Movies like Child's Play are why I still bother.
This movie has, in my opinion, never truly been given its due respect as a horror classic. It definitely has its fans among the horror crowd, but I see it dismissed more often than not. The most common criticisms I hear from people are "a doll isn't scary lol" and "I would just kick it lol". It is very important that you totally disregard these peoples' opinions, as they have have more than likely never seen the movie, and more importantly, have missed the point of horror movies entirely. One instance in particular that sticks out in my mind is when the film was featured on the VH1 show I Love the 80's, and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider went on a tangent about how the movie is an embarrassment to the genre. While it truly is hilarious that they would choose such an uninformed moron to represent the film, it goes to show how widespread that opinion really is. The truth is, Child's Play is among one of the 80's best horror gems, with a good script, solid performances from the leads, and some of the most impressive practical effects to this day. It's what got me hooked on these types of movies.
The plot of the movie is simple enough: just before dying, a serial killer transfers his soul into a children's toy via ritualistic voodoo. The doll is then bought as a gift for a boy's eighth birthday, and the living doll then attempts to transfer his soul into the boy before his doll body turns fully human and he is trapped inside it forever. See? Simple.
What makes the movie work from the beginning is the pacing. The movie lets you know from the opening scene that the doll is possessed, but holds off from actually showing the doll moving around until the second act. Chucky's first kill in the movie, the young boy's babysitter, is done entirely without showing the doll itself. This works in the movies favor, building up tension until the reveal of the actual living doll.
Once he shows himself, the rest of the movie is carried by the awesome animatronics and puppetry work done by Kevin Yagher. Chucky seems very much alive, and its even more impressive when you consider it was done entirely without the help of CGI. It's one of those movies where you look at something on screen and think "how the hell did they do that?", which always makes a movie more entertaining in my eyes. One of the more interesting aspects of Chucky is that his appearance gradually changes as the movie progresses, becoming more human looking and less doll-like the longer he stays in the body. His hairline recedes, he develops dark circles under his eyes, and generally just becomes more nasty looking as the film goes on. It's a level of detail that frankly you just don't see in horror movies anymore.
What compliments the great effects work is Brad Dourif's portrayal of Chucky. Everyone knows who Chucky is, and the reason for that is Dourif's classic voice work for the doll. The first time the doll comes to life and starts calling people sluts and telling them to go fuck themselves, its hard not to bust out laughing at the suddenness of it all. He's equal parts scary and hilarious, which makes the character more memorable, and almost makes you want to root for him as opposed to the heroes of the film. It's crazy that the original version of the movie had a woman voice Chucky, and it wasn't until afterward that they went back and had Brad Dourif redo the voice in post-production. It's very hard to imagine the character being voiced by anyone else.
It's also worth noting that there were several altercations behind the scenes with director Tom Holland that I always found funny. First because of his changes he made to the original script. The original idea was for the doll to have rubber skin that a child could break if they didn't take good care of it, and it would bleed, kinda like the dolls that piss themselves. This version had the boy mixing his blood with the dolls blood and that is what brought him to life. Holland, seeing that this was a fucking terrible idea, scrapped it and came up with the voodoo plotline instead. This pissed off the writer, Don Mancini, and he hates the voodoo aspect of the franchise to this day. There was also an instance where the producer, David Kirschner, actually punched the director in the face for being to hard on the young boy during filming.
Production problems aside, the movie ended up being great, and it holds up to this day. Of course, the success of this film would lead to several sequels, some good, some terrible, but I'll get into that another time, as I'm sure I will end up writing about those at some point as well.
So anyways, the point is, fuck Dee Snider.