardous toy factory.

CHILD'S PLAY 3 (1991)
Child's Play 3
CHILD'S PLAY 3 (1991)
Child's Play 3

The Premise: Eight years later, a newly resurrected Chucky tracks a teenage Andy to a military academy.

The Verdict: I appreciate the attempt to mix things up a bit, but the young military setting never really meshes with the premise. On top of that, the new, older actor who plays Andy isn't particularly charismatic or interesting. Indeed, none of the characters have much for the actors to work with, with only Chucky managing to be at all entertaining. I'm a fan of Andrew Robinson, but he's far better in Hellraiser and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine than he is here. There are some clever ideas in the script--including the switched ammo at the war game and having an older Andy try to protect a younger character who is falling victim to Chucky the way he did--but that originality is buried beneath page after page of tired clichés. The climax deserves credit for trying to be creative, but it is a pale imitation of the toy factory scene from its predecessor. All in all, the entire film feels that way: trying to live up to the first two films but being a lot less memorable and entertaining. It's not terrible, but it's a significant step down for the series.

Page     1     2

-e. magill 7/27/2017

  • The Halloween Reviews
  • Michael Myers' Top 10 Best Kills
  • Halloween's Top 10 Finest Moments
  • The Nightmare on Elm Street Reviews
  • Freddy's Top 10 Best Nightmares
  • The Friday the 13th Reviews
  • Jason's Top 10 Best Kills
  • Video Game Review: Friday the 13th: The Game
  • The Texas Chainsaw Reviews
  • Leatherface's Top 10 Most Intense Moments
  • The Child's Play Reviews
  • Chucky's Top 10 Best Kills
  • The Hellraiser Reviews
  • How to Make a Slasher Flick