Monday, October 22, 2012

Psychobabble's 150 Essential Horror Movies: Addition 22

Every day this October, I'll be adding a film to Psychobabble's 120 Essential Horror Movies to bring the list up to 150. Today’s addition is:

118. Child’s Play (1988- dir. Tom Holland)

By the end of the ‘80s, the already limited slasher genre had sufficiently painted itself into a corner. Uncountable numbers of teens had been macheted to death at various summer camps. Halloweens, Christmases, Prom nights, Birthdays, and Mother’s Days had been ruined by knife-wielding nutters. Even the genre’s savior, Freddy Kreuger, had pretty much run out of ideas. So, what next for the slasher genre? Jam a stick of dynamite up its bum and light the fuse, that’s what. Tom Holland reveals—no, revels in—the silliness of slasher conventions with Child’s Play. Our killer has now been reduced to a child’s doll, but this is no dead-eyed horror like “The Twilight Zone’s” Talky Tina. Chucky is too full of personality and nasty, Kreuger-esque humor to be scary… even if those My Buddy and mechanical Teddy Ruxpin dolls that inspired him were pretty unsettling. Chucky comes into being by appropriately asinine circumstances: Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) hunts serial killer Charles Lee Ray (the great Brad Dourif) to a toy store where the gunshot murderer pulls a little voodoo hooey and transfers his soul into a Good Guy doll. An obnoxious kid (Alex Vincent) gets the Charles Lee-infused doll for his birthday; mayhem ensues. And in that mayhem lies the walloping fun of Child’s Play, as we see the doll go kill-crazy, framing the 6-year old for his crimes. No wonder the kid takes to slapping Chucky around during cinema’s most hilarious police interrogation scene. Chucky’s attacks veer from the mundane (bonking a babysitter on the head with a hammer and tripping her out the window) to the astonishingly resourceful (cutting the brakes of the detective’s car and strangling him with the clipped brake cables!). Holland also gets in some good jabs at our consumerist culture and the toy companies that prey on kids by convincing them they simply will not be complete without the latest lump of plastic and stuffing. Holland makes a good point, but if you’re watching Child’s Play for economic criticism, you’re missing the point.

 See this piece in context as part of Psychobabble’s Essential Horror Movies of the 1980s here.
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