You would think a horror movie about a killer doll would age after so many years. And you’d be correct. “Child’s Play” while not the worst movie ever made, certainly has lost much of its impact since its initial release. It’s not a horrifying movie by any means, but it’s not the worst of the killer doll sub-genre I’ve ever seen. Chucky may not be the Zuni Fetish Doll from “Trilogy of Terror” but he’s a charming horror character you love to hate.
Charles Lee Ray is a serial killer on the run from the law who is mortally wounded during a shoot out. Seeking safety, he hides in a local toy factory, and grabs a hold of a doll. Anxious to keep his life in tact, he uses a voodoo spell that transfers his soul in to the doll as Charles dies on the spot. Days later, mom Karen is anxious to buy her son the shockingly popular Good Guy Dolls, a line of large dolls that are all the craze for Christmas. Saddened it’s been sold out in every store for miles, Karen meets with a dealer on the street who sells her a doll they took from a local toy factory. Sadly, the doll Karen has bought is the very doll Charles Lee Ray’s soul has been transferred in to. What begins as an odd series of incidents soon becomes a fight for life and death, as Karen slowly realizes her son’s doll is taking on a life of his own and has nefarious plans in store for his owner Andy.
“Child’s Play” tinkers with the idea that perhaps Andy, a distraught latch key kid, is capable of conducting all of Chucky’s murders, or at least was coerced by Chucky in to committing much of the early murders. Director Tom Holland frames many of the vicious murders to seem as if perhaps Andy is the actual killer, but the story drops the pretense mid-way once the script makes it very clear Chucky is alive. Perhaps this was meant as a mid-film twist, but it’s poorly constructed and feels more like information the audience knows that the characters should have known long ago. Brad Dourif is excellent as the voice and persona of Chucky, the vicious and murderous doll that seeks a means of getting his body back.
When Chucky learns that his soul will remain in the doll if he doesn’t find a human host, Chucky begins to become even more violent, and Karen must fight to keep Andy safe and from becoming the embodiment of Charles Lee Ray’s evil soul. For all intents and purposes, the puppetry for Chucky is still incredible, as director Holland comprises a mixture of puppetry, animatronics, and dwarves, all of which make Chucky feel like an actual monster with a presence that can make his victims shudder. “Child’s Play” has plenty of interesting ideas, and unique undertones about family dysfunction and how Chucky feeds off of that energy to create his agenda, but it never really amounts to a great horror movie.