October has arrived, and with it, the season of deepest reverence for horrorphiles the world over.
As much as I count myself among their bloodthirsty ranks, the best part of the Halloween season for me is the heightened interest in horror films it stimulates within traditionally non-horror-centric audiences. It is the one time during the year when everyone, no matter their usual cinematic proclivities, rushes to the horror section of the video store to snatch up as many classic titles as possible.
Well luckily for all of us, Netflix’s Watch Instantly service has made it even easier for us to access these horror classics, as you have a plethora of scary movies at your fingertips. To that end we hope you’ll consider giving recent Netflix WI addition Child’s Play a spin as October 31st looms ever closer.
Who Made It: Child’s Play was co-written and directed by Tom Holland. Holland is a hero to guys like me. His other big directorial effort was the spectacular 80s vampire romp Fright Night, which I would also highly recommend adding to your Halloween playlist. Holland also wrote two of my favorite unsung horror titles: The Beast Within and Psycho II.
Who’s In It: The two most recognizable faces in Child’s Play are Brad Dourif and Chris Sarandon. Dourif, who plays Charles Lee Ray at the beginning of the film and subsequently voices the sadistic doll Chucky, is a prolific character actor who is most recently recognizable for his turn as Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, as well as Doc Cochran on HBO’s Deadwood and Sheriff Brackett in Rob Zombie’s atrocious Halloween reboots. Sarandon, who plays the police officer hot on Ray’s doll-sized heels, is actually one of the stars of the original Fright Night, playing Jerry Dandrige, one of cinema’s sexiest, most evil vampires.
What It’s About: Child’s Play is the happy story of notorious serial killer Charles Lee Ray, alias The Lakeshore Strangler, whose murderous crime spree comes to a violent end when he is gunned down in a Chicago toy store. Just before he dies, he uses ancient dark magic to transfer his soul into a Good Guy doll. The doll ends up in the hands of six-year-old Andy Barclay who had desperately wanted a Good Guy for his birthday. Shortly after receiving the doll however, people around Andy begin to die horribly. The police begin to suspect young Andy may be psychologically disturbed, but Andy maintains that his plastic buddy Chucky is to blame.
Why You Should Watch It:
While Chucky may be as much a pop culture boogeyman as Freddy, Michael Myers, or Jason, Child’s Play is a franchise that does not enjoy the same level of cult adoration as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, or Friday the 13th. In fact, and in the interest of full disclosure, as much as I am a rabid horror fan, today marked the very first time I had seen Child’s Play. But the first film in this series is a fantastic example of supernatural horror that, for a good portion of its run time, relies on atmosphere and shared universal fears rather than explicit violence or jump scares.
I think we can all agree that dolls are freaking scary. Their life-like appearance despite being inanimate always engenders lingering doubts in our subconscious that they are in fact lifeless. Child’s Play feeds this universal mistrust of dolls by not only making the doll a vessel of pure evil, but also withholding shots of Chucky moving beyond his capacities as a toy for much of the movie. We know the doll is killing people, but it takes quite a while before we actually see him do so.
The movie plays off of that feeling you get when laying eyes on a particularly creepy doll and wondering what mischief it gets into when you aren’t looking. It also toys with the idea that maybe Andy really is the killer; even having him dress in the same Good Guy attire as Chucky through much of the movie. Child’s Play is a creepy, suspenseful ride that operates just as well as a mystery story as it does a campy horror film.
Among the best aspects of Child’s Play are its special effects. There is not a single computer-generated effect in the whole film. The task of bringing Chucky to life is accomplished through a series of unique camera angles, child actors in costume, and masterful practical effects. Seeing the myriad ways the filmmakers were able to breath life into the plastic antagonist is what makes the film so remarkable and allows it to stand the test of time. Particularly impressive is the ending sequence in which a pint-sized stuntman executes a full body burn and animatronics are subsequently used to create a charred, nearly extinct Chucky. It gives me chills just thinking about it.
Netflix is streaming Child’s Play in high-definition, which will only shed a brighter spotlight on the film’s stellar effects and provide clearer imagery for your inevitable nightmares.