Child's Play is a classic slasher film and is iconic for good reason. With an ironic & satiric edge, Child's Play playfully, and creepily, explores the horrific idea of a child murderer & also the abuse of a child by adults through subtext and suggestion and its through the film's banality that this horror takes hold. There's something Freudian, something more than meets the eye here; giving it a staying power.
Having only ever caught bits of the original "Child's Play" on cable, I was impressed by how well this film holds up: "Fright Night" director Tom Holland devotes the first half of the film to generating suspense, as poor six year-old Andy is blamed for the crimes of his murderous doll Chucky and slated for the psych ward, before the third act erupts into an almost "Terminator"-esque battle with the killer toy.
The first Child's Play is much scarier than it's often credited for, at least, in the first half. As that half builds its psychological angle quite well-- as to whether Chucky is alive or not-- and it's properly suspenseful and developed. When the film switches into straight-forward slasher mode is when it loses its footing, unsure whether to play it serious or straight at the expense of its wise-cracking villain.
Saw this along with Poltergeist one late evening on German TV (dubbed in German) when I was a kid, staying at my grandparents place. It scared me stiff and I remember I slept very little that night. Seeing it again many years later, it is fun to notice just what scenes stood out in my mind for all this time. Not up there with Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street in terms of fun, but still has it's moments.
I've always found the first half of this film to be a bit slow; the filmmakers know we all know what the pay-off is, so they don't play much with the mystery. I prefer the second half: the suspense is executed better, the imagery is more horrific, the dialogue is more quotable, and Chucky is simply an engaging antagonist. I like some of the sequels more, but this is still a good start for the franchise.
Its voodoo subplot hasn’t aged particularly well and many have issues with where the series has gone as it’s aged, but what sticks out about the first Child’s Play is what a tight little thriller it is. Chucky has never been this scary since. Would make an excellent double bill with Candyman with its similar depiction of Chicago’s urban decay, use of graffiti, and sidelining of black narratives.
What makes this movie so uniquely entertaining is not just a sustained introduction of one of the major horror icons, but also the grim atmosphere. Winter surroundings of the wrong side of New York creates almost "Blade Runner" alike atmosphere - where a young single mom replaces a private detective. Alex Vincent is adorable and gives one of the most heart felt child performances. A silly movie with heart and soul.