Sunday, 2 October 2016

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: CHILD'S PLAY


I have never really been one to watch horror films. I believe part of it to be out of sheer squeamishness, but mostly because of the way they are expected to work, particularly in the case of slasher films. If you start with Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” and you know most other such films have used it as a template, right down to the order in which the heroine and detective die, then there isn’t much incentive to watch any others. However, with a theme month at hand, and an online supply of horror films to pick from, I thought I would see if I can force myself out of my comfort zone.

As a child, I saw enough ads for dolls on Saturday morning children’s television to know those things are creepy to look at anyway, so I thought “Child’s Play” was a good enough place to start. Already well known as the first in a series of films plagued with accusations of inciting child violence, I didn’t know exactly what I was likely to see. However, from what I saw, I don’t see how that could be – maybe the problems came later in the series.

The way “Child’s Play” began came off as a bit corny, using the occult to put a serial killer into a Good Guy doll, which blew up the toy store where it happened. That a mother would then buy that particular doll from a homeless man in an alley seemed even more far-fetched. Being asked to believe the doll did not burn up in the toy store, or was thrown away as damaged goods, felt like a lot to be asked to ignore.

However, what was set up in the following forty minutes was done rather well, letting the audience wonder if a six-year-old boy could have murdered his mother’s friend with a toy hammer. The reveal to the mother that the doll was sentient, having discovered the batteries were not entered, was quite a clever reveal. (By the way, I don’t care if I am revealing too much about the plot here, as I imagine many people have seen it by now, and anyone that hasn’t need to see it to see how it works.)


The last half-hour is where it falls apart for me again. Knowing the mother and a detective know the doll is alive, then seeing the child in a mental hospital was a bit much, and knowing Chucky can be killed because his heart is now “human” makes it sound like the characters need a silver bullet for a werewolf. No wonder the resulting series of films became straightforward slasher-type stories, then comedies – once the voodoo conceit for Chucky existing was used up, there needed to be somewhere else to go.

In closing, I can say I did watch all of it, but it was a bit silly. It didn’t make me think of watching any of the further “Child’s Play” films, but I’ll see if I can find, for next time, a horror film done in a less hokey way.

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