Child's Play (1988 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tom Holland|
|Produced by||David Kirschner|
|Screenplay by||Don Mancini
|Story by||Don Mancini|
|Music by||Joe Renzetti|
|Edited by||Edward Warschilka
Roy E. Peterson
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release dates||November 9, 1988|
|Running time||87 minutes|
|Box office||$44.2 million|
Child's Play is a 1988 American horror film directed by Tom Holland and written by Don Mancini, John Lafia and Holland. It stars Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, and Brad Dourif. The official taglines of the film are "You'll wish it was only make-believe" and "Something's moved in with the Barclay family, and so has terror."
The film was released on November 9, 1988 and was met with moderate success. It has since developed a cult following among fans of the horror genre. The film is the first in the Child's Play film series, and is the first movie to feature the killer doll Chucky. It was the only film in the series released by MGM/UA, as the rights to the series were sold to Universal Studios in 1990, right before production on Child's Play 2 started.
Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), a voodoo-practicing serial killer known as the "Lakeshore Strangler", is on the run from Chicago police. After detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) shoots him down in a toy store, Charles transfers his soul via a voodoo ritual into a "Good-Guy" doll, which then causes the store to explode. Detective Norris finds Charles Lee Ray's body next to the doll, thinking he has killed him.
Now named Chucky, the possessed doll is purchased from a hobo by single mother Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) as a birthday gift for her six year-old son, Andy (Alex Vincent). While babysitting Andy that night, Karen's co-worker, Maggie Peterson (Dinah Manoff), hears a news story about Eddie Caputo (Neil Guiantoli), an associate of Charles Lee Ray who abandoned him the night he was shot. Maggie is later killed when she is hit in the head with a hammer, thus backing through a window falling several stories to her death. Detective Norris arrives at the scene of the crime initially suspecting Andy of the murder, and Karen furiously tells him and the police to leave.
Andy skips school the next morning (apparently on Chucky's orders) and travels with Chucky to downtown Chicago. Once there, Chucky breaks away from Andy and enters an abandoned home, the hideout of his former associate, Eddie Caputo. While Eddie is asleep, Chucky turns on the gas stove, but blows out the pilot light. Eddie awakens and searches the house, causing it to explode when he fires his pistol in the kitchen, igniting the gas. After Andy is again suspected of the murder, he is placed in a mental hospital, overseen by Dr. Ardmore (Jack Colvin).
That night, Karen discovers Andy was telling the truth when she realizes the doll's batteries were never placed inside, meaning Chucky has been functioning despite lack of batteries. When inspecting Chucky, Chucky comes alive, bites her and escapes; Detective Norris finally agrees to help after Chucky almost kills him in his car. Chucky goes to Dr. John (Raymond Oliver), a witch doctor and Charles Lee Ray's former voodoo teacher. When asked why he bled after being injured, Dr. John reveals to Chucky that the longer his soul remains trapped within Chucky, the more human he becomes. In order to escape Chucky, he must possess the first person to whom he told about his possession, which is Andy. When Dr. John rejects Chucky's plea for help, Chucky kills Dr. John using his personal voodoo doll and escapes just before Karen and Detective Norris arrive on the scene. Dr. John tells the pair that they can kill Chucky through his heart, since Chucky's heart is now human.
At the mental hospital, Chucky steals the key to Andy's cell, but discovers Andy has escaped. Chucky kills Dr. Ardmore, then follows Andy home and knocks him unconscious with a bat. As Chucky begins possessing Andy, Karen and Detective Norris arrive and stop him. Chucky stabs Detective Norris, then goes after Karen and Andy. The pair trap Chucky in the fireplace and burn him. Thinking Chucky is dead, Karen and Andy leave the room to help Detective Norris, but Chucky follows them and again attempts to kill them. Chucky is again thought to be killed when Karen shoots Chucky, severing an arm, a leg and his head. Jack Santos (Tommy Swerdlow), Mike's partner, arrives at the apartment, and disbelieves the trio's story. Chucky's body then bursts through a ventilation duct and tries to strangle Jack. Karen, remembering what Dr. John said, tells Mike to aim and shoot for Chucky's heart (which Mike does, finally killing Chucky). After killing Chucky, they leave him. Andy closes the door as the screen turns to blue and fades out.
- Brad Dourif as Charles Lee Ray/Voice of Chucky
- Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay
- Catherine Hicks as Karen Barclay
- Chris Sarandon as Detective Mike Norris
- Dinah Manoff as Maggie Peterson
- Tommy Swerdlow as Jack Santos (Mario)
- Jack Colvin as Dr. Ardmore
- Raymond Oliver as John Simonsen (Dr. Death)
- Neil Giuntoli as Eddie Caputo
- Alan Wilder as Mr. Criswell
- Edan Gross as Good Guy Dolls (voice)
- Aaron Osborne as the Orderly
- Juan Ramirez as the Peddler
- Ed Gale as Chucky (Stunt Double)
- Michael Patrick Carter as the Kid in an Animated Commercial (voice)
Child's Play was filmed in Chicago, Illinois for on-location scenes. The Chicago landmark the Brewster Apartments located at Diversey and Pine Grove served as the location of the apartment where Andy and Karen lived and is pictured on the film's poster. In-studio filming took place at Culver Studios in Culver City, California.
It is rumored[by whom?] that the "Good Guy Dolls" were based on the My Buddy dolls created by Hasbro. However, during an airing of the movie on the morning of January 7, 2007, AMC claimed the creator modeled the doll after the Cabbage Patch Kids. This was confirmed by an interview with the creator, Don Mancini, which was featured on the Seed of Chucky DVD. Don Mancini has stated that his original script was a whodunit story which dealt with the effect of advertising/television on children. Mancini's original script was also written to toy with the audience a bit longer, making them wonder whether young Andy was the killer rather than Chucky. This technique was still somewhat achieved in the film, as Chucky isn't shown to be alive on screen for the first 40–45 minutes of the film.
Box office and reception
Child's Play was produced on a budget of $9,000,000. The film was released on November 9, 1988 in 1,377 theaters, opening at #1, out of the other 12 films that were showing that week, with $6,583,963. The film went on to gross $33,244,684 at the domestic box office and an additional $10,952,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $44,196,684.
Critical reviews were generally positive. Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, calling it "cheerfully energetic horror film." The film currently holds a 68% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 31 reviews. Areas of the film that were commonly praised were the original concept, special effects, and acting. The young Alex Vincent, who played Andy Barclay, was said to have played a generally convincing role as a terrified boy, while Brad Dourif was praised for the creepy and realistic voice acting of Chucky.
During the initial release, a large crowd of protesters formed at the main entrance of MGM calling for a ban on the film because, they claimed, it would incite violence in children. Local news reporters from two TV stations were broadcasting live from the scene. The producer, David Kirschner, was watching the demonstration on TV and was disturbed. Jeffrey Hilton, who had been working in Kirschner's office at MGM, indicated that he could quell the disturbance in 10 minutes. While Kirschner was watching from the safety of his office, Hilton spoke to the group's leader and shook his hand. The group instantly dispersed, much to the chagrin of the newscasters. Hilton did not reveal to Kirschner whether it had been a threat or simple diplomacy that saved the day.
Hilton's diplomacy notwithstanding, the film's franchise was plagued with accusations of inciting violence in children. Child's Play 3 was cited as the "inspiration" for two murders, which took place in the United Kingdom in December 1992 and February 1993 respectively: the murder of Suzanne Capper and murder of James Bulger. In the Suzanne Capper case, the 16-year-old was forced to listen to recordings of the gangleader repeating the catchphrase "I'm Chucky, wanna play?" Tom Holland, in response to both murders, defended the film, stating that viewers of horror movies could only be influenced by their content if they were "unbalanced to begin with."
Child's Play has been adapted into two comic book series:
- Innovation Publishing released a mini-series in early 1990.
- In the Spring of 2007, a comic book series which features Chucky was released by Devil's Due Publishing. The series is written by Brian Pulido, the creator of Evil Ernie and Lady Death.
Home Video and DVD releases
Child's Play was originally released on home video in North America on April 25, 1989.
The film was first released on DVD by MGM in 1999. The film was presented in an open-matte full screen presentation and included a theatrical trailer and a "Making Of" booklet. The Australian DVD release by MGM featured the film in non-anamorphic widescreen transfer. The DVD was re-released in 2007 with a lenticular cover.
A 20th Anniversary DVD was released by MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on September 9, 2008. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 Widescreen format (for the first time in the U.S. in 20 years) enhanced for 16x9 monitors and includes an English 5.1 surround track and English, French, and Spanish 2.0 surround tracks. Special features include two audio commentaries with Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, Kevin Yagher, producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Don Mancini, a "Selected Scene Chucky Commentary", "Evil Comes in Small Packages" featurettes, a vintage featurette from 1988 titled "Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child's Play", and "Chucky: Building a Nightmare" featurette, theatrical trailer and a photo gallery. The film received a Blu-ray Disc release on September 15, 2009. The DVD does not feature any contributions from director Tom Holland, who claims he was not asked to contribute to it. In response, the website Icons of Fright contacted Holland and asked if he would be willing to record a commentary track that would be free for download on their website. He agreed, and the track is downloadable from here.
On October 8, 2013, the film was re-released again on DVD and Blu-ray in a boxset for the respective formats, containing all 6 Child's Play films.
Child's Play spawned a series of films. After four sequels, Don Mancini and David Kirschner spoke in a September 2008 interview of a planned reboot of the franchise to be written and directed by Mancini, although nothing was official. They described their choice of a remake over a sequel as a response to the will of the fans, who "want to see a scary Chucky movie again," and "want to go back to the straightforward horror rather than the horror comedy." They stated that if the remake was made, they would want Brad Dourif to reprise his role as Chucky, because "no one could fit the part like he could."
In a subsequent interview, Mancini described the script as a darker and scarier retelling of the original movie, but one that, while having new twists and turns, will not stray too far from the original concept. Additionally, Brad Dourif confirmed that he will reprise his role in the remake.
On June 23, 2012, it was announced that the next movie would instead be a direct-to-video sequel to the original series titled Curse of Chucky. Production on the movie began in September 2012 and filming ended in November. The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 8, 2013 marking the 25th anniversary of the original Child's Play.
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