When you’re dealing with White kids in horror films, only one of two things is ever happening: Either the evil little White kid is scheming and no one is paying attention until it’s too late, or the innocent little White kid is screaming at the top of their lungs that something is very, very wrong… and no one is paying attention. Either way, White parents are dropping the damn bowling ball when it comes to heeding either the foul behaviours or the fervent warnings of their children. In Child’s Play, we get a seriously heavy dose of the latter as a single mother learn too little too late the importance of keeping a trusting ear.
Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) is barely making ends meet during holiday season and can’t afford to get her son, Andy (Alex Vincent), the Good Guy doll that he so desperately wants for his birthday without going over her budget. As (very bad) luck would have it, a peddler has come into a rather large stockpile of the dolls following an accident at a local toy store, and Karen is able to get the doll at well below market price. Unfortunately, this is only after murderer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) uses a spell to magically transfer his soul into the very doll she ends up buying, in order to thwart death and evade the law. Whoops!
While Andy is initially ecstatic and grateful for his gift, he very soon sees the toy for what it is: pure evil. Unfortunately, Andy has a hard time convincing his mother to see what he sees, and is blamed for by her for minor things, then investigated by police when murders and accidents pile up all around them. The poor kid isn’t just dealing with a viciously homicidal Fisher-Price knock-off, but absolutely everyone around him, people whom he’s never lied to before, deem him a mentally unsound liar.
As a child, and even later, as an adult, Child’s Play wasn’t just frightening, but incredibly frustrating to watch. For one thing, the film wildly exotifies, demonizes, and misrepresents Haitian Voudou. This is supposedly what Charles Lee uses to tranfer his essence to a previously inanimate object but, trust me, the film would have been just as effective without the misuse of a largely misunderstood African ancestral religion. Besides the gross appropriation, each and every time Andy did everything in his 6-year-old power to save the day, the bullheadedness of the people around him would render his many efforts fruitless. Even if only to humour the kid, it wouldn’t have killed the people around him to investigate his claims before the plastic butcher came for them. Each time they disregarded Andy’s fear, each adult only made themselves, and the boy, easy pickings.
Despite some faux pas in the story and continuity issues in the cinematography towards the end of the film, Child’s Play was not only a very vivid horror, but way ahead of its time, and I’m sure responsible for a few hours in the therapist’s office for all of the 80s babies that begged their parents to watch it and walked away wholly traumatized. The movie also managed to effectively chastise those parents who would use the advantage of their advanced years to silence children.
I give this one 4.5