Movie Reviews : ‘Child’s Play’ Packed With Chills and Thrills


Tom Holland’s “Child’s Play” (selected theaters) is like an exceptionally jolting roller-coaster ride through an especially scary tunnel of love. From the moment the film opens with a spectacular explosion in a Chicago toy store you’re holding on for dear life as the chills come thick and fast.

Scary, yet darkly funny, this thriller of the supernatural from the director of the terrific “Fright Night” moves with the speed of a bullet train and with style to burn. But be warned: It is not for the faint of heart--and, despite the title, it is absolutely not for small children for whom it is guaranteed to give nightmares.

The moral of the tale is simple enough: don’t buy toys for your child from some bum in a back alley. But what’s pretty young widow Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks), a jewelry saleswoman at the venerable Carson-Pirie-Scott department store, to do? For his sixth birthday her adorable little son Andy (Alex Vincent) craves one of those talking dolls almost as big as he is--but they cost $100. Can you blame her for grabbing one for a mere $30.00, no questions asked?


For adults there’s something uncanny, somewhat unsettling, about any robot-like doll that seems nearly but not quite human, although such toys seem to enchant youngsters. Andy’s quickly beloved Chucky, with his mop of red hair and intense blue eyes and chirpy mechanical voice, is enough to give you the creeps right from the start. And Chucky, whose voice is that of actor Brad Dourif, wastes no time letting poor, valiant Andy know that he’s no ordinary doll. But who’s going to believe a child when he tries to explain these increasingly sinister changes in Chucky?

“Child’s Play,” which was adapted from a story by Don Mancini, proceeds from one virtuoso nightmare sequence to the next, drawing upon a cornucopia of startling special effects. Yet Holland, to his credit, never allows them to overwhelm his heroic story of a young boy and his mother, aided by a sympathetic but understandably initially skeptical cop (Chris Sarandon), attempting to battle an elusive and horrendous force of evil.

The film is a stunner--in all senses of the word. The crucial contributions of cinematographer Bill Butler, composer Joe Renzetti, production designer Daniel A. Lomino and a raft of special effects experts are all first-rate. By the same token, Hicks, Sarandon, Vincent and Dinah Manoff as Hicks’ effervescent friend do yeoman jobs of managing to seem perfectly normal and nice human beings confronted with a diabolical creature. (You do come away wondering how so young a child as Alex Vincent could not be affected by appearing in such a film.) For all its shocks and gore, “Child’s Play” is not to be taken too seriously, but its R-rating surely should be.