Child's Play is a 1988 American supernatural slasher film directed and co-written by Tom Holland and produced by David Kirschner from a story by Don Mancini. It is the first film in the Child's Play (franchise) and the first installment to feature the titular character, a doll named Chucky. It stars Catherine Hicks, Dinah Manoff, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, and Brad Dourif. Hicks plays a widowed mother who gives her son a doll for his birthday, unaware that the doll is possessed by the soul of an infamous serial killer.
The film was released on November 9, 1988, and grossed more than $44 million against a production budget of $9 million. Along with the film gaining a cult following, the box office success spawned a franchise consisting of six sequels, along with merchandise and comic books. Child's Play was the only film in the series released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, as the rights to the series were sold to the Universal Pictures Company in 1990, right before production on Child's Play 2 started.
On the night of November 9, 1988, serial killer and fugitive Charles Lee Ray is seen running through the streets of South Side, Chicago. Chucky is left behind after his accomplice Eddie Caputo manages to escape. After he is fatally shot in a toy shop by homicide detective Mike Norris, Chucky transfers his soul into a "Good Guy" doll via a Haitian Vodou spell. A bolt of lightning causes the shop to explode. Mike, who survives the explosion, finds Charles' body.
The next day, widow Karen Barclay purchases the same doll from a peddler as a birthday gift for her six-year-old son Andy Barclay. Later that evening, Karen's friend Maggie Peterson babysits Andy in there high-rise apartment. After putting Andy to bed, Maggie is hit in the face with a hammer and falls out the window several floors all alongto her death. The police search the apartment. Detective Norris deems Andy a suspect, much to the annoyance of Karen, who orders Mike and the police to leave once they complete their investigation.
The next morning, Chucky orders Andy to skip school and take the Chicago "L" downtown. While Andy is urinating, Chucky sneaks into Eddie's lair, turning off a stove's pilot light but turning up the gas. Eddie is killed in the explosion when he fires a gun into the oven while investigating. Andy, once again a suspect, is placed in a psychiatric hospital. That night, Karen discovers that Chucky's batteries were never inserted and that Andy was telling the truth all along about Chucky functioning on his own power. When she threatens to burn the doll, Chucky comes to life, bites her on the arm, and escapes. She then finds Mike at the station and shows him the bite wound that Chucky made. He does not believe her and leaves. After almost being killed by Chucky in his car, Mike finally agrees to help Karen.
Chucky goes to John Bishop, Charles Lee Ray's former voodoo teacher. When Chucky asks why he is able to bleed, John informs him that the longer his soul remains trapped within the doll, the more human the doll will become; in order to escape the doll's body, Chucky must transfer his soul to the first person he revealed his possession to, which happens to be Andy. When John rejects Chucky's plea for help, Chucky fatally stabs John using a voodoo doll. Chucky escapes just before Karen and Mike arrive on the scene. Before dying, John tells them that although Chucky is a doll, his heart is fully human and vulnerable to fatal injury.
At the mental hospital, Chucky steals the key to Andy's cell, but Andy is able to trick Chucky with pillows under the bed sheets and escape his cell. Dr. Ardmore finds Andy and unsuccessfully tries to sedate him. Chucky kills Dr. Ardmore with an Electroconvulsive therapy machine and follows Andy home, rendering him unconscious with a baseball bat. As Chucky begins possessing Andy with "The Chant of Damballa", Karen and Mike arrive to stop him. Chucky slashes Mike, then goes after Karen and Andy. Soon, the pair traps Chucky in the fireplace and burn him. Thinking Chucky is dead, Karen and Andy leave the room to help Mike, but a heavily burned Chucky follows them and attempts to kill them. Chucky is again thought to be killed when Karen shoots off his head, arm, and leg. Mike's partner Jack "Mario" Santos arrives at the apartment and disbelieves the trio's story just before Chucky's body then bursts through a ventilation duct and tries to strangle Jack. During the struggle, Karen tells Mike to aim and shoot at Chucky's heart (as John told them to do) which Mike does finally killing him. While Mike, Mario and Karen go to the hospital, Karen turns off the bedroom's lights and Andy looks back at Chucky's burned remains before closing the door.
- Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay, a 6-year-old boy who is framed for Chucky's crimes.
- Catherine Hicks as Karen Barclay, Andy's mother.
- Chris Sarandon as Detective Mike Norris, a senior homicide police detective and Chucky's arch-enemy.
- Brad Dourif as Charles Lee Ray/voice of Chucky, a well known voodoo serial killer who transfers his soul into a "Good-Guy" doll in order to cheat death after being killed by Mike Norris.
- Dinah Manoff as Maggie Peterson, Karen's friend and Andy's babysitter.
- Tommy Swerdlow as Jack Santos, Norris's partner.
- Jack Colvin as Dr. Ardmore, the head doctor of a mental hospital.
- Raymond Oliver as John Bishop, Chucky's former voodoo mentor.
- Neil Giuntoli as Eddie Caputo, Chucky's old accomplice.
- Alan Wilder as Walter Criswell, Karen and Maggie's boss.
- Aaron Osborne as the Orderly
- Juan Ramirez as the Peddler
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. David Kirschner produced all six films in the Chucky series.
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. Holland, on the other hand, affirms that My Buddy dolls played a role in Chucky's design. Don Mancini stated his original script was a whodunit story which dealt with the effect of advertising/television on children. Mancini's original script was written to toy with the audience a bit longer, making them wonder whether young Andy was the killer rather than Chucky.
The film used various ways to portray Chucky, including RC animatronics and little people or child actors. Various animatronics and cosmetics were used for every scene. Throughout the movie, Chucky's cosmetics transition from looking toy-like to a more human look. The film created multiple Chucky animatronics such as a flailing tantrum Chucky, a walking Chucky, and a stationary Chucky. The animatronic's face was controlled via remote control through a rig that goes on one's face and captures facial movement.
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 US box office and an additional $10,952,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $44,196,684.
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 stereo 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 .
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.
On October 3, 2017, the film was re-released once again on DVD and Blu-ray in a boxset for the respective formats, containing all 7 Child's Play films.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 69% approval rating on based on reviews from 35 critics, with an average rating of 6.4/10. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, calling it a "cheerfully energetic horror film". Author and film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film three out of a possible four stars, calling it "[a] scary and clever horror thriller", also praising the film's special effects.
|Saturn Awards||Best Actress||Catherine Hicks||Won|
|Best Horror Film||Child's Play||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Younger Actor||Alex Vincent||Nominated|
|Best Writing||Tom Holland, John Lafia, Don Mancini||Nominated|
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."