Child's Play (Tom Holland, 1988, USA)

 While Tom Holland's Child's Play is perhaps best known today for introducing the world to one of the most iconic villains in horror history, the film stands alone on its own merits. The film terrified me as a child, and even today I find it undeniably creepy. Perhaps it is the uncanny valley Chucky occupies, the incredible effects and puppetry lending him an almost-human-but-not-quite-quality. It might also be the relentlessly bleak and downbeat atmosphere of the film. The film makes great use of its Chicago setting, showcasing the city's seedier and grittier side at the tail end of the 1980s. The atmosphere recalls similarly evocative films about urban decay such as Robocop. The film was quite controversial in 1988, and the MGM studios were met with protests upon its release. 

The film is probably most effective before Chucky "comes to life." The great tension is enhanced by the cinematography from the legendary Bill Butler, an industry veteran who was behind the camera on The Conversation, Jaws, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - among other classics. Butler plays with shadow and light to lend the film an extra air of creepiness. 

The film is very tight and deals with limited characters, all of whom we identify with. The plotting is also very purposeful, and the film does not spare a single minute. The pacing is excellent, and culminates in a finale which is surprisingly tense considering it revolves around a killer doll. The film earns its multiple fake endings as Chucky devolves into a horrific melted monster.

While it is hard to view Child's Play outside of the context of the numerous often campy sequels which followed, the original film was successful for a reason and still is worth watching. Preferably with the lights on and not alone at night.



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