The idea of a killer doll is one that many find hard to identify with. How can something so small be so frightening? I have always wondered, what makes dolls so sinister? What ever it is, movies seem to exploit this fear with great aplomb. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Childs play movies.
The original of the series, and arguably the best movie of them all, sees a Good Guy doll become possessed by the soul of the Lakeshore Strangler, Charles Lee Ray (whose name was taken from three infamous serial killers, namely Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray). The plot is incredibly simple. A serial killer (the aforementioned Charles Lee Ray) is mortally wounded, and takes refuge in a toy store. As he is dying, he uses a voodoo incantation to transfer his soul into a doll. Now living as the doll, he seeks revenge on the cop who killed him, and his partner who betrayed him.
Childs Play has an atmosphere that none of it's later sequels possessed. It manages to build tension effectively, never showing you the doll being 'alive' until half way through the movie. It's this element of 'is it really alive?' that I feel makes the movie work so well. The way the film teases with young Andy telling his mom things Chucky has said or done, is genuinely creepy. We even catch glimpses of what may be Chucky running about. Although again, doubt is put in the viewers mind because Andy wears the same clothes his doll wears, so we are left in two minds whether it is Chucky or not.
When Chucky finally reveals himself to Andy's mother, the FX are incredible, as they are throughout the entire movie. Chucky is diabolical in his anger, kicking, screaming and spouting profanities. His face twisted into a demonic look of pure anger and hatred. It really gets the heart racing, and you really do believe this doll has the capacity to kill. Infact, it makes you believe he does want to kill, and that he enjoys it. He looks less cute than he does in the sequels that followed, which again adds to the dolls malevolence. Brad Douriff's vocal performance as Chucky is breathtaking. So much emotion is put into the role, and it really brings the doll to life along with Kevin Yagher's awesome FX.
Many people seem to take issue with a three foot doll being able to kill people. I don't understand why these people cannot suspend disbelief for ninety or so minutes and enjoy the film for what it is. So what if a doll doesn't have the weight or strength to do what Chucky does. It's a horror film. Never mind a doll has come to life, whats more important is that he couldn't kill someone, he's only 3 ft tall. These people seem to pick on the stupidest of things, and completely miss other more blatant factors that are fantasy in the movie. It is entertainment. Enjoy it as such.
Childs Play is a serious white knuckled thrill ride from beginning to end. For a film that was released at the tail end on the 80's, when horror was progressing into an altogether different territory, it made a huge impact with horror fans. The movie is scary. It takes the whole subject matter of voodoo, and a killer doll seriously, making the fear factor in the film that much more apparent. I feel Childs Play will always be remembered as the best killer doll movie ever, and it certainly deserves that accolade, even though the sequels fail to live up to the precedent set by this movie.