Child’s Play Review

Child's Play
When young Andy Barclay gets a doll for his birthday little does he know that it has been possessed by the spirit of serial killer Charles Ray Lee, who transferred it at the point of death via voodoo. He also has a deadly plan to escape his plastic confines.

by Kim Newman |
Published on
Release Date:

01 Jan 1988

Running Time:

87 minutes



Original Title:

Child’s Play

Tom Holland is the ideal director for those who like to find recurrent themes in film maker's bodies of work. All his films have the same plot, a variation on the Boy Who Cried Wolf story. Child's Play follows Holland's debut horror movie FrightNight - not to mention his Scream For Help, Cloak and Dagger and Psycho 2 - by focusing on an innocent , usually male, child who fantasises too much and is disbelieved when he comes across something really horrible.

Here, the innocent is a little boy whose Good Guy doll, a grinning freckle-faced munchkin in bright dungerees, has been possessed by the recently shot-to-death voodoo-murderer, Charles Lee Ray (Dourif). The kid's Mommy thinks he's just going nuts, while cop on the case Norris suspects the brat of having tossed the babysitter out of the window.

Killer dolls have been a staple of horror literature and cinema for years, as anyone who saw 1936 and 1964 movies called The Devil Doll can attest, but Child's Play is the first to take advantage of recent advances in special effects technology. Just as Holland's FrightNight livened up the same old vampire story with spectacular effects and sly humour, this takes a formulaic predictable plot and wrings entertainment value out of it through sheer verve.

The characters are all annoyingly stupid in the way only people in duff horror movies can be- it takes Hicks and Sarandon forever to work out what we guess in the first ten minutes- and the kid is irksomely cute. But when it gets going, the horror succeeds pretty well. Chucky, the killer doll, is a clever combination of Brad Dourif's sneering voice and state-of-the-art puppetry, and the finale in which the loveable exterior is melted off but the creature still keeps killing is an effective, scaled-down replay of the gruelling finish of The Terminator.

The early scenes have quite pointed satire on the Care Bears merchandising phenomenon, as we glimpse the Good Guys Saccarine TV cartoon show and get to look at the rest of the horrible line of Good Guy toys. Not a break-through horror, by any means, but a decent enough little time-waster.

It's nothing wildly original, but it is pacey and entertaining when it gets going.
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