“Child’s Play” doesn’t take time building its opening, but gets to the action immediately. Charles Lee Ray, portrayed by BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), is running through downtown Chicago, attempting to avoid being captured by the police. On his trail is Detective Mike Norris, played by Oscar nominee Chris Sarandon (Dog Day Afternoon). The reason the police are after Ray, is because he is a killer who the press have dubbed ‘The Lake Shore Strangler.’ Ray is attempting to reach a getaway car, driven by his accomplice, Eddie Caputo (Neil Giuntoli). When Eddie sees that the police are closing in on Ray, he drives off. (As an aside: The character’s name, Charles Lee Ray, was taken from the names of three infamous killers: Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald, and James Earl Ray. Furthermore, two time Golden Globe winner John Lithgow (Dexter) was at first considered to play the character of Charles Lee Ray and voice Chucky).
Norris has Ray pinned down outside the doors of a toy store. Ray shoots the locks and enters the store to seek cover. While walking around, Ray realizes he’s been shot, and is wounded to the point where death is imminent. He states aloud that he needs to find a person, but the reasons are not yet made clear. Stumbling into several rows of dolls, known as ‘Good Guys,’ which, the viewer will later learn, are based on a popular children’s cartoon of the same name, Ray knows he is out of time. Removing one of the doll’s from its packaging, Ray places his hands over the doll, and begins reciting an incantation, ending with a plea to be given power, so that he will be able to transfer his soul into the doll. How Ray received the ability to summon the power in the first place is explained to the viewer later on in the film. Lightning crashes through the store’s glass ceiling and an explosion occurs. Thinking that Ray is dead, Norris feels that the case is closed, but in actuality, in that moment, Chucky has been born. Dourif continues his participation in the film as the voice of the possessed ‘Good Guy’ doll. (As an aside: The voiceover work Dourif did for “Child’s Play” was recorded in advance, in order to be able to match up the words with the movements of Chucky’s mouth. The recording of his voice would be played in the scenes where characters were interacting with the doll, however, because his lines were pre-recorded, Dourif infrequently appeared on set when the doll scenes were being filmed).
Early the next morning, the scene shifts to an apartment where a young boy, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent), is making his mother, Karen, portrayed by Emmy nominee Catherine Hicks (7th Heaven), breakfast, or trying to anyway. Karen is a widow who works as a sales person at a jewelry counter in a department store. She knows that more than anything, Andy wants a ‘Good Guy’ doll, for his birthday, but with finances being tight, and only recently finding out that a company was making the dolls, Karen has not had time to save up the $100 dollars needed to purchase the doll. As luck would have it, her co-worker and friend, Maggie (Dinah Manoff), tells her that there is a homeless man, in the alley behind the department store, who is selling a ‘Good Guy’ doll. Karen purchases the doll from him for $50 dollars. Andy is, of course, overjoyed, later that day, when presented with the gift from his mother. Karen must return to the store that evening to work overtime, to fill in for an employee who had to take the night off. Maggie volunteers to babysit Andy.
Later that evening, Maggie tells Andy something which no child likes to hear – go get ready for bed. Andy lets Maggie know that Chucky wants to watch the 9 o’clock news. Maggie, feeling that Andy, like most children, is just stalling for time, tells him no. Less than a minute later, while Andy is brushing his teeth, Maggie hears the television news playing in the background. She turns around to see the ‘Good Guy’ doll in a chair facing the television. Maggie figures Andy placed him there, but the child says that Chucky did it on his own, which of course she understandably, but unfortunately, doesn’t believe. A short while later, Maggie plunges to her death from the apartment window and lands on a parked car.
When Karen arrives home, she initially fears the worst, and is momentarily relieved, when she sees that Andy is okay, but she can’t believe what happened to Maggie. After a while, she gets the sense from Detective Norris, the same police detective from the start of the film, that Andy is the prime suspect in Maggie’s murder. The notion that Andy had anything to do with Maggie’s death, makes Karen irate. Andy tries to tell Karen, and anyone else who’ll listen, that Chucky is a living entity, and not just a child’s toy, but no one believes him. The more time passes, however, the more the adults, who at first dismissed Andy’s statement regarding Chucky as the product of a child’s imagination, will come to regret that mindset.
“Childs Play” was directed by Tom Holland (Fright Night), who also co-wrote the screenplay with John Lafia (Child’s Play 2), and Don Mancini (Hannibal), based on a story written by Mancini. In addition, Howard Franklin (Quick Change) contributed to writing the screenplay, but was not credited in the final cut of the film. “Child’s Play” was released theatrically in the United States on November 9, 1988. The film is comprised of the horror and thriller genres. The film is well-paced, contains effective performances from its cast, and features a good amount of suspense and tension throughout its 87 minute runtime. BAFTA nominee, make-up effects artist, Kevin Yagher (Bones), is the man responsible for giving, Chucky his look, and is credited in the film as the designer and executor of the now iconic, Chucky doll. Oscar winner Joe Renzetti (The Buddy Holly Story) provides a thrilling score that helps propel the film forward, but at the same time, knows when to hold back, and become hauntingly melodic. If you’re a fan of horror movies, you need do only one thing to enjoy “Child’s Play,” and that is suspend belief regarding the film’s premise, and sit back with your favorite beverage, and snacks, and let Chucky’s exploits entertain you.