Child’s Play (1988)
Title: Child’s Play
Director: Tom Holland
Released: Nov. 9, 1988 (US release)
Description: A single mother gives her son a much sought-after doll for his birthday, only to discover that it is possessed by the soul of a serial killer.
Note: Hi there! So, this recap may require some additional explanation before we get into it. These recaps of the Child’s Play series will be posted both on my site, Oh God Why?! Nostalgia Reviews, and at The Devil’s Elbow, one of the sites that Dove (of the Nostalgic Bookshelf recapping empire) is involved with. Depending whose site you’re currently reading this on, one of us is probably a stranger to you. So, hello there, I’m JC, better known as ogwnostalgia on all of the social medias. Dove? [Hello JC’s loving fans, I’m Dove. Since my glorious co-recapper has hyperlinked the heck out of an intro here, there’s little more to say, except I adore horror, nostalgia, and am quite fond of JC too.] [JC: *blushes*]
So, I will be handling the odd-numbered Child’s Play films (which I realize sticks me with Seed of Chucky, oof! [Dove: Why do you think I agreed so readily to your suggested division of labour?] [JC: Eh, terrible as it is, I have some affinity for it. I suggested that division of labor specifically because I wanted to do 3 and Seed.]) with commentary by Dove; she will be recapping the even-numbered films with commentary by me! Dig? Cool, let’s get into this!
I love this series! Along with A Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s my favorite. Hey, what can I say, some people like the strong, silent types (hello, Jason and Michael Myers); I like the snarky, wise-cracking bastards. I remember the first time I saw most of the sequels, but for the life of me I can’t remember when I saw this one. It was definitely after I’d already seen 2 and 3, because I watched the original trilogy all out of order. Regardless, this is definitely the best and scariest of the first three. (Curse of Chucky gets my vote for scariest and best of the later movies.) Oddly, it only has a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, a 6.6/10 rating on IMDb, and a freaking 58% from Metacritic. What. The. Hell. [Dove: I watched them all in order, and I find Child’s Play 2 to be the scariest. This is partly because I’d seen the first one, quite liked it, but then read an article about the upcoming sequel, which had a picture of Chucky with a nosebleed. That picture scared the life out of me. I agree with Curse being the best of the later movies.]
Would I be remiss if I don’t mention the upcoming planned remake that doesn’t feature Brad Dourif doing Chucky’s voice? Everything I’ve heard sounds . . . weird. They’re trying to go back to the (really bizarre) original script, where Chucky was named Buddy and there was no Charles Lee Ray or voodoo involved. The article I read talked about the doll being basically a “hacked Furby,” which . . . okay. Furbies are fucking terrifying; just make it a damn Furby and leave my Chucky alone, goddamn. [Dove: I didn’t even know it had gotten that far along in the planning stage. But I’m going to nope the hell out of it, because Chucky without Dourif voicing isn’t really Chucky. Well, that’s the high road I want to take. I’ll probably buy it when it hits the budget shelf of my local supermarket in a few years.]
Ahem. Anyway, this is the 30th anniversary of Child’s Play‘s American release, which makes me feel old, but also tracks since I basically grew up knowing who Chucky was, despite not seeing any of the movies until the early-to-mid 90s.
Thirty years, guys. Damn.
We open with Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) chasing Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), AKA The Lakeshore Strangler, down Wabash Ave in Chicago. If you pay attention when they first show Mike, he’s tossing a dress aside before he starts chasing Charles – this is left over from a longer original opening where he was dressed as a woman to lure the Strangler in. This sounds kinda terrible and I’m glad it didn’t make the final cut.
Charles is running toward a van driven by his accomplice, Eddie Caputo, whose only line in the whole movie (despite being in a few scenes) is “Oh, shit.” There’s running and shooting from both Mike and Charles; Mike shoots Charles in the leg; Charles does a hood slide that would have made Luke Duke proud. Then Eddie takes off in the van, stranding Charles, who continues to run from Detective Mike while a cop car chases after the van.
Mike and Charles shoot at each other some more (all misses), and Charles ends up in the doorway of a toy store, because we’ve gotta get to the Good Guy dolls somehow, right? He shoots kinda at the lock on the door, but just grazes it, which in no way would make that door open for anyone. Come on, movie! These are glass doors; why not just smash the glass? But of course the door pops open and the alarm starts ringing, because MOVIE.
Inside the toy store, we see a whole wall of Good Guy dolls, and the title “Child’s Play” comes up over them. Charles peeks around one on display (hello, foreshadowing!) and promptly gets shot in the chest. He staggers around the store removing layers of winter wear (coat, scarf, and pay attention, because he’s not wearing any fucking amulet despite what Bride of Chucky is going to try to tell us a few movies from now), and shouts at Mike that he’s going to get him, and he’s going to get Eddie, no matter what! No word on whether or not he’s going to get anyone’s little dog, too, though.
While he’s shouting his threats, Charles is posted up on the wall next to a little girl baby doll, and I’m led to wonder what a different movie this would have been if the only doll within his reach as he’s dying had been a Betsy Wetsy. [Dove: Just after we agreed to do this, I tried to picture what would happen if Charles Lee Ray possessed one of the My Little Ponies. Very little. They have no way of gripping a knife. Then I eyed my 909 ponies and tried to work out if any of them were possessed. For those who don’t know me, I collect My Little Ponies. It’s SRS BSNS.] [JC: Apparently, horses kill approximately 20 people per year. I think Chucky would manage just fine were he to possess Twilight Sparkle.]
He stumbles around some more, repeating to himself that “I’ve gotta find somebody.” I guess the police detective chasing you with a gun is probably not a great candidate, then? Then Charles knocks over a display of Good Guy dolls, which by the way are fucking ugly as hell even when they’re not possessed, and lands on the floor among them. He looks at one and starts laughing like, “Sure, why not, I guess this is just my life now,” and pulls it out of the box.
This is the face of a man with no fucks left to give
We hear the iconic “Ade due Damballa” chant, and Mike looks around with serious WTF face. I want to take this opportunity to point out that at some point during the chant, either here or later, Chucky/Brad Dourif purportedly fucks up the pronunciation of some of the Haitian Creole words, turning the phrase “power of the dead” into “pepper of the dead.” This makes me laugh far more than it should. [Dove: That’s made my day.]
Lightning starts to form in the sky over the toy store, then strikes directly into the store, blowing out all the glass and whatnot, and oh my god do I love shitty 1980’s lightning effects. This and the lightning in the parking garage in Highlander have to be my two favorites. So bad, yet so good.
After Mike recovers from being thrown across the store because of Random!Explosions! he finds Charles dead on the floor with the Good Guy doll next to him. The camera zooms in on the doll, which I always expect to blink or something, even though I know it doesn’t, then we cross fade into the Barclays’ apartment and a “Happy Birthday” banner hanging up in a window.
As far as cold opens go, this one is pretty great.
Little Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent), all decked out in Good Guy clothing and watching the Good Guys cartoon, is making possibly the worst breakfast-in-bed imaginable – blackened toast with an ice cream scoop’s worth of butter, overflowing cereal and milk with about half of it all over the counter and a disgusting amount of sugar dumped in, and orange juice. The orange juice might be safe to consume. It’s a good thing this kid is so fucking cute.
An ad comes on announcing the brand new Good Guys dolls on the market, and the thing selling them is honestly scarier than the actual doll. I couldn’t get the right wording for Google Images to give me the screencap I wanted, so I had to take my own (apologies for the bad quality):
He’s either telling you to read between the lines, or giving you a countdown til he starts sucking your soul
Andy looks over at his presents and sees a box approximately the same size and shape of a Good Guys doll, and his little eyes light up. Oh, Andy, sweetie. (Look, I know Alex Vincent is about my own age now, but I’m probably going to keep talking about what an adorable little kid he is. This might get a little weird once we hit Cult of Chucky.) [Dove: Watching this with a heartless analytical eye, the advert feels like they took a break in the cartoon to announce BRAND NEW INFORMATION, so Andy’s hope that he’s getting a JUST RELEASED THIS SECOND doll is a little optimistic, even for a kid. Although I will concede that they’d probably been playing this advert over and over for weeks (which is later confirmed by Andy’s mom) and they just don’t care that it has a “breaking news!” tone.] [JC: I wondered the same thing. The movie is supposed to take place on the same date it was released, November 9, so it’s possible the dolls have only been available for about a week, meaning Mom paid all the beginning-of-the-month bills before hearing about the dolls.]
Andy runs into his mom’s room, sloshing milk all over fucking everything, and then jumping on the bed to wake her up. Mom, whose name is Karen (played by Catherine Hicks, whom you probably either know as the mom on 7th Heaven or from Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home aka The One With the Whales), exclaims that it’s only six thirty, but is really sweet to Andy despite the fact that he might be trying to murder her with that inedible breakfast. Man, cute kids can get away with a lot. Including maybe not being the best actors ever. I’m always loathe to criticize a little kid’s acting, but he’s definitely a little shaky in places.
In the living room, the news is on the TV, telling us about Charles Lee Ray, the Notorious
B.I.G. Lakeshore Strangler, being shot and killed last night around 3 am. Andy runs over to the box that looks misleadingly like a Good Guys doll and insists on opening it first, but alas, it’s just clothes. That’s, um, a very strangely-shaped box to wrap clothes up in. Damn, Karen, what the hell? Then he opens a Good Guys tool chest and flat out tells Mom he wants a Good Guy to go with it. She didn’t know about them in time to save up for it this month. Which, this is a hundred-dollar doll, so fair enough. But also, this is a pretty nice apartment; they’re definitely not living in poverty or anything. Also also, she’s a widowed mom working at a department store; how can she actually afford this pretty nice apartment?
We meet up with Karen at work at said department store, as her BFF, Maggie (Dinah Manoff, whom you probably either know from Grease or the 1990s sitcom Empty Nest) runs in and tells her there’s a peddler out back who has a Good Guy doll. She drags her away from her counter to go check it out, and it is indeed a Good Guy. She haggles the peddler down from fifty bucks to thirty, despite Maggie protesting that it’s not worth that much. Uh, pretty sure that was an excellent deal even for 1988, but whatevs, Maggie.
Then the Boss Man gets all up in Karen’s grill for leaving her work area outside of her assigned break time, and tells her she has to come back to work that evening, two hours after her shift ends, to cover someone else’s shift. I don’t think he can actually make her do that legally, but I don’t think she’s in a position to risk it, either. Maggie tells her she’ll babysit Andy for her that evening, which leads to so fucking many summaries of this movie reductively referring to her as “the babysitter.” No, fuckers, she’s Karen’s BFF. Andy calls her “Aunt Maggie” for fuck sake. She’s family!
Cut to Karen and Andy walking into the apartment, with Karen holding the Good Guys doll all wrapped in brown paper. Apparently she’d told Andy it was groceries? LOL whut? Do people in Chicago regularly put their groceries in large, awkward, rectangular packages, and then wrap them in brown paper? [Dove: His mom wraps clothes in gigantic boxes. Maybe everything she brings home looks like a Good Guy Doll?] Anyway, he opens it and shouts in its face, which I’m sure the dead serial killer trapped inside it super appreciates. The doll blinks its eyes, turns its head, and says “Hi! I’m Chucky! I’m
going to fucking kill you your friend to the end! Hidey ho! Ha ha ha!”
Karen exclaims that that’s really something! Uh, yeah, something fucking terrifying. Guys, I basically think all dolls are creepy as hell anyway. When I was a kid, I had one of those baby dolls that cries when you turn it upside down. When I was around eight years old, my room was such a mess that I couldn’t see the floor – toys everyfuckingwhere. Well, from this carpet of toys, I heard that fucking baby doll crying totally randomly one day. I hadn’t touched it or been anywhere near where it was lying, buried under a bunch of other shit. When I found it, it wasn’t even turned upside down. There is no reason it should have been making any kind of sound whatsoever. Ugh. Fucking dolls, man. [Dove: I would just like to point out that JC had a Cabbage Patch doll that was very much beloved. I was somewhat mocking when I found out. Also, America: A+ on raising the bar in creepy dolls. I had never even heard of Buddy Dolls before JC brought them to my attention.] [JC: My Buddy dolls were released in 1985, then these movies caused their sales to tank. I don’t think they ever really recovered.]
Cut to later that night, Maggie’s babysitting and eating Andy’s birthday cake while Andy plays with his brand new Good Guys-themed merchandise, including a real hammer that came in his new toolbox. Like, it’s a real fucking hammer, not made of plastic or anything. Wood and metal, child-sized. Just what every six-year-old needs! The TV is on, and an ad for the upcoming nine o’clock news comes on. Top story? The escape from police custody of Charles Lee Ray’s accomplice, Eddie Caputo! Chucky’s eyes blink and his head swivels to look at the TV, then Andy gets upset that Chucky isn’t watching him, so the doll’s head swivels back toward Andy and he says “Hey, wanna play?”
No. No, I fucking do not.
It’s bedtime, but Andy leans down to Chucky and listens for a minute (we don’t hear anything), then announces to Maggie that Chucky wants to watch the nine o’clock news. Maggie of course thinks this is a bedtime stalling technique, but really, what six-year-old uses “watching the news” as an excuse to stay up later? Maggie turns off the TV, grabs Chucky and deposits him in Andy’s room, telling Andy to go brush his teeth. Also, when she drops Chucky off in Andy’s room, her manhandling of him has visibly yanked his arm out of the socket. Rule number one of not pissing off the possessed doll . . . .
Andy brushes his teeth while Maggie tidies up the kitchen, then she hears the TV come on and looks into the living room to see Chucky sitting in a chair in front of the TV news. The news channel is “WDOL.” Ha, I see what you did there, movie. Maggie again manhandles Chucky back into Andy’s room and scolds Andy for defying her. He is of course confused, and Maggie sarcastically asks if Chucky walked into the living room and turned on the TV himself. Um, welllllll . . . .
She puts Andy to bed, and as soon as she’s out of the room, Andy tells Chucky that he told him Aunt Maggie would be mad if he watched the news. Then the camera zooms in on the doll’s face, and everything inside me tenses in expectation that the eyes are going to blink, even though I know, again, that they don’t. Yet.
A while later, as Maggie is both reading a book and watching TV (been there), we’re treated to Killer POV from a low angle. So, either Chucky or Andy. I mean, we know it’s Chucky, but there’s a possibility it could be Andy. Someone in Good Guys garb runs by behind Maggie on the couch, and we see a wooden chair start to be dragged over a rug. Maggie gets up to investigate, and finds interior doors open and the chair in front of the front door to the apartment, which is now unlocked. Guys, I’ve seen this movie so many times, but I think I only just now realized that Chucky doesn’t actually care about killing Maggie; he was just trying to get out of the apartment so he could go kill Eddie Caputo, and Maggie interrupted him. That’s probably pretty obvious, but . . . here we are. [Dove: Actually, no. I’m right there with you. I never thought of this before. I just assumed it was the standard 80s motivation of “kill has to kill”.]
Maggie hears a noise in the kitchen, and finds a tin of flour knocked over on the floor, unfortunately there is no convenient cat to blame for it. She gets jump-scared by the phone ringing approximately two inches away from her head; it’s just Karen calling to check in. Have any of their conversations passed the Bechdel Test? I feel like they’ve all been about either Andy, the Boss Man, or the peddler. Huh.
They hang up, and we see Andy’s Good Guys tools on the floor. These include the previously mentioned hammer, a screwdriver, and pliers. Again, these are real, dangerous, child-sized tools! I’m surprised there’s not a saw in there. It’s a miracle we all survived childhood in the 80s.
A tiny hand grabs the hammer as Maggie starts sweeping up the spilled flour, then a sound draws her to the planters by the window, but it was a misdirect – there’s nothing there. She states that she’s scaring herself half to death. Hey, that’s okay; Chucky will take care of the other half! When she turns around, the hammer hits her right over the eye, and she stumbles backwards and crashes through the window. Luckily there’s a pickup truck on the street to break her fall. Boy, I hope they had insurance. [Dove: The coldhearted adult in me is thinking lawsuit. Surely upstairs windows require reinforcement to avoid situations like this. Well, not precisely like this. The stumbling through a window part. I don’t think any kind of building regs protect against my-kid’s-birthday-present-contains-the-soul-of-a-recently-deceased-serial-killer.] [JC: Act of Damballa clause?]
Karen arrives home on the bus to find crime scene tape and police vehicles blocking off her apartment building, and apparently her Mom Intuition kicked in, because instead of wondering what happened to one of any number of neighbors, she runs in freaking out that something happened to Andy. And the cops just let her rush in past them without trying to stop her. Even when she gets to the apartment, the cops sitting around her living room barely give her a second look while she yells for her son. Way to go, law enforcement dudes. [Dove: This part almost scans like House on Haunted Hill or something equally ghostly; while Karen screams for her son, everyone just slowly looks straight in the camera and then away.]
She finally locates Andy in his bedroom with our old friend Detective Mike, and it’s the tiny six-year-old rather than the adult police detective who tells Karen that Maggie had an accident. Did all these cops just transfer in from Point Horror novels? Also, Chucky is still hanging out in the apartment with Andy, despite being so damn eager to get out the door an hour (or however long) ago. [Dove: Good point. This would have been an excellent distraction. Maybe this is why we always remember this kill as “killers must kill”?]
Mike pulls Karen out of the room and leads her to the kitchen to show her some child-sized footprints on the counter in the spilled flour. Man, flour got fucking everywhere, didn’t it? Oh, and also I’m extremely distracted by how shiny the insides of Chris Sarandon’s ears are.
Anyway, he asks her about the footprints and tells her that he’s already checked the bottoms of all of Andy’s shoes. Um, are you allowed to search and question a six-year-old without a parent or lawyer present? This seems questionable at best.
Andy comes into the room because Chucky wanted to know what was going on, and I’m really impressed by Chucky’s self control here. I mean, look at him being all around the cop who killed him and not blowing his cover! Nope, nothing to see here, just a little kid’s doll, definitely not the displaced soul of a serial killer, no sir!
Mike only just now notices Andy’s footwear and inquires about it, despite
interrogating hanging out with him for who knows how long before Karen showed up. Andy’s wearing his Good Guys PJ slippers, and the bottoms of them are a match to the footprints on the counter, although there’s no flour residue on them.
Karen is pissed at the insinuation that her little boy is Damien or something, and essentially kicks Mike out. He clears out all the cops and forensic guys, and allows Karen and Andy to stay there because it’s not like it’s a fucking crime scene or anything.
Andy puts Chucky in a chair facing his bed, and takes way too long to notice that there’s flour all over the bottoms of his shoes. With the innocence only seen in children, Andy runs out of his room to tell Mike and Karen, and I swear Chucky has an “Aah, fuck” look on his immobile plastic face.
The adults don’t believe Andy and send him back to bed. Karen practically shoves Mike out the door; he pushes the door back open and asks if she’s going to call him. Uh, in what context, Mike? This is hardly an appropriate time to be trying to get your swerve on. [Dove: His delivery really did make me think, “Hey, is this a rom-com? Is he doing that “charming” thing of when a girl isn’t interested and he acts like she is?] He tells her he hates loose ends, but she doesn’t give a fuck and manages to push him out the door and slam it in his face. Mike and his partner, Jack Santos, have a bit of “ha, women, amirite?” dialogue, then Mike hands Jack the little hammer in an evidence bag and tells him to have the lab run tests on it because it’s a possible murder weapon. Jack is incredulous, but I’m not actually sure why. Yeah, the hammer is small, but it’s still a fucking hammer, JACK.
Karen hears Andy talking to someone in his room and goes to investigate. Chucky is still in the rocking chair, and Andy is sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of him, and something about this is just so creepy. The positioning is as if Andy is sitting in supplication to Chucky. It’s such a little thing, but so subtly effective.
Andy tells Karen that Chucky is Charles Lee Ray, and he was sent down from Heaven by Andy’s dad to keep him company. There’s a fan theory that Chucky killed Andy’s dad, because how did he know he was dead otherwise? Well, in the original cut that no longer exists anywhere in creation, there’s a scene with Andy showing Chucky around the house and telling him about his dad. My explanation was simpler – there are pictures around the house of a man that is probably Mr. Barclay, and Chucky just took an educated guess. [Dove: Or, as I always assumed, Andy told him, and Chucky used that information. Adults get taken in by “psychics” who use the same trick all the time, I would not fault a child for handing over information to his new “best friend” and not being sceptical when Chucky chimed in with “Oh yeah, your dad, he sent me to take care of you.”]
Karen asks what else Chucky told him, and Andy says Chucky said that Aunt Maggie was a real bitch and she got what she deserved. Ah, come on, Chucky – why you gotta be a misogynist creep? What did Maggie ever do to you? Karen is horrified that Andy would say such a thing, and won’t entertain the idea that it was the doll who said it. I dunno, did six-year-olds in the 80s know what “bitch” even meant? [Dove: Depends if someone in your circle of friends had an older brother or sister who gleefully reported every new swear they learned and what it meant. But there’s a real vibe that Andy doesn’t have friends, hence his love for the Good Guys products. So basically, it’s clearly from the doll.]
Karen puts Andy back to bed, and then listens outside the door. Andy tells Chucky he was right; she didn’t believe him. The doll’s head turns toward the door, and we see the shadows of Karen’s legs under the door, so Chucky turns back to Andy and the doll voice says, “Hi! I like to be hugged!” Hell to the no. Nope nope nope.
The camera zooms in on the eyes and this time they do blink shut. Gah! Do not want!
Karen drops Andy (and Chucky) off at school the next day, but Andy sneaks back out after she leaves and gets on the L train. Because apparently it’s not unusual for a teacup human to ride the L all alone during school hours. Presumably without paying, unless Chucky happened to go through Maggie’s purse after she went through the window.
Andy and Chucky get off at what looks like probably not the best part of town, and Andy keeps seeming to listen to Chucky direct him through the area. They come to a run down dump, and Andy sets Chucky in a rocking chair among some other garbage (there seems to be a theme of Chucky in rocking chairs) while he goes to “tinkle.”
Cut back to the empty rocking chair and that low-to-the-ground camera perspective as someone runs across the street and into the hovel, where Eddie Caputo is sleeping with a revolver halfway under the pillow, barrel pointed toward his head. Well, we’re all about gun safety ’round here, aren’t we?
A door opens and we see tiny fingers that definitely look plastic but could maybe be mistaken for Andy’s curl around the edge of the door. Hey, if you have a rat phobia, this might not be the scene for you, because those little fuckers are everywhere. The little hand opens the oven door and a breath of air blows out the pilot light (this place looks totally abandoned, but the gas is still on? Mmkay.), then the hand turns all the knobs all the way on.
Eddie hears some noises and comes downstairs, shooting indiscriminately, because I guess these noises are different from the rat noises he’s probably used to? Anyway, the shooting attracts Andy’s attention after he sees Chucky isn’t where he left him, so he runs across the street (toward the gunshots, oh Andy, you truly have no sense of self preservation, do you) and starts yelling for Chucky. Inside, Eddie startles at the yelling and starts to point the gun at the window, then pulls back when he realizes it’s just Andy. So, whatever else Eddie is, he’s not a shooter of random little kids.
Then he kicks the kitchen door in, shoots blindly, and triggers an explosion that blows the whole house apart. I really don’t think the gas concentration in the house was at prime “apocalyptic explosion” levels, but sure. (“Hey, we have extra money in the budget; what should we use it for?” “Hmm. Explosions that make no logical sense?” “Sold!”)
Cut to Karen walking into the police station because Detective Mike called her, and he confirms that she didn’t stop by school to pick Andy up first? Okay, is there supposed to be another scene before this, because this is confusing as fuck. Did Mike not tell her that Andy is at the police station when he called her? That’s kind of a dick move. So, Andy is in a little room, being questioned again by Partner Jack, and saying that Aunt Maggie went out the window because she saw Chucky and it scared her so much. Then just as Karen bursts in, Jack asks another question that I can’t quite make out, but I think is something about why Chucky wanted to go see Eddie. There’s a tape recorder going, and again, is it even legal to question a six-year-old without any sort of guardian present? [Dove: I’m going with no. I was under the impression that all minors had to have a responsible adult with them. Likewise, anyone without the capacity to comprehend the situation requires someone who does. But that’s the UK. We do things a bit differently to the USA.]
Karen tells Andy that nobody believes him about Chucky, and he’s going to be taken away from her if he doesn’t start telling the truth. Uh, can they do that? Do they really think this kid is going around murdering people? Andy starts beating up on Chucky and demanding he talk to the adults, and the doll voice goes into the whole “I’m Chucky, hidey-ho, ha ha ha” thing, and I’m sure the “ha ha ha” has more of a mocking tone to it this time. Which makes me wonder – is Charles saying the doll phrases, or is he basically just hitting “play” on the voicebox? Because there’s no way the doll’s pre-programmed name is just coincidentally Chucky, so he must be talking using the doll voice somehow? [Dove: I’m going with Chucky can do the Good Guy voice (no matter how unlikely that is) because of a scene in Child’s Play 2.] [JC: Off the top of my head, I can’t think of what scene you’re referring to. Good think I’ve got this box set sitting here staring at me! *runs off to watch the rest of the series*]
Some doctor from like a kiddie mental hospital butts in and says it would be best if Andy spent some time with him, and I guess Karen lets him take Andy, because the next thing we see is her going into her apartment, carrying Chucky. She sets him on the coffee table and demands he say something, because she is a woman pushed to her limits. She even curses at him, oh my! The doll voice tells her he likes to be hugged (still nope!), and she laugh-cries a little at herself.
In the kitchen, she picks up the Good Guys box to throw it out, looking at it like “Fucking worst thirty bucks I ever spent,” and then something falls out of the box and hits the floor. Zoom in on the Good Guys branded D-cell batteries, included with every doll!
But . . . if the batteries are here, how is the doll moving around and talking . . . ?
[Dove: Also… Good Guys have their own branded batteries? That is taking branding just too far.]
Slow creep back into the living room, where Chucky is still sitting on the coffee table. Looking like she’d rather stick her arms in a piranha tank, Karen picks up the doll, turns it over, and opens the battery compartment. Empty. Then the doll’s head twists around like it’s in the fucking Exorcist or something (actually, Brad Dourif did go on to be in Exorcist 3, so maybe this tracks?), and the doll voice almost yells “Hi, I’m Chucky, wanna play?!”
Karen has the appropriate reaction to this, which is to scream and drop the doll. Unfortunately, it rolls under the couch and out of sight. Ah!
She leans down and jabs at Chucky a couple times (nonono, don’t poke the bear!), then slowly pulls him out from under the couch. Again she demands he talk to her, only this time she lights a fire in the gas fireplace and says she’ll throw him in if he doesn’t talk to her. Ineffective method for couples’ counseling; extremely effective method for making a killer doll out himself. Chucky comes to life, and now we get the Dourif Chucky voice yelling at Karen, calling her a bitch and saying he’ll teach her to fuck with him, while fighting, kicking punching and biting. Anyone who says Chucky isn’t scary because he’s just a doll and you could just kick him away from you clearly underestimates the pent-up rage-strength of a serial killer trapped in a three-foot tall plastic body.
So here we have it, guys. Forty-five minutes into the movie, we finally get the big Chucky reveal, and it’s for sure worth the wait. This is one of the creepiest reveals in any horror movie – finding the batteries; the slow, tense walk into the living room; the realization that the battery compartment is empty . . . I love this whole scene so much.
Instead of sticking around to kill Karen, Chucky runs out of the apartment, gets on the elevator, and takes off through the mean city streets.
Karen takes a cab to the police station and runs into Mike coming out of the building. She rambles about finding out Chucky’s alive, shows Mike the bite on her arm, and the whole time he’s acting like “Go home, you’re drunk.” Then she says fine, she’ll go find the peddler that sold her the doll. I’m not really sure what good that’s gonna do, but okay. Mike shouts after her that she shouldn’t go to that part of town at this time of night, but she ignores him and jumps back in the cab.
She finds the peddler, he tries to sexually assault her, Mike has followed her and saves her. On the one hand, I hate that any of this has to happen at all. Women aren’t safe to walk anywhere alone at night; the man warned her this would happen; the man has to save her. On the other hand . . . actually, I’m not sure there is another hand. Huh. Okay then.
Mike manhandles the guy until he tells him he got the doll at a “burned-out toy store on Wabash.” Now, hold on, because I’ve always wondered this. So after his soul was in the doll, Chucky just crawled back in the box and allowed this dude to pick him up, wheel him around in his shopping cart full o’ goods, then be sold to a random lady on the street? Why? Why wasn’t he out of that store as soon as he transferred himself? [Dove: Don’t poke the plot holes. It causes reboots.] [JC: *carefully pulls poking hand back*]
Eh. Anyway, after some prodding, Mike explains the beginning of the movie to Karen, and tells her that Charles Lee Ray threatened to kill Eddie Caputo and himself. Uh oh, Mike, guess who he’s after next?
Mike drives Karen home and tells her Charles’s address after she demands to know where he lived, then she tries to convince him that he’s in danger, but he’s having none of it and literally pulls her out of his car. As he’s driving away, she tells him that she’s a loose end, and he hates loose ends so he’ll have to check up on this.
Cut to Mike at the police station, pulling Charles Lee Ray’s file before heading home. Loose ends, y’all.
As Mike starts to drive home, Chucky pops up from the backseat and starts trying to strangle him with jumper cables. Is this the first time we see this supposed strangler actually, you know, strangle someone? For someone known as the Lakeshore Strangler, I feel like Chucky does very little strangling throughout the series.
Mike fends Chucky off, burning him with the car’s cigarette lighter, then Chucky produces a Very Large Knife from who knows where and starts stabbing it through the back of the seat. Then he switches to the bottom of the seat in a move I’m still not sure the mechanics of, and starts trying to stab Mike in the dick. Honestly, Mike seems more freaked out by that than any other aspect of this attempted murder. All this time, Mike avoids getting murdered while driving like an asshole – he’s so far hit a parked car, a city mailbox, a trashcan fire, and managed to flip the car. And can I just say, obvious stunt driver is obvious. I mean, the stunt driver is wearing a beanie, for fuck sake.
So, with the car upside down, Chucky stabs his Very Large Knife into the door frame of the car instead of Mike’s face, then starts running around the car laughing it up and taunting Mike. As you do. Chucky starts to come in through the window, but Mike shoots him and it flings Chucky back and sends him off to lick his wounds since he was under the impression that he can’t be hurt. Because, you know, doll. Mike sort of flops back with this “what the fuck just happened” look on his face, then we fade out to an apartment building at sunrise.
Karen is inside, and oh! This is Charles Lee Ray’s apartment! The walls are all painted with murals of some voodoo priest-looking guy, parts of the chant, and a basically naked white dude kneeling in supplication to . . . Damballa, I guess? Also, the naked white dude is supposed to be Charles, isn’t it. I would feel very uncomfortable living in a place where the walls were painted with naked more-than-life-sized portraits of myself, but you do you, Chucky.
While Karen is looking around in . . . horror? disgust? morbid fascination? we see Mike sneaking up behind her. It’s not a jump-scare for us, but it is for her. He tells her what he found out in Charles’s file – his nickname was Chucky (first off, yeah, duh, that’s a pretty common diminutive of Charles; second, I can’t imagine anyone actually referring to a grown adult human as “Chucky”), and he spent a lot of time with a dude named John Bishop. Mike shows Karen a mugshot, and then they both look up at the voodoo priest guy painted on the wall. I don’t think the painting actually looks that much like the guy, but sure, okay. Whatever gets us to where we need to go. [Dove: Yeah, they look nothing alike except both depict a black guy. So… unfortunate implications there. And that’s before we get to the voodoo stuff.]
Mike does not once mention the fact that he got attacked by a fucking killer doll, though. Maybe he drank the memory away.
We cut to John Bishop in his house, about to make tea. That is, until Chucky shows up standing on his kitchen counter, wanting to know why he bled when he got shot. I mean, fair question. Plastic really shouldn’t bleed.
John tells him he’s turning human, and the more time he spends in that body, the more human he becomes. Chucky refuses to spend the rest of his days as a doll, and John refuses to help him because he’s an abomination and an outrage against nature. Well, sure, but some people say the same thing about pineapple on pizza. And those people are wrong, FYI. [Dove: I was about to be offended until your last sentence. I’m all for pineapple. Also, my main reason for commenting is: if he’s turning human, how far does that go — let’s leave the infamous Bride scene out of things for now — I mean, if he just stayed as the doll, would it eventually become a very small human with flesh and human features? Or does it just mean that he will look like a doll forever, but he can be hurt like a human?] [JC: Another pineapple pizza person?! One of us! One of us! And the thought of a doll-sized human Chucky makes my brain run screaming.]
John says he’s going to stop Chucky, and runs into the other room to . . . make a phone call. I don’t know who the hell he thinks he’s going to call about this. Do the Ghostbusters handle possessed dolls? But then Chucky pops up again with John’s own voodoo doll (look, I know none of this is an accurate portrayal of voodoo; I’m just trying to work with what the movie’s giving me here) and starts breaking limbs until he tells him that he has to transfer his soul out of the doll and into the first person he revealed his true nature to.
Chucky’s like, “Yay, I get to be six years old again!” which is honestly such a strange reaction. Who wants to be a little kid with no agency again? Especially if you’re an established serial killer? Like, what’s the best case scenario here? [Dove: Yep, and he’ll have outgrown his childhood by the time the creepy child trope really hits its stride. I suppose he could instigate the creepy child trope?]
Chucky announces that he has a date with a six-year-old boy (. . . uh, phrasing, Chucky, phrasing), and that John has a date with death. Then he stabs the voodoo doll with this ritualistic-looking knife, and John starts to bleed out.
Mike and Karen show up at John’s place just in time for him to tell Karen she must save the boy; stop Chucky before he can say the chant; and shoot him in the heart. Then, having served his expository purpose to the movie, he dies.
Chucky shows up at the kiddie psych ward Andy’s being held at, and Andy’s terror when he looks out the window and sees Chucky coming for him seems so genuine that I hope nobody on set was pulling any questionable shit on little Alex Vincent to get that performance out of him.
Chucky steals keys from an orderly who’s not paying attention and makes his way to Andy’s room. Fortunately, Andy has pulled the old “stuff pillows under the covers to make it look like he’s in bed” trick, and sneaks past Chucky, picking up the keys he dropped and using them to move through the hospital. He ends up in what I think must be the electroshock therapy room, and somehow Chucky has beat him there by going in through windows and shit. I’m not sure why all these windows are open in Chicago in November, but there you have it. Chucky tackles Andy, then starts playing hide and seek, because why make things easy on yourself. Andy picks up a scalpel, and the thought of a six-year-old with a scalpel isn’t terrifying at all, no sir. Then Andy proceeds to back through the room, running into literally every machine in the vicinity. Never back into rooms! [Dove: When Andy tripped over all the drip stands, I found myself thinking that it was the first time that a victim’s sudden clumsiness as the killer approaches isn’t so eye-poking. Kids don’t always have the best co-ordination (kid!Dove fell off the stage in a school play), especially when they are terrified.]
The doctor comes in and grabs Andy, wrestling the scalpel away from him, and this never would have happened if he hadn’t been backing through the room like he’s never seen a horror movie, but what do I know, right? Doc’s trying to give Andy a shot while he struggles and yells about Chucky trying to kill him, and then Chucky picks up the scalpel and stabs Doc behind the knee. Gah! No! That’s almost as bad as slicing the Achilles tendon, urgh. Then Chucky sticks the electroshock halo headpiece thingie on the doc’s head and shocks him til blood comes out his eyes and mouth. Sort of. After he dies, there’s still blood coming out his mouth, but the blood around his eyes has mysteriously disappeared. Ahh, continuity!
Mike and Karen show up sometime soon after this; Jack fills Mike in on what happened, while a little girl patient tells Karen that Chucky was looking for Andy. Karen tells Mike that Andy would go home if he was in trouble, and there’s a key under the mat. Really? So how many times have you been robbed, Karen? Because I feel like it’s a lot if that’s where you’re leaving your key.
Cut to Andy at home, shoving furniture up against the front door. Hold on, he got away from Chucky at the hospital? How? Was Chucky too busy having a murdergasm to notice Andy slip away? I guess that’s it, then.
We see Chucky in the elevator at the Barclays’ apartment building while an older couple ride it up. The woman calls him an ugly doll (where’s the lie?) and as the elevator goes up after they exit, we hear Chucky say “Fuuuuck you.” It’s one of those little touches that always makes me laugh.
After barricading the front door, Andy hides in his closet like he’s Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, then grabs a little mini baseball bat as a weapon. Despite being in the building a second ago, Chucky now comes down the chimney like the world’s most disappointing Santa Claus. I have no idea how he got in the chimney from where we last saw him in the apartment building hallway, but I’m gonna roll with it. Movie logic.
Andy swings the bat at Chucky, then drops it and runs. And then, having learned nothing from the hospital, he proceeds to back through the apartment. Andy. Stahp. Chucky pops up behind him and whacks him in the head with the bat. Good lord, Andy, have you learned your lesson about backing into rooms yet? I bet you haven’t. I bet you still pull this shit in the sequels, don’t you.
Mike and Karen show up at the apartment as Chucky starts chanting over unconscious Andy, with all the lightning gathering over the building and whatnot. They bust into the apartment and interrupt Chucky, throwing him across the room, but he immediately gets up and stabs Mike in what looks like the calf. Mike gives Karen one of his guns to protect herself and Andy, then goes after Chucky with his backup piece.
Unfortunately, that mini bat was still lying around somewhere, and Chucky uses it to knock Mike out. Whoops. Karen shoots Chucky in the leg, but then the gun jams, because Mike stupidly gave her the harder-to-use semi-automatic and kept the revolver for himself. WTF, Mike. (Quick aside – when I first bought my .380 semi-auto and took it to the range, it jammed almost every time I pulled the trigger. The gun dude at the range took a look and said that sometimes happens with new guns that haven’t been fired, and the solution was to, and I quote, “get a couple hundred rounds and shoot the shit out of it.” A few boxes of ammo later, problem solved. Anyway, a cop’s service weapon having this issue is very bad news.)
Karen drops the gun and runs, because who has the 10-30 seconds it takes to fix a jam when you’re being chased by a killer doll? Karen manages to trap a now-raging Chucky in the fireplace, behind the screen, and now-awake Andy drops the match in, after one of the most iconic exchanges of this movie: Chucky tells Andy he thought they were friends til the end; Andy replies, “This is the end, friend.” No little kid would say that, but it’s a great exchange, y’all. [Dove: Just my opinion, the delivery is a little narmy.] [JC: I had to Google what narmy means. You’re not wrong; it’s cheesy and silly as hell, but I enjoy it so much!]
Chucky runs around the living room on fire, and how he didn’t set the entire apartment aflame is beyond me. [Dove: All their fire budget went on the explosion?] He burns himself out on the floor, and hooray, he’s dead! Karen and Andy go into the bedroom to see to Mike (I won’t throw a bow-chicka-wow-wow in here since there’s a child in the mix), and then Karen sends Andy back out to get the first aid kit in the kitchen. Personally, I’d think that would be in the bathroom, but this way we get to see the charred Chucky-shaped spot on the carpet, with no Chucky present.
I mean, John did tell you to destroy the heart, Karen.
Chucky trips Andy as he’s running back to the bedroom, then advances on him with the ritual knife held high. At this point, Chucky is all blackened and gooey from melted plastic. It’s pretty freaky and a little gross, and very effectively scary.
Andy makes it to the bedroom and Karen runs around trying to lock all the doors leading in, including the bathroom door. This is the type of apartment you could run laps in if all the doors were open, I bet. Chucky starts stabbing through one of the doors that Karen is holding shut, then goes around and busts in through yet another door. Fuck, how many doors lead into this room? [Dove: Movies like this led me to believe that every American lived in a gigantic house where every room was accessible from every other room.]
All this time, Chucky has been yelling that he’ll let them live if they give him the boy. Ha ha, I don’t think I believe you, bro. Nice try, though.
Karen shoots him pretty much everywhere but the heart, shooting off his head, an arm, and a leg, until he finally stops coming toward her and Andy. Then Jack shows up and if there were any bullets left in that gun, Karen probably would have accidentally shot him, too.
Everyone gathers around Mike in the bedroom; Jack calls for an ambulance and Mike tells him the kid was right about the doll. Jack is probably wondering exactly how hard Mike was hit in the head, and Mike tells him to go check out the carnage; Chucky is scattered all over the hall. Then he tells Jack not to touch the doll, and you know Jack is going to touch it, right? Jack is the type of guy who routinely runs around pushing the proverbial little red button.
Yup, sure enough, Jack comes back into the room with Chucky’s head, sets it on top of the TV, and smacks it around a little for good measure. Well, I’m sure it’s fine. That’s not gonna piss Chucky off at all.
Of course Jack is backed up to a heating vent, which Chucky’s body (what’s left of it) pops out of and begins choking him while the head shouts encouragement. I feel like somebody definitely saw ReAnimator at some point, because this scene is very reminiscent of a scene in that movie where a reanimated decapitated head shouts instructions to its body. The eighties were weird, man.
Mike finally shoots Chucky through the heart, sending the body flying back against the wall and spraying blood all over the curtains. Karen, you are definitely not getting your security deposit back. Dying Chucky starts to say “Hi, I’m Chucky, wanna play?” in the “Chucky” voice, but by the time he reaches the last word, it’s reverted back to the doll voice. Another little thing that’s highly effective for something so minor.
Jack looks like he needs to change his underwear, and will probably be giving dolls the side-eye for the rest of his life. Mike asks if he believes him now, and Jack says yeah, but who’s going to believe him? Hmm, fair point. I wonder what happens to Mike and Jack after this movie. Are they mentioned at all in the sequels? At any rate, I’m sure the case report they write up would be a blast to read. [Dove: I dimly recall that it was vaguely mentioned, but can’t remember what was said. Stay tuned for my recap of the sequel!] [JC: Looking forward to it!]
We hear sirens, and Karen and Jack help Mike up, leaving Andy alone temporarily in the room with the doll who’s been tormenting him the entire movie. I mean, we think he’s dead, but come on. The villain never really dies! But then Karen comes back to get Andy, because they’re all going to go to the hospital with Mike.
Freeze frame on Andy staring back through a half-closed door at Chucky’s remains, and roll credits!
I love this series, and this movie in particular. It’s less cheesy overall than some of the sequels, but even when it’s cheesy I still like it. Sorry I don’t have anything more interesting to say in this wrap-up. I’m looking forward to Dove’s recap of Child’s Play 2, and peppering
the dead it with my own comments!
[Dove: This is also one of my favourite horror series. Nightmare on Elm Street just pips it at the post overall, but this comes in a very close second. I think, like JC said earlier, I like my villains to have a bit of character about them – something that gives them more life than Jason or Michael. When I first saw this movie, I thought it was ok, but I really liked the sequel (and the third has a world of controversy surrounding it in the UK, which has always kept it near the forefront of my mind when thinking of the horror genre in general). On repeated watches, I really started to appreciate this film though. It’s got some great scenes, and you can tell the franchise is made with love… even when they go a little wrong – and even then, at least they didn’t ever send Chucky to space or ram in an awkward found footage entry.]