Saturday, January 16, 2010

Child's Play

Child's Play 1988
Director: Tom Holland
Writers: Don Mancini, Tom Holland and John Laffia
Starring Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow and Raymond Oliver

The killer doll sub genre of horror films has a long storied career in horror film history. From the classic anthology film Dead of Night to the recent Dead Silence. But, I think when any horror fan thinks of a killer doll their fist thought comes to the indomitable Chucky. He is by far the most memorable with a great maniacal performance by the always entertaining Brad Dourif. Though, what really makes this film work is how for quite some time the viewer is unsure if the doll is doing the killing or it is Andy, the little boy who is projecting his feelings and blaming his own actions on the doll. That is why the film works so well, for quite some time the viewer is unsure of what is really going on. The film is really a well polished horror film and one of the last great ones of the 80's/ The film has it all, a original and creative plot, a great cast and some excellent effects that really make you believe a doll can kill you. This is a film that spawned a series of sequels of varying quality and brought forth one of the last iconic horror film characters that stands right up there with Freddy, Jason and Michael.
The plot basics are this, Charles Lee Ray (Dourif) is a bloodthirsty criminal who is looking for a quick way out from the cops dogging his heels. He is mortally wounded and using a voodoo spell he transfers his soul into a "Good Guy" doll. He is soon purchased by Karen Barclay (hicks) a single mother for her son, Andy (Vincent). Andy is very pleased, but soon people around him like his babysitter (Manoff) die in mysterious ways. Andy tries to tell his mom that it is his doll, Chucky that is killing all of them, but she does not believe him and thinks he is just making it all up. A cop, Mike Norris(Sarandon) who was instrumental in bringing down Charles Lee Ray becomes involved in the case and soon they will discover that Chucky is not such a good guy after all and he has a malicious plan he wants to effect, to transfer his soul into the body of Andy and live again, so he can wreak havoc as a human once again.
This is a excellent horror film. The direction by Holland is superb. He keeps the viewers well in the a dark on what his true plans for the story is until you are hooked into the film. He really sets the mood and tenseness of the story ably well. When the viewer finally discovers Chucky is alive it is that much a shock and the scene where Karen discovers there are no batteries in the doll and it is still moving is effectively chilling. The script is also great, as it gives the viewer a great villain in Charles Lee Ray and you cannot help but like him. The characters of Karen and Mike are quite effectively drawn too. The cast is uniformly excellent, but the lion share of the success of this film has to go with the performance of Dourif as Charles Lee Ray/Chucky. He has a great presence and his dialogue is classic and a delight to watch. It is just amazing how he gets into the role and you believe his is a homicidal doll. Hicks as the single mom with her own issues is great and very sympathetic. Sarandon as the hero is quite good as always and one of the few times he actually plays the good guy. The scene where Chucky attacks him in the car is classic. Vincent is great as young Andy and unlike most child actors, he never gets on your nerves like some tend to do. The SFX and effects are amazing. Chucky is one of the finest works of puppetry and animatronics I have seen and I still marvel at how well it works. I just do not think if the remake ever gets off and running that CGI will be as effective as these practical effects. I think if you only see one killer doll movie, it should be Child's Play.
This one gets 5 out of 5

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