Director: Tom Holland
Year of release: 1988
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 87 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Also known as: Chucky
Tagline: "Something has moved in with the Barclay family... and so has terror", "You'll wish it was only make believe" and "He wants you for a new best friend".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: While on the run from the police murderer Charles Lee Ray breaks into a toy store where he is pursued and shot dead by Detective Norris. Before he expires Lee Ray using a voodoo chant manages to cast his spirit into a large red headed doll which is connected to a popular cartoon and is seen as the must have toy of the moment. Some days later the doll in question that we come to learn is called Chucky is purchased by a struggling single mother Karen as a present for her young son Andy. Soon enough the possessed doll is causing mischief, mayhem and murder as the spirit of Lee Ray seeks vengeance on his old accomplice who abandoned him to the cops as well as the Detective who shot him. Initially revealing his true nature only to Andy no one believes the small boy when he claims the doll is alive and has done harm to his babysitter. As crimes pile up the police begin to think Andy is somehow involved or at least mentally troubled and he is taken to a clinic away from his mother. Whilst alone with the doll Karen comes to find out her son was right all along about Chucky having a mind of his own. It seems Chucky is targeting the confined Andy to aid in him in a plot to get back into human form. Karen struggles to convince Detective Norris of the situation so that the pair of them can put a stop to Chucky's plan and protect Andy.
Good points: The film feels very different than most other eighties slashers with the idea of a possessed doll instead of a human killer or human sized monster being something fairly out of the ordinary at the time. On top of the different type of killer the other characters are not typical slasher fare either with young Andy and his mother being the leads with Detective Norris also featuring heavily. So not your typical cast of horny teenagers/people in their early twenties. Slasher type films were very much struggling at this time with even the big franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th not making as much money as before. This one by virtue of being something quite different captured peoples imaginations and despite being a late in the day entry helped breath a little life into a flagging genre.
This also had a solid budget behind it which didn't hurt with some impressive special effects involving the car crash for example as well as polished direction from horror regular Tom Holland.
There are several memorable scenes in this which both stand out and impress. Firstly the part where Karen is alone in the apartment with Chucky and realises the batteries were never in the doll and he reveals himself to her soon after. Secondly a part where Chucky and Detective Norris are battling in a moving car and lastly the action packed end sequence where Chucky refuses to die creating some surprise scares where we think he is down and out only to spring back to life. This doesn't come across as too unrealistic or problematic as it sometimes does in other slashers seeing that it is more supernatural with voodoo being involved. Some may feel that they dragged the ending out too long and did too much but I liked it to be fair and thought it made for a dramatic finale.
As mentioned before the characters are not your typical slasher bunch and they are also pretty likeable as well with both Karen and Andy falling into this bracket. Though much older (or perhaps because of it) Karen makes for a fine final girl of a kind and the Andy character is well acted seeing he is played by such a young kid. With a child in such a key role they ran the risk of him appearing too cheeky, precocious, annoying or obnoxious but he is none of these things and wins us over to his side pretty early on. He delivers a cool and now iconic line towards the end as well.
The Chucky doll itself is pretty freaky looking and definitely lends a creepy aspect to things. It does feel slightly silly and hokey at times seeing a doll running around but the puppetry is very good and goes a long way to addressing this. The idea of an evil doll maybe too far fetched for many to be truly scary but dolls are something that freak a lot of people out as well so he'll perhaps divide opinion but I think in this film at least most would have to admit he does carry an eerie vibe. For those that dislike ventriloquist dummies and such he'll probably be more scary as he taps into that fear rather well. I felt the aforementioned scene where Karen finds the batteries to be a scary moment and the part where Chucky is tucked up in bed with Andy is quite unsettling. Also Chucky's more demonic look towards the end has a more frightening aspect to it when he starts to take damage but still keeps coming.
Bad Points: I was dissapointed that they didn't go into more detail of the crimes and character of the serial killer Charles Lee Ray. It would have been nice to learn more about his history. I think a more effective way of starting the film would for us to have seen him stalking and then killing or at least attacking a woman only to be caught in the act with this then leading to the police chase. As it was I found the chase at the start a bit weird. It seemed to suit a bank robber or something more than a serial killer. Not to say he couldn't be both a thief and a killer of course but the thing with the accomplice didn't sit well with me either. Again it makes me think more of someone involved in heists and robberies than murder.
Speaking of his accomplice Eddie I didn't really like the circumstances surrounding his appearance. To start with it was unrealistic that such a small boy would be able to take a train alone and unchallenged. He then walked past a bunch of people (homeless people granted but people never the less) who didn't seem to turn a hair at the sight of a small child wondering about alone in a rough part of town. Then I thought it was odd how the scene ended with Eddie shooting blindly into the kitchen without properly checking if there was even anybody in there. He just seemed too on edge and jumpy for me as he wouldn't have been expecting Lee Ray to even come after him seeing that he believed him dead.
As I went into before the killer being a doll here is going to be a natural turn off for some so this won't be a film for everybody. It may come across to many as being too corny and just not believable enough to be scary. Playing into this is how Chucky also has a touch of the Freddy Krueger about him in that he has one liners at times that add a comic touch. This again is something that some didn't like about Nightmare on Elm Street so for those that dislike that this may fall into similar territory.
Verdict: I saw this very late compared to most so hadn't witnessed it myself and only knew it by reputation and what I'd heard. The concept never appealed to me all that much but after finally siting down to watch it fairly recently in the last year or so I was pretty impressed and definitely enjoyed it. I can see why this was a springboard for Chucky going on to cement his spot as one of the icons of the genre. I would have liked to have seen more focus on Charles Lee Ray's killing career and maybe a slightly higher body count but those are my only major criticisms. I was tempted to give it a nine but decided on an eight in the end though it does tick most boxes.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Charles Lee Ray (physical human body): Shot by Norris in the toy store.
2) Maggie: Hit in the head with a hammer causing her to fall from a high window.
3) Eddie: Dies in explosion after shooting his gun into a gas filled kitchen.
4) Voodoo guy: Arm and leg broken and his likeness doll is stabbed in the chest which kills him.
5) Doctor: Electrocuted when some sort of medical device is placed on his head.