The Original "Child's Play" Is In Full "Funny Freddy" Mode. (The Omen / Child's Play - Part 2)
Child's Play (1988)
I didn't remember being at all impressed by Child's Play the first time I saw it. I think my expectations may have been somewhat skewed by the film series' indirect connection with the Jamie Bulger killings. "Child's Play 3" was accused of inspiring one of the ten year olds who abducted and murdered James Bulger, a 2 year old boy. In actual fact, at best it seems like the Jon Venable's father, not the boy-killer himself, may have rented the movie on one occasion. Jon Venables actually claimed to dislike horror movies.
A detective on the case claimed the police had checked 200 movie titles rented by the killers' families. They were looking for any signs that they may have directly inspired the Jamie Bulger murder. So strong was the media's obsession with 'video nasties' at the time. The detective announced that: "If you are going to link this murder to a film, you might as well link it to The Railway Children."
Still, that the movie could cause this controversy made me expect something rather different. I was under no illusion that a Child's Play movie could lead someone to murder, but I did at least expect the movie to be scary enough or gory enough to stir up controversy. When I first watched "Child's Play" I wasn't yet a big fan of horror comedies. What I saw seemed cheesy as hell.
Watching it this time around, I'm now familiar with the fourth movie in the series: Bride Of Chucky. You only need to look at the cover of that DVD to know that it's not taking itself seriously. It turns out that if you go into the original "Child's Play" expecting comedy, it's not disappointing at all.
As the film begins, Brad Douriff is cornered in a toy shop and begins the most ridiculous chant with what seems like a mixture of Latin, extremely-badly pronounced French and the most blatant magic words ever: "Give me the power I beg of you!!!" These words send his soul into a children's doll, enabling him to escape justice. But there's a time limit. If he doesn't act soon, he'll be stuck as a doll forever.
Admittedly "Child's Play" does have some seriously creepy moments. At this late stage the Child's Play series is so well known that everyone can tell how this is going to play out. However, for much of the film it's always a possibility that it is the central child, Andy, who is committing the murders. Certainly it's the explanation that seems most sensible for the adult characters within the movie when Andy keeps saying "the doll did it!"
This time around I quickly recognised the detective investigating the murders as Chris Sarandon who played the vampire-next-door from the original "Fright Night" (and also interestingly voiced Jack Skellington in "The Night Before Christmas"). He's not got the same impact here as he had in "Fright Night", but then again it's not the same juicy role.
Catherine Hicks is also pretty awesome as Andy's mother. She has a very appealing and endearing onscreen presence which she also made use of in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (the one where they go back in time to save humpback whales) where she essentially played Captain Kirk's new girlfriend. (In the original series Kirk would often latch onto a girl on the random planet where they land, only this time it just so happens that the planet is present-day Earth. Still, this meant that Hicks' role was also to help newcomers to the Star Trek film series not to feel alienated. Arguably Hicks deserves the credit for getting Star Trek IV shown on TV at Christmas year after year after year.) So yeah, Catherine Hicks is great.
I suspect the reason why this film once had a reputation as a scary movie is to do with the quality of the effects. They've made the effects better and better as the series went on and even in this first instalment they haven't dated as much as they could have. But these effects are lacking the novelty today that they had on first release. Movies like "Toy Story" and "Small Soldiers" were a long way away. "Puppetmaster" and Stuart Gordon's "Dolls" would not come until later. The concept was pretty fresh and unexpected in a way that's a bit hard to give it credit for now.
Personally, I think I prefer Chucky to Freddy. He's funnier than Freddy (and it's not because Freddy keeps on calling every woman a 'bitch'. Chucky does that just as much). He also has clearer rules behind what he can do. Freddy seemed to be able to do absolutely anything so long as you were asleep, and even with that limit the movies would often cheat and say a character had fallen asleep already. On the one hand Chucky relies on people disbelieving that he is alive. On the other hand, even if people decide to try to stop him, he is seriously hard to kill. The whole trope whereby the bad guy is never really dead is taken to extremes with Chucky, so that he fits neatly not only into the Not Quite Dead trope but also the Rasputinian Death trope too. Chucky is an uncompromisingly evil villain who manages to be funny anyway.
Child's Play gets a lot of respect points from me for being fun and if you recognise that a great deal of this is comedic you'll be much more likely to enjoy yourself. Take it too seriously and you'll inevitably find it too cheesy. This isn't perfect and it's neither as funny or (to be quite frank) as scary as Bride Of Chucky, but the way the relationship between Andy and the doll is handled is quite impressive and the film can really pull you in if you give it the chance.