“Child’s Play” is a surprisingly good movie.
“What are you recording,” Nesko asked me as the DVR whirred.
“Child’s Play,” I responded.
“Ugh, why?” he asked.
His response, combined with my nodding acquaintance with the ridiculous sequels, left with me low expectations as I started the movie. I’d never seen “Child’s Play,” just as I haven’t seen most movies that everyone else has. I really wasn’t expecting much, and the opening met every expectation.
And then the movie surpassed expectations.
“Child’s Play” very deftly mixes the creepiness of dolls with the creepiness of little kids, and works in large part because Andy (the kid) is a pretty well realized character with understandable motivations. His mom is well fleshed out, their world is recognizable as a real world. Chucky, the doll, is a great blend of animatronics, puppeteering, and long-distance shot of a Little Person.
The action in the movie starts fast, and the characters of “Aunt” Maggie (Karen’s best friend and co-worker), widowed mom Karen, and small child Andy are quickly established and fleshed out. Karen and Andy have sweet moments of interaction, we feel the stress they are under, but the moments aren’t saccharine or maudlin. And then the creepy doll murdering kicks into gear. Andy insists Chucky is talking to him and all the adults think he’s lying or imagining it at first… or is crazy. Mom is upset and then she realizes Chucky has no batteries. So how can be be talking? She demands answers from the limp, lifeless toy… and it squirms to life and starts yelling at her and bites her. The battery discovery is chilling, the confrontation tense, and the attack downright scary. Karen tries to tell the Detective what’s up but he doesn’t believe her until Chucky attacks him in his car.
Responses to the living doll felt very realistic. “No, officer, my child’s not crazy, the doll’s alive!” “lolwut.” Karen tries to warn people, knowing she sounds dangerously insane. People don’t believe her because dolls don’t really come to life. There’s lovely tension between what we the audience know and have seen and the realistic ways the characters act. The way the doll is brought to life by the animatronics and puppeteers is smooth and beautifully done, it holds up very well as a practical special effect. In fact, the charred doll advancing inexorably down the hall as bits of it are shot off? That’s an image that’ll stay with me.
There’s downsides to the movie, of course. Chucky was able to send his soul into the doll because he managed to get a Houngan to teach him Voodoo, which is something that Voodoo practitioners LOVE sharing with white people and is very likely to happen. His teacher exists pretty much only to teach him the magic that lets the movie take place, and to tell Karen and the Detective how to reverse the magic before he dramatically dies. Karen also is almost raped by a homeless trashpicker because, again, it wouldn’t be a horror movie without a woman being threatened with rape. But other than that, it’s a solid movie that’s held up well and I was surprised (pleasantly!) by how much I enjoyed it.
I give this movie 4 stars out of 5.
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