January 25, 2011

Movie Review: Child's Play

Once you get past the big three of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers, the second row of big guns like Leatherface and Pinhead, but before you get to the likes of the Leprechaun and Critters you will find one of cinema's top slashers. Yes, that is a list to go down and I am sure there are some that I missed, but bear with me. Right in the middle is Chucky, the one and only Charles Lee Ray. Any discussion of killer dolls has to include this little guy.

The funny thing is that I was never that much of fan of the character. Then I saw Bride of Chucky and I loved it. I have seen the rest of the series since then, but only in bits and pieces over the years. So, when I decided to revisit some of them, I chose to start in the only place you can start, at the beginning. Now, have watched Child's Play, it feels like the first time. I cannot quite explain it, but it was as if watching through a different set of eyes. It all felt familiar and new at the same time. I suspect the time that has surely passed since my last viewing and my subsequent experiences play a small roll in that.

I am sure most of you are familiar with the story. The movie opens in the middle of a chase. Cops are chasing Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) through the streets and into a toy store. The chase leads to a shoot out with Ray getting badly wounded. A few magical words over a Good Guys doll later and he is dead. We jump across town and meet young Andy and his mother Karen (Catherine Hicks). All Andy wants is a Good Guy doll. His mom manages to get one of the highly sought after toys and Andy is utterly delighted.

The problem is that as soon as he doll, named Chucky (duh!), is in the house things start to happen and people start dying. It all builds to a climax of mother and son versus killer living doll. I could give away the ending, but I feel fairly certain you have an idea of how it is going to go.

I have to admit that I really liked more this time than I ever have before. I was quite impressed with how utterly effective it was at creating a mood and sustaining tension all the way through, not to mention the fact the bad guy is a doll!

They hold back a lot. When things start happening, they hold back the reveal of Chucky. There is a bit of misleading done with Andy being portrayed as having some issues. This is handled quite convincingly, then when Chucky is revealed and he begins his more active participation they manage to keep it legitimately scary.

Child's Play is a finely crafted horror film that I fear I never gave enough credit to in the past. Not that credit from me means all that much, suffice to say I really enjoyed it. The is a great build up to the final showdown. The movie is not terribly bloody, but it doesn't need to be. Chucky is a frightening character in this earliest of incarnations.

The movie is also held aloft by solid performances across the board. Alex Vincent gives an effective performance as young Andy. It is not easy to get good child performances, but he brings just the right balance to the screen never becoming too annoying or too cute. Catherine Hicks is perfectly cast as the mother. However, credit must be given to Brad Dourif as Chucky. He opens the film playing Charles Lee Ray as a nasty piece of humanity before transitioning to a voice performance as Chucky, imbuing the doll with a downright evil personality.

What it comes down to is that Child's Play is a very good horror movie, one I have failed to give enough credit to in the past. I am sorry about that, but I am happy to rectify my opinion of the film and would like to encourage anyone who wrote this off or hasn't yet given it a shot to do so. Child's Play is effectively creepy, scary, dark, and very entertaining.


Note: This was viewed via streaming on Netflix. I also own the DVD.

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