Child’s Play (1988), the original Chucky

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

Chucky
I’d be freaking terrified if that was coming at me…

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……..

Chucky background

 

Aliens (1986)

Action-packed, intense and gripping: Aliens takes sci-fi to a different level.

I know, I know, some of you will be thinking ‘Why is Becs reviewing Aliens now? Like, everybody has seen the Alien films and knows how great they are!’. You may well baulk in disbelief, but at the stout age of 28, I have only just seen the first two of the Alien Quadrilogy. I am ashamed to admit that there are several classic cult films out there that I’ve yet to see. Somehow they’ve passed me by with their vital lessons in suspense, overacting, and brilliant monster designs and animatronics. I fully intend on catching up with famous movies that I should already know (it just might take a while…) – don’t worry, I won’t be reviewing them all! So, on Aliens:

Sigourney Weaver really kicks ass, doesn’t she? I mean, seriously. Her character, Ripley, has the most balls out of all the crew there put together. She damn well knows how to teach those Aliens a lesson and sets right to it – no namby-pambying around, no false macho bravado, no nonsense.

giphy-downsized

And NOBODY listens to her warnings about how dangerous the creatures are. I realise that that is a vital part of the plot insomuch as it results in all the crazy action, fighting, and revelations from the crew sent out to destroy the aliens that Ripley wasn’t lying about how there is no other way to deal with them except by destroying the seemingly unstoppable face-sucking parasitic wily beasties. (Please pardon the awful sentence structure, sometimes rambling is the only way to express yourself.) But it seems pretty unprofessional to me not even to acknowledge the dangers ahead put forward by Ripley. These guys are the military, after all.

It’s funny how certain character styles come and go with the film eras. Like the military guys, for example. The team that are dispatched with Ripley to investigate the colony are overly bigheaded, immature, and disobedient – entirely the opposite of what a soldier should be: responsible, calm and level-headed. I get that there is sometimes an element of competitive macho-ness amongst military men and women, but it’s pretty well milked in Aliens and at times cringe-worthy, especially watching Private Vasquez (the only female military member sent on the mission) constantly flexing her muscles and over-playing the tough gal role. In modern movies that involve members of the armed forces, the characters tend to be a lot more mature on the whole and a lot less raucous. Sure, a bit of ignorance and egotism resides in some characters (like Sully in Avatar), but they either get what’s coming to them or learn to grow up. Privates Vasquez and Drake, however, are particularly insufferable with their muscly strongman/woman banter and carry on regardless without learning a great deal. Watching them made me want to give them both a good slap, tell them to stop acting like jerks and grow some real balls like Ripley’s.

giphy-downsized (1).gif

There was one other thing that I didn’t much like about the film. It’s pretty big, very predictable, and an unavoidable move in such a classic film. Ripley’s altruistic heroism as she returns to the now completely alien infested colony to rescue Newt.

You’ll all be shouting at me, saying ‘But how could you be against that?! Ripley just HAD to go back for Newt! She’s the hero and Newt is the only surviving kid from the colony and Ripley loves her like a daughter and Newt helped them escape’ yadda yadda yadda… But come on, people: Newt went under, the aliens had her in their nest stuck in who-knows-where on the sticky mucousy wall, Ripley and Corporal Hicks get out with only minutes before the colony blows up, Bishop had the ship ready for them to escape to safety…. But the inevitable was coming: ‘I have to find her’, shouts Ripley as Hicks is bundled onto the ship. *Sigh* of course you do Ripley, and what really are your chances of finding Newt? Thankfully for her, the fact that they’re both part of a big blockbuster movie make them very high. So yeah, unavoidable part of the plot, but nonetheless I found myself shouting ‘What are you doing? Don’t go back, the colony is going to blow up in minutes! You don’t have a goddamn clue where Newt is!’ Alas, there was little I could do but watch on as Ripley yet again cuts it fine with the whole rescuing and escaping just in the nick of time.

It did, however, lead to the best final battle with the alien Queen. I just loved the edgy, silent negotiating that went on between Ripley and Queen as she stumbled face-to-face with her in the heart of the nest. The tension, the subtle movements and apparent understanding between two females protecting their young – yet both want the other dead. A frantic escape ensues, and then of course the ultimate head-to-head with Ripley commandeering the power loader as battle armour and weapon against the savage Queen.

aliens-ripley-sigourney-weaver-in-powerloader.png

She takes no shit from anyone, does Ripley. Not even from alien royalty.

Another aspect of the sequel that I did appreciate was the extra mile they went with the alien models and costumes themselves. They are seriously sinister, everything about them reeks of sly aggression, and there is a cleverness in their movements that suggests a malicious mind. And the face-suckers are downright creepy, like the spider of your nightmares on steroids. The way that they scuttle across floors and unexpectedly leap out of nowhere ready to give you the kiss of slow, parasitic death is truly chilling. It all looks a lot slicker than Alien too, with fewer clunky shots of scaled-down spaceship models flying through the galaxy (I have to say, those scenes in the first film did look a lot like the intentionally clunky space scenes of Red Dwarf).

All in all, even with those couple of frustrations noted above, I actually loved watching Aliens and found myself captivated by the action and plot itself. It’s a much more involved film than its predecessor, and really worth a go if you thought that Alien was too slow to get going. (I actually quite liked Alien, my other half found it lacked a bit and was too centred around suspense.) On that note, Aliens doesn’t lose the knack of keeping you ready and waiting for things to jump out – a masterful technique that any successful thriller couldn’t be without.

So I think Aliens stacks up a good few pints of strong, dark ale, or perhaps Guinness to marry the night-black skins of the aliens – either choice would be sure to see you through!

One last note, entirely unrelated to the review of the film: anyone else think that Sigourney Weaver looks kind of like Michael Jackson with that haircut?