Chucky – renowned cult classic of horror. Another that I have known about for years, yet never watched. Lord knows I’ve seen images of the doll all over the place, his evil blue eyes, fiery red hair, denim dungarees and knife-wielding toy hand all ingrained as an iconic image of horror that we have become so familiar with. Until a couple of nights ago, I was ignorant as to Chucky’s story. All I knew was that he’s a doll who kills people. Turns out I had some learning to do.
And boy did I enjoy being educated! There’s no beating about the bush with Child’s Play, oh no, it gets straight to the action. From the word go, the audience is thrown into a chase scene as wanted serial killer Charles Lee Ray, nicknamed ‘Chucky’, (played by Brad Dourif) is pursued by the cops. There’s shooting, blood and a lot of death threats followed by Lee Ray’s voodoo chant. Said voodoo crucially leads to some ’80s special effects lightning – you know the sort, the kind that’s blatantly superimposed over the equally cheesy thunder clashes. Oh, and Charles Lee Ray – Chucky – possesses a Good Guy doll via his black magic before dying of his gun wounds. A Good Guy doll is the ‘in’ gift for a young kid if they’re into full-sized ginger dolls with oversized freckled heads, a few shitty catchphrases and possibly the most terrifying gaze you’ve ever seen (and that’s before it’s been possessed by a serial killer).
Et voila! In about 5 minutes, you have the set up for the rest of the film: psycho villain seeks revenge on cop by taking supernatural possession of a kid’s toy as a vehicle to extend his failing human life. And we all know that the Chucky doll will end up in the hands of some innocent child…. Sure, it’s predictable, but in my view there’s nothing wrong with that in this movie. It is a slightly cheesy set-up, but it’s what they do with Chucky that matters in my view.
There is something inherently unnerving about children’s dolls anyway, before adding the layer of evil soul possession. The unblinking fixed stare, permanent rubber smile, often disproportionate heads (enhanced in the Good Guy dolls – seriously, they’re the size of basket balls) and the lifelessness of a stiff toy doll mimicking the purest, most innocent stage in life: babies and childhood. To me, demonising an innocent (if slightly creepy) children’s toy doll is a brilliant idea. And of course, the Chucky-haunted doll lands itself in the lap of a young boy called Andy as a birthday gift. (Great little actor Alex Vincent is by the way, the kid who plays Andy; really convincing performance.) Also, funnily enough, it was sold by a dodgy looking back street peddlar – what could go wrong?
Plenty, of course. The doll starts talking to Andy when nobody else is around – and inevitably, nobody believes Andy when he tells them that the Chucky Good Guy doll is alive. Then comes the first bit of evil Chucky behaviour where he kills Andy’s babysitter once Andy has gone to bed and she’s all alone (good bit of irony there that a ‘Good Guy’ doll is now effectively a ‘Bad Guy’ doll). I love that the iconic lightning flashed in the background as the babysitter sat in the living room on her own – we all know what that means! In true horror style, lots of little creepy noises and small movements prepare us for Chucky’s first strike. I love all of that stuff: the gradual build to something bad happening, but what exactly will it be…? The rest of the film contains less of the building sensation, generally tending to get more directly on with the plot and focusing on Chucky’s sworn revenge.
I think there’s joy in this kind of predictability though. The film isn’t hiding anything: it makes things very clear to the audience that the spooky backstory and sinister underhandedness spell ‘danger ahead‘. It drums up the anticipation in an obvious way, the way that so many classic thrillers and horrors out there do with lightning, dodgy characters, dark and cold nights, lightning, magic spells – all of these are classic, timeless components to a scary story of some kind. They’ve been reworked again and again over the ages, and if you’re introduced to a horror, you expect some of the familiar signs to be there: they intentionally grab our attention and make us clock all the little ‘sinister’ elements that build to the bigger horror/thriller plot.
On the production of the film, I have to say that the set designers and costume workers did a great job of Chucky’s animation. There were no strings apparent, his movements were all pretty slick, and the nasty grimace that the doll adopts when Chucky is making his appearance obvious is very aggressive and threatening. Some of those expressions he pulls are seriously intense with violence. Whenever Chucky went into ‘doll’ mode – static and lifeless – it always sent a little chill of suspense through me, just waiting for when he
would reanimate and jump out in attack. That sort of ‘playing dead’ aspect gets pretty much everyone. I think Chucky has to go down as one of the most persistent characters who just won’t die at the end – not that that’s a bad thing. His molten, charred corpse just keeps going, limbless though it becomes – he’s one hell-bent nasty soul. Can’t wait to see how he comes back in the sequel….
One thing that I didn’t like so much was how they dealt with the murder scene. I know that it’s a slightly dated film now, but not one cop batted an eyelid when Andy’s mother comes running into the apartment block looking for her son even though it’s been cordoned off. She barges straight in, and then dashes directly through to her apartment in which the detective and his team are acting quite blasé. I don’t think they’d have even looked up if she’d streaked in naked shouting “I did it!”. Some of them were just settling in comfortably on the sofa with the paper! *Tut*
We all know that in modern films, crime scenes are well protected areas and it’s only ever with some reluctance and ID that the police let someone through. Out of the whole film, I found this scene the least believable(!). I guess that this lax attitude here must be down to the era it was filmed in, but surely not all of those films from the 1980s were so casual…? This aspect raises some repercussions with the film Aliens about which I discussed the unprofessional behaviour of the soldiers – both this and the crime scene in Child’s Play are serious things that would be dealt with very differently in modern films. In some ways it helped move things along quicker – no hold ups with bureaucracy, forensics and red tape preventing Andy and his mum from living in their home (whereas in movies now they’d be out of there so that the cops could investigate). So, even though it’s kind of annoying (I found myself saying out loud “That just wouldn’t happen!”) and completely inaccurate, the lack or professionalism in the crime scene did spur the rest of the film along. It is a slightly predictable horror film, after all.
Petty issue with the cops aside, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Child’s Play and look forward getting involved with the whole Chucky series. The sinister doll and his maniacal antics, the predictable eeriness of the horror genre and on the whole intriguing plot earn this film a few dark, sweet strong Kraken rum mixed with cola to see you through the madness.
Until next time……..