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Child’s Play (1988)

Directed by Tom Holland  Story by Don Mancini Screenplay by Tom Holland, John Lafia & Don Mancini

  One of my first memories, ever, was resting as a child (I assume peacefully) to feel a gentle shake and my mother’s voice saying to wake up, having a present for me. Rubbing my eyes as I forced them to open, I only see the tiny demonic face of Chucky staring back with the expression used when in kill mode. I screamed like there was no tomorrow; I also stayed petrified of that thing and kept it in our shed. That is, until it flooded years back it was just another thing that got ruined and thrown out (that’ll teach him). But it also has become a favorite of mine now that I know, for the most part, I could never be attacked by a doll.

  Premise: Charles Lee Ray is a convicted felon on the run from Detective Norris (Sarandon) in the beginning of the film. Trapped and hit, fading more with each passing minute, Ray finds solace within a toy store when a storm is about to hit. Thinking quickly as could he grabs one of the Good Guy dolls on display and with his powers of voodoo, is able to transfer his soul into the doll as lightning struck and burned the place down shortly after. Single mother Karen Barclay (Hicks) couldn’t afford to get her son Andy (Vincent) a doll from an actual store so purchases one in the back of an alley; note to parents: do not ever, ever buy a toy in a back alley…weirdos! The doll begins speaking to Andy and sets off on their own “adventures” when murders begin occurring and the finger is pointed back to the boy. Put into a mental ward, Karen confronts the doll and demands he speak to her or would make him speak (after the batteries had fallen out of the box). Chucky springs to life to attack the mother and runs off so as to go back to his roots to visit an old friend that had done him wrong in his past life. Norris finally believes Karen and Andy after being confronted by the doll, leaving him injured. A last conflict at the apartment occurring as it seems Charles heart had been keeping him  alive and must be shot out in order to be stopped once and for all. Yanno, until the sequel and all.

5. Over-sized sets with Ed Gale: For those who don’t know, Ed Gale was the stunt double for Chucky and was used as well for any long shots. He also replaced the doll at moments, requiring over-sized sets to accommodate to such which I thought gave the doll an even better feel when around the apartment. Being 10 inches bigger than the doll, Gale was used for a lot of the quick shots of Chucky’s hands and was the one running around on fire towards the end. However he wasn’t the only one that got to double in for the serial killer doll. Alex Vincent’s sister at the time, who was 3, was as well a perfect height to play the doll and in fact can be seen in the first action shot of Chucky when he runs down the hall before killing Aunt Maggie.

4. He had great catch phrases: Chucky is definitely in my top three horror faves, leaving Freddy and good ol’ Mikey, except not in that order. One of them not talking and the other one clever enough for the both put together. Dourif’s voice though, it was just too good. Pretending to be a good guy sounded almost as sinister as when yelling curses at his victims. Plus he had such great one liners throughout his series. I heard for the remake that they want to take out the funny undertones from the original which slightly disappoints me because I thought it worked well in the doll’s favor. He had no problem toying with his victims and would often incorporate a phrase with the type of murder about to do. There’s even a little nod to The Shining when Chucky tries to break down the bathroom door with Hicks on the other side later they later pick up on in Seed of Chucky. His lines usually teetered on getting better or being a bit too cheesy the more they went along with the series but that was slightly expected as well.

3. Work put into operating Chucky: Around the time that this movie was worked on animatronics hadn’t been something of a well-know thing. Creator of Chucky, Kevin Yagher, had previously worked on the third installment of Nightmare on Elm Street and had been recommended by Rick Baker. The field itself was in “infancy stage,” and Yagher had commented in the behind the scenes that in today’s film, digital work could probably fix any mistakes that would occur with the doll. But back in 1988, it had to be perfect and had at least 12 people working to operate the doll, each with their own functions to overtake and ensure. Nine dolls were constructed for the making of this film, each as well for different scenes; a burnt one made to look like dancing for when on fire. One that was all cables, (operated by joysticks) taking three people just to operate his face. Inserted into the doll was an L shaped bracket so that his jaw could move around as real as possible. How do you not have an appreciation for art like that?

2. Brad Dourif: Originally the voice of Chucky was to be..”different” (Writer Mancini said it sounded gay) but decided to use more of what Brad had done in his audition. Turning out perfectly; it’s rare our killers actually enjoy talking at all but that certainly was not the case with this good guy. It was what helped make Chucky so great, in part. That laugh; can you recall that same malevolently, fiendish laugh that sent slow chills when heard? The casts rehearsals took place in Chicago and Brad was right there with them, rolling all around the floor and taking part as though were the doll himself. What’s even better is that he stuck around for every movie after and is planning on continuing the voice when the remake is released in 2014. As well is filming Curse of Chucky, let’s hope neither of those turn out to be disasters. After Seed of Chucky I’ve accepted a bit of defeat with the series that I would hope never to let happen again.

1. “It ain’t the size that counts, asshole – it’s what you do with it:” While that quote may be from a later film in the series, it fit perfectly as proof that the killers don’t always have to be towering at 7 feet to instill fear in us. If anything he’s even scarier because of how well he can hide and maneuver around the different areas. Not like he’s going to grow up or anything. Originally the story-line was going to be quite different from what turned out, previous titles for the film including Batteries Not Included and Blood Buddy. Holland and Lafia having put in their own input into Mancini’s script to create the Chucky we all know and love. The original story? Andy’s mother as the advertising executive of the Good Guy dolls. The doll representing a supernatural manifestation of the boy’s ID; otherwise known as the true unconscious. A feature on the Good Guy doll being synthetic blood so as to have to purchase band-aides a though an actual friend. In a moment of combining his blood with the doll, its in that, that the doll comes to life and does his bidding’s in a sense. Original writer Mancini stated that he didn’t see the sense in a serial killer knowing voodoo when could very well use that to kill his victims but didn’t want to think about the changes too much. While I’m not sure of how that script could have been executed, wouldn’t have minded seeing something of that nature either.

  The 20th anniversary edition for the film is a must for your collection with plenty great features. Having select scenes in which Chucky gives his own commentary and facts about the film (they should have done a whole commentary as such). I know I didn’t speak much of Chris Sarandon or Alex Vincent but it’s not as though they’re easy to forget. Being honest I felt a bit bad for Vincent because through the commentary and some of the extras, it sounded as though he had almost resented the role now because of the same questions asked and the same lines that he hears repeated back to him; I can only imagine. But at least he’ll forever be known for one role, not a lot of actors have that same pleasure. Sarandon was a great cop and had just come off Fright Night and The Princess Bride where he had already attracted an audience. Catherine Hicks having said that not only was this film the first she acquired top billing but that Chris had went up to her and said it would be up to her to carry the movie, giving her the confidence needed. I never even spoke of the type of shots that were used throughout and how some were manipulated. When we see Chucky roll under the couch, they had the floor tilted at a 45 degree angle to make it seem as though on his own. An easy favorite would have to be the Steadicam shot of Chucky running to his “friends” house who knew voodoo. I enjoy those shots in general for the type of suspense they’re able to add. The ending was a bit dramatic but trying to do a high-end death sequence for a doll does seem like a difficult enough task. This being a great way to kick off series, getting better in time if anything. A child’s worst dream come true with the soul of a serial killing, voodoo knowing and well manufactured piece of plastic.