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|
|Editing by||Edward Warschilka
Roy E. Peterson
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release dates||November 9, 1988|
|Running time||87 minutes|
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 in 1990, right before production on Child's Play 2 started.
Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), a voodoo murderer, is on the run from the police in Chicago in November 1988. After Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) shoots him, Eddie Caputo (Neil Giuntoli), Charles' driver and henchman, betrays Charles by driving off without him to escape Mike's partner Jack Santos (Tommy Swerdlow). Charles takes refuge in a toy shop, where he is again shot by Mike. Discovering he is mortally wounded, Charles swears revenge on both Mike and Eddie. Chanting in voodoo, Charles transfers his soul to a Good-Guy doll after coming across boxes of them. The ritual causes thunder and lighting that destroys the store and Mike finds Charles's body, believing he had killed him.
The next day, Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) buys the same doll Charles has possessed for her six-year-old son Andy's (Alex Vincent) birthday. Karen, who has recently lost her husband, has her best friend and co-worker Maggie (Dinah Manoff) babysit Andy while she works late. Charles, now called "Chucky," sneaks out of Andy's room and toys with Maggie before hitting her with a hammer. Maggie then falls to her death by landing on a car. Andy is suspected of killing Maggie by Mike, much to Karen's fury, who orders him and the police to leave. Andy frightens her by claiming Chucky is alive, which she refuses to believe.
The next morning, Andy ditches school on Chucky's orders and takes a train to another area of Chicago. While Andy is urinating outside, Chucky sneaks into Eddie's lair and turns off the pilot light. As a result, Eddie is killed after he causes the oven to explode by shooting at the appliance. Andy is a suspect again and is placed by Dr. Ardmore (Jack Colvin) into a mental hospital. Back home, Karen finds no batteries in Chucky, meaning he should not be operating. When she threatens to burn him in the fireplace, Chucky comes to life, bites her, and escapes. Despite this, Mike refuses to see reason and drives home. Chucky then tries to kill Mike by strangling him and then trying to stab him with a kitchen knife, making him crash the car. Mike survives and shoots Chucky, wounding him.
Furious at having been shot, Chucky confronts his old African-American voodoo mentor, John (Raymond Oliver), asking him why he bled. John insists Chucky is gradually turning human and initially refuses to help him on the grounds that Chucky used his lessons to his own advantage. After Chucky tortures him using a voodoo doll, John reveals to him he has to possess the first person he told his secret to. Discovering the person is Andy, Chucky gets excited about becoming "six years old again," stabs John with a Voodoo knife anyway, and leaves. Karen and Mike, who were investigating Chucky's old house, find John and learn Andy is in danger and that Chucky can be killed through his heart as it is almost human.
At the mental hospital, Andy spots Chucky from his cell but his pleas are ignored. Chucky finds the key to Andy's cell but Andy escapes. After Dr. Ardmore catches Andy, he is electrocuted to death by Chucky. Andy returns home with Chucky in pursuit. He chases the boy and eventually knocks him out. Before he can complete the ritual to possess Andy, Mike and Karen arrive to intervene. Chucky stabs Mike in the leg with his voodoo knife and goes after Andy and Karen. He gets trapped in the fireplace and is burned. Though charred, Chucky survives and is shot to pieces by Karen. Mike's partner Jack arrives and Chucky tries to strangle him. Chucky is finally "killed" once Mike shoots him in the heart.
Accepting the fact that nobody is going to believe them that Chucky was alive, Andy, Karen and Jack take Mike to an ambulance waiting outside. Karen then turns off the bedroom light, with Chucky's remains corned at the wall as the final scene is Andy looking back at Chucky before closing the door as the film ends.
Unbeknownst to them, Chucky has, in fact, survived.
- 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 that the "Good Guy Dolls" were based on the My Buddy dolls created by Hasbro (who had previously worked on the horror animation Inhumanoids, later worked on Hasbro Films and the TV series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic). 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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