Child's Play (1988)

We’ve all had that one toy or that one fandom that we can’t help but falling head over heels for. Whether we are a young child or a full grown adult – fandom can truly display natural passion. As I’m writing this now, I’m reminded of a certain Saturday Night Live sketch. The sketch, by this point, is a few years old but accurate nonetheless. It’s a parody commercial for Star Wars toys. Within the nature of the commercial, it shows how older generations within the fandom respond to toys. How there is an art to collecting and how preservation is everything. On the flip side, you have the children who just wanna play with these toys. What if there was more than just mere collectables or toys?

The year is 1988 and Don Mancini is preparing audiences everywhere to answer that very question. Enter Mancini’s nightmare called Child’s Play. The film tells the story of infamous serial killer, Charles Lee Ray, as he transfers his soul into the must-have item of the holiday season. Think Tickle-Me-Elmo – just a bit more menacing. Ray, now within the confides of plastic, befriends Andy, a Good-Guys fanatic and six year-old boy, to get revenge on the people who wronged him. Brad Dourif, who brings Chucky to live – both in live action and in animation, is a classically trained actor. While in live-action, Dourif is able to bring some of that training to life as the “lake shore strangler”. While, its’ brief in its delivery, its impactful nonetheless. The film paces strongly, for the most part. Thanks to that pacing, we don’t get to really see what Dourif is capable of as a voice actor until the film’s final act. The build-up from Mancini and crew make it worth it though. Delivering a climax that strongly shows the raw intensity of the Dourif.

While the payoff reveal to Chucky, maybe one of the strongest moments in the film – the road that leads there is bumpy to say the least. Throughout the duration of the film’s first act, the pacing is near impeccable. The development of the antagonist, the phenomenon that is Good Guys, the protagonists as well. Even as the film redirects its attention, it stays within that brilliant pacing. It’s only when the Chucky and friends reach the final act that brilliance runs out. The last act to this film is superiorly sloppy, rushed and suffocated. It’s as if the creators behind the scenes had so much they wanted to do but ran out of budget before the film’s ending.

Child’s Play is not only a victim of rushed climaxes but also inconsistencies in its’ storytelling. With this being an entry into the horror genre, viewers already know they are getting treated to some death sequences. However, it’s the execution of said sequences that ultimately lead to some of the film’s biggest failures. Instead of being forever faithful and consistent, the storytelling shifts its narrative to how the death will best move the story forward. Rather than being faithful to the rules of the universe. Look no further than transitional period within the first two acts. That death is a result of a mere hammer, yet a car flips over in the final act and the driver walks away with no more than a single scratch. On a minor note, while most performances are strong – there are a few side characters which are over the top at some portions of the film.

Overall, Child’s Play (1988) is mixed box of goods. The film boasts a strong cast led brilliantly by antagonist, Brad Dourif. Not to mention fantastic performances from Catherine Hicks and Chris Sarandon. The biggest strengths of the film comes from its’ build-up and pacing. Though, it’s not without its’ defects. Some over the top performances sprinkled within, a rushed climax and inconsistencies within the storytelling could have viewers holding onto their receipts. Defects aside, Child’s Play is a strong entry in horror genre and still entertaining from start to finish.


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