Child's Play is a 1988 American supernatural slasher horror film directed by Tom Holland (no, he isn't the new Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), who wrote the film's screenplay, along with Don Mancini and John Lafia, and the first installment in the Child's Play series. The film was released on November 9, 1988 in 1,377 theaters, received positive reviews, and was followed by Child's Play 2, Child's Play 3, Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky, and two straight-to-video installments; Curse of Chucky, and Cult of Chucky. The film was the only film in the series to be released by MGM/United Artists, as in 1990, the rights were sold to Universal, right before production on Child's Play 2 started.
One night in Chicago, Illinois, a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) is running away from police detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) and Jack Santos (Tommy Swerdlow). After getting shot in foot by Mike, Ray is abandonned by his partner-in-crime Eddie Caputo, who is being chased by Jack, and finds a local toy store. He enters the store, where he tries to hide from Mike, but he's fatally shot in the chest by him and removes his trech coat. Enraged, Ray seeks revenge on him and Eddie, and crashes into boxes of "Good Guy" dolls. He casts a Haitian Vodou ritual to transfer his soul into one of the dolls, which causes a lightning bolt to blow up the store. Mike, whom survived, finds Ray's body and the doll, who's eyes grow, releaving that Ray transferred his soul into it.
At the next morning, a little boy named Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) is celebrating his sixth birthday, watching a TV show, and is making breakfast for his single mother Karen (Catherine Hicks). After seeing a TV commerical for Good Guy dolls, he wants one as a birthday present. Andy opens his first present which is Good Guy tools and Karen tells him that she can't afford a doll because it's very expensive. Karen and her co-worker Maggie Peterson find a street peddler, who gives them a stolen Good Guy doll. They are working at a store and are scolded by their boss Mr. Criswell for leaving their posts. Maggie tells Karen that she'll babysitt Andy for her. Karen gets back to her apartment and gives the Good Guy doll to Andy, who's overjoyed. The doll introduces himself as "Chucky" via the talking feature. On the TV, it is heard that Eddie Caputo has escaped from prison while Maggie is eating a cake and Andy is playing. After Maggie takes both Andy and Chucky to Andy's bedroom, she sees Chucky sitting on a couch while the news is on. She turns the TV off and brings him to Andy's bedroom.
While she's reading a book while listening to a movie, Maggie is frightend and sees a fallen and spilled bowl of sugar. After calling Karen, she is hit in the face by a toy hammer, causing her to fall out of the window to her death, landing in a Dodge D Series. When Karen comes home, Mike and his partners, especially Jack search the apartment. Mike suspects that Andy murdered Maggie because there were foot prints that resembled Andy's Good Guy shoes. Annoyed, Karen orders Mike and the police to leave once they complete their investigation. Andy tells his mother that Chucky revealed himself to be alive and that he killed Maggie. Karen hears nothing and as Andy hugs Chucky, Chucky closes his eyes. The next day, Andy goes to school. Apparently on Chucky's request, he skips school, takes the Chicago "L", and visits Eddie Caputo's house. While Andy leaves, Chucky sneaks into Eddie's house, turning off a stove's pilot light but turning up the gas. Eddie, hearing someone open his stove, approaches his kitchen and shoots. He fires his gun again, causing a massive explosion to blow up the house, killing him inside.
Once again a suspect, Andy is placed in a mental asylum by and is being interviewed by Jack. Dr. Ardmore (Jack Colvin) announces his presence. Later that night, Karen gets back to her apartment taking Chucky with her to inspect him, only to find out that his batteries were never inserted and then, he suddenly spins his head and says in Karen's hands "Hi I'm Chucky wanna play?", causing her to drop him. When she threatens to thrown him in the fire, Chucky changes his voice to when he was human as he comes alive, cusses at her and bites her in her arm, but she drops him. Chucky runs out of the apartment as Karen goes outside where she contacts Mike and shows the bite wound.
However, he doesn't believe her, so she sets out to find the peddler who sold Chucky to her. The homeless man wants money for the answer, but she does not have anything. So, he attempts to rape her before Mike confronts him. He informs that he retrieved the doll from the burnt toy story where Charles Lee Ray died. Mike drives Karen home and goes back to his office to pull out Charles Lee Ray's file. While Mike is driving back home, he is suddenly attacked by Chucky, who managed to get into his car, causing the car to go out of control and flip over. Chucky tries to attack him, but Norris manages to shoot him in the chest. Chucky runs out and Mike realizes that he must help Karen. Karen goes to Ray's old hideout to find clues, only to meet up with Mike. He admits that he believes her now and he found out that Ray learned voodoo from a man named John Bishop, also known as "Dr. Death". Chucky goes to John to give answers why did he bled when he got shot. John informs him that he's slowly turning human and the longer he stays in that body, the more human the doll will become. However, he won't help him because he only used voodoo for evil.
John tries to call the police, but before he can, Chucky pulls out John's own voodoo doll. John, under torture, tells him that he must transfer his soul out of the doll into the first human being he revealed his true self to; which is Andy. Chucky stabs the voodoo doll and leaves. Mike and Karen arrive and find the dying John. Karen asks for clues, which he, before dying, responds by explaining that Chucky is going after Andy to transfer his soul into his body and that his heart is almost human, and the only way to kill him is through the heart. At the asylum, when Andy sees Chucky crawling up the stairs, he tries to call Dr. Ardmore for help. Chucky steals the key to Andy's cell, but Andy manages to trick him with pillows under the bed. When Andy tries to escape, Ardmore tries to sedate him, but Chucky kills him with an electroconvulsive therapy machine, allowing Andy to escape. Jack believes that Andy killed Ardmore. At the apartment, Andy tries to knock Chucky with a baseball bat, but drops and Chucky knocks him with it.
Mike and Karen arrive as Chucky begins to cast the voodoo ritual. They stop him, only for Chucky to stab Mike in the leg, injuring him. He then hits Mike twice with the bat and is about to hit him the third time, but Karen shoots him. She tries to shoot him again, but there's no more bullets left, so he chases after her. She throws Chucky into the fireplace and Andy drops a match a lighted match, burning Chucky heavily. Andy and Karen go to help Mike. After Andy gets the first aid kit, he notices Chucky is gone. The heavily burned but alive Chucky pursues Andy and Karen, but they barricade themselves in the bedroom. Karen shoots Chucky several times, missing his heart, but scattering his left arm and right leg before Jack arrives, who doesn't believe that Chucky's alive. The scattered doll parts attemps to choke him under the instructions of Chucky's screaming severed head. Remembering John's last words, Karen tells Mike to shoot Chucky in the heart. Mike makes a direct hit finally killing him. An ambulance arrives to take Mike, Karen and Jack to the hospital, but Andy stays and looks at Chucky's burned remains. He turns off the lights and looks at Chucky before leaving.
Why It Rocks
- Brad Dourif does an awesome job as Chucky and his original human form Charles Lee Ray because he not only can be very scary, he can be entertaining at the same time.
- The effects and animatronics for Chucky are impressive for 1988.
- Underrated and pretty scary score by Jon Renzetti.
- Great opening scene.
- Likable characters, especially Mike Norris and Andy Barclay.
- Nice setting.
- Exciting final confrontation between Andy, Mike, and Karen against Chucky.
- It provides excellent entertainment for splatter fans with very gruesome scenes like John and Dr. Ardmore's deaths.
- The story idea of a serial killer transferring his soul into a doll is original.
- The acting is decent.
- Nice directing and writing by Holland, Don Mancini (the creator of Chucky and the series), and John Lafia.
- The voodoo doll scene is pretty ridiculous. Also, why would John have a voodoo doll of himself in his own house?
- Continuity errors like Chucky's overalls sometimes has buttons and other times doesn't.
- The film got a lot of controversy:
- During the initial release, a large crowd of protesters formed at the main entrance of MGM calling for the movie to be banned because they claimed it would incite violence in children. Local news reporters from two TV stations were broadcasting live from the scene. David Kirschner, the producer, was watching the TV demonstration and was disturbed.
The film grossed over $44.2 million against a budget of $9 million.
Child's Play received generally positive reviews from critics. The film currently holds a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 35 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10, but it doesn't hold a consensus. The film also got a 6.6/10 on IMDb.
Child's Play won a Saturn Award for Best Actress for Hicks and got nominated for Best Horror Film, Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Vincent, and Best Writing for Holland, Lafia, and Mancini, but lost to Beetlejuice, Fred Savage for Vice Versa, and Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg for Big.
- Chucky's real name Charles Lee Ray is derived from the three infamous killers; Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray.
- There was supposed to be a scene that shows Chucky's former mentor John/Dr. Death in voodoo priest clothes performing a voodoo ritual with an amulet placed on a staff to heal an infant. Later, John gives the cured infant the amulet and the infant's family pays him before Chucky arrives, but this was scrapped for timing.
- There was also supposed to be a scene that took place before the regular opening scene, where Mike Norris in drag attempts to catch Charles Lee Ray. After Mike leaves a bar, Charles Lee Ray confronts him, and later throws a trash can at him, which leads to the regular opening scene. If you see the regular opening scene closely, you'll see that Mike throws the dress on the ground as he pursues Ray down the street.