Play It Again – Child’s Play

Child's Play

By Simon Miraudo
October 29, 2013

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up … or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line. (Hey, whatever. It fits!) This month, we herald Halloween with horror movies!

The reputation of the Child’s Play series is … not great. In the same way the ‘Lakeshore Strangler’ Charles Lee Ray became trapped in the tiny, creepy body of Chucky the Good Guy doll, these movies became increasingly beholden to the audience expectation that they feature a foul-mouthed, bird-flipping, over-sexed cabbage patch kid. My first ever viewing of the original came 25-years after its 1988 release, and well after the franchise had relegated itself to the realm of self-parody; that Phantom Zone where Charlie Sheen, Robert De Niro, and The Strokes find themselves spiralling into oblivion. What a surprise it was, then, for me to discover Tom Holland’s Child’s Play was somewhat fantastic; a slow-burn fantasy-thriller that ingeniously evolved into a nutso horror-fest.

Child's Play

It opens with Brad Dourif‘s Charles Lee Ray on the run from the police, hiding out in a toy shop stocked to the hilt with the hottest toy on the market: those dead-eyed Good Guys. Certain of his demise, and determined to take revenge on the lowlifes who abandoned him as well as the cops who have him cornered, he uses some dubious black magic powers to inhabit the body of the formerly inanimate Chucky. When working class widow Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) buys the doll in a back-alley for her son, Andy (Alex Vincent), she unwittingly makes her boy an accomplice to Chucky’s grisly murders. Neither we nor she get to actually see Chucky working his voodoo violence in the film’s first half; the thing only offering up the same inane responses when grilled about being sentient and otherworldly. (“Wanna play?”) But every doll has his breaking point, and eventually we get to hear Dourif’s manic voice emerge when the threat of incineration comes. I’m hesitant to publish even a bowdlerised version of his first official statements. Out of the mouths of murderous babes…

Child’s Play – written by Holland, John Lafia, and Don Mancini – only hints at the filthy comedy that would eventually come to define the sequels, yet there is still a wicked sense of humour to it. In the outrageously, wonderfully silly finale, Chucky keeps on coming back to life even as his figure is increasingly dismantled and grows ever more decrepit. The visual effect of this creation is also rather impressive; from the moment he roars to life, he seems more like a modern CGI creation (with weight and substance in the real world) than a mere puppet. It’s no surprise that this strange, unique, demented picture spawned a whole series of follow-ups; it’s just a shame their increasing gaucheness mostly deters people – including myself – from going back to where it all began.


Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews here.

Child’s Play is now streaming on Quickflix.

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