Child's Play (1988 film)

Child's Play (1988 film)
Child's Play

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tom Holland
Produced by David Kirschner
Screenplay by Don Mancini
John Lafia
Tom Holland
Story by Don Mancini
Starring Catherine Hicks
Chris Sarandon
Music by Joe Renzetti
Cinematography Bill Butler
Editing by Roy E. Peterson
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) November 9, 1988
Running time 88 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9,000,000[1]
Box office $44,196,684[2]

Child's Play is a 1988 American horror film written by Don Mancini and directed by Tom Holland. The film was released on November 9, 1988 and stars Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon and Brad Dourif. The official tagline of the film was "You'll Wish it Was Only Make-Believe."

The film met with moderate success upon its release, and has since developed a cult following among fans of the horror genre. The film is the first in the Child's Play film series and was the only film in the series released by MGM/UA, as the rights to the series were sold to Universal beginning with Child's Play 2. In 2008, a remake of the film was discussed and slated for a 2012 or 2013 release.[3]



On the morning of November 9, 1988 in Chicago, Illinois, while being chased by Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon), Charles Lee Ray, a serial killer known as "The Lakeshore Strangler" (Brad Dourif), is shot and mortally wounded. Knowing he cannot escape, the dying Charles takes cover inside a toy store, finding boxes of talking "Good Guy" dolls, and uses a voodoo ritual to transfer his soul into one of the dolls. The store is then struck by lightning and it burns to the ground, although much of its inventory, including the dolls, survives.

Later that morning, 6-year-old Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) tells his widowed mother Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) that he wants a Good Guy doll for his birthday. Unable to afford the full price, Karen buys a stolen doll from a street peddler, which is the same doll into which Charles Lee Ray had earlier transferred his soul.

That night, as Andy is playing with the doll – who has introduced himself as "Chucky" – Karen's friend, Maggie Peterson (Dinah Manoff), who is babysitting Andy, scolds him for turning on the evening news and placing Chucky in front of the TV. When Andy tries to deny the accusation, she doesn't believe him and sends him to bed. Maggie is later violently struck with a hammer by an unseen figure and falls out of the apartment kitchen window to her death. Andy, when questioned, insists that Chucky has revealed himself to be alive and that he killed Maggie.

The next day, Andy visits the house of Eddie Caputo (Neil Giuntoli), Charles Lee Ray's accomplice, who had betrayed him. Chucky sneaks into Eddie's house and blows out the pilot light on the stove and turns up the gas. Eddie discovers Chucky is alive and, in panicked self-defense, fires his gun and the house explodes, killing him.

Authorities place Andy in a psychiatric ward after he is found near the crime scene. Karen discovers Andy was telling the truth after discovering that the included batteries in the Good Guy doll box were never put inside Chucky. After threatening to throw him in the fireplace, Chucky comes alive in her hands, bites her and runs out of the apartment. She contacts Detective Norris, who is now investigating Maggie's death. Although he initially doubts her story, the homeless man who sold Karen the doll confirms that he retrieved it from the burnt down toy store where Charles Lee Ray was killed. Norris becomes a believer after he is attacked by Chucky in his car and survives only by shooting the doll.

Chucky meets with John Simonsen, his voodoo instructor from years past, and asks why his gunshot wound bled, since a doll should have no blood. John informs him that his body is slowly conforming to that of a human's and will soon become entirely flesh and blood, trapping him within it. Chucky demands to know how to avoid such a fate, but John, feeling Chucky has abused his voodoo knowledge, refuses to help. Having anticipated this, Chucky tortures him via a pre-prepared voodoo doll, and John admits Chucky can escape the doll body if he transfers his soul into the body of the first person he revealed his true nature to, which is Andy. Laughing that he will "get to be six years old again," a perfect disguise for a killer, Chucky stabs the voodoo doll and leaves John to die. Karen and Detective Norris, following leads from Charles Lee Ray's case file, find John as he lies dying and receive instructions on how to kill Chucky; although Chucky is a doll, his heart is fully human and vulnerable to fatal injury.

Knowing that Chucky is after him, Andy escapes from the psychiatric unit. Chucky brutally kills the ward's head doctor (Jack Colvin) with an electroshock machine in the process, leaving the authorities to believe Andy killed the doctor while escaping. Mike and Karen rush back to the apartment hoping that Andy is there. Chucky reaches the apartment before them and knocks Andy unconscious with a baseball bat, and proceeds the voodoo ritual to steal his soul. After a prolonged struggle, Chucky is thrown into the fireplace by Karen and despite some coaxing by Chucky, Andy manages to light a match and ignite the fireplace, ultimately setting Chucky ablaze.

Andy and Karen, thinking Chucky is dead, go to help the injured Mike Norris. After Andy gets the first aid kit from under the sink, he discovers Chucky is gone. Very burnt but alive, Chucky chases after Andy and Karen, who barricade themselves in the bedroom; Karen shoots him several times, missing his heart, but scattering his head, an arm and a leg in the hallway. After Norris' partner, Jack Santos, arrives, the scattered doll parts attempt to attack at the instructions of Chucky's screaming, severed head. Karen, remembering John's last words, tells Mike to shoot Chucky in the heart. Norris does so and makes a direct hit, killing Chucky.Mike and Jack then acknowledge that no one will believe them. The film ends with Andy looking back at Chucky's remains as he, Karen, Mike, and Jack go out to a waiting ambulance.



Child's Play was filmed in Chicago, Illinois for on-location scenes. The Chicago landmark the Brewster Apartments located at Diversey and Pine Grove served as the location of the apartment where Andy and Karen lived and is pictured on the film's poster. In-studio filming took place at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, California.

David Kirschner produced all five movies in the Chucky series. While Kirschner and others claim credit as creator of the titular character, respected special effects and make-up artist Kevin Yagher is the actual designer and executor of the Chucky.[citation needed]


It is rumored that the "Good Guy Dolls" were based on the My Buddy dolls created by Hasbro. However, during an airing of the movie on the morning of January 7, 2007, AMC claimed the creator modeled the doll after the Cabbage Patch Kids. This was confirmed by an interview with the creator, Don Mancini, which was featured on the Seed of Chucky DVD. Don Mancini has stated that his original script was a whodunit story which dealt with the effect of advertising/television on children. Mancini's original script was also written to toy with the audience a bit longer, making them wonder if young Andy was the killer rather than Chucky. This technique was still somewhat achieved in the film, as the killer isn't shown on screen for the first 40-45 minutes; furthermore, Chucky and Andy are around the same height, and even wear similar clothing. Despite all this, it grows increasingly obvious that Chucky is the actual murderer.

Chucky's full name, Charles Lee Ray, is derived from the names of notorious killers Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray.

Maggie's death was originally going to be by electrocution while taking a bath. The idea was abandoned, and was later used for Tiffany's "death" in Bride of Chucky.

Box office and reception


Child's Play was produced on a budget of $9,000,000. The film was released on November 9, 1988 in 1,377 theaters, opening at #1 with $6,583,963. The film went on to gross $33,244,684 at the domestic box office and an additional $10,952,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $44,196,684.[4]

Critical reception

Critical reviews were generally positive. Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, calling it "cheerfully energetic horror film".[5] The film currently holds a 68% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews (19 positive, 9 negative).[6] Areas of the film that were commonly praised were the original concept, special effects and acting. The young Alex Vincent, who played Andy Barclay, was said to have played a generally convincing role as a terrified boy, while Brad Dourif was praised for his creepy and realistic voice-acting of Chucky.


During the initial release, a large crowd of protesters formed at the main entrance of MGM calling for a ban on the film because, they claimed, it would incite violence in children. Local news reporters from two TV stations were broadcasting live from the scene. The producer, David Kirschner, was watching the demonstration on TV and was disturbed. Jeffrey Hilton, who had been working in Kirschner's office at MGM, indicated that he could quell the disturbance in 10 minutes. While Kirschner was watching from the safety of his office, Hilton spoke to the group's leader, shook hands, and the group instantly dispersed, much to the chagrin of the newscasters. Hilton did not reveal to Kirschner whether it was a threat or simply diplomacy that saved the day.

Hilton's diplomacy notwithstanding, the film's franchise was plagued with accusations of inciting violence in children. Child's Play 3 was cited as the "inspiration" for the murder of James Bulger. A gang in Manchester, England, kidnapped and murdered a 16 year old girl. While they tortured her, they forced her to listen to recordings of the gang leader repeating the catchphrase "I'm Chucky, wanna play?".[7][8][9] Tom Holland, in response to both murders, defended the film stating viewers of horror movies could only be influenced by their content if they were "unbalanced to begin with".[10]



The soundtrack for Child's Play was released in the US for the first time on October 28, 2009 but it is a limited edition of 1200 copies made. The soundtrack is now discontinued.

  • "Opening Chase (Main Titles - Child's Play)"
  • "Maggie Gets It / Maggie Out the Window"
  • "Chucky's Shoes / Just a Doll"
  • "El Ride"
  • "Batteries Included / Mamma Walk / Street Music" (Not Used in the Film)
  • "Good Night A.H. / Mamma Visits"
  • "Chucky Kills the Doctor"
  • "Chucky Goes to the Hospital"
  • "Batter Up / Chucky's Chant / This Is the End / Chuck Roast"
  • "Chucky Goes to Pieces / Chuck In a Box"
  • "Goodbye Chucky / Child's Play - End Credits"
  • "News Cast"
  • "Child's Play - End Credits" (Without Vocal)
  • "The Chucky Song" (Not Used in the Film)

The soundtrack for the film was only released in France in 1989 with different tracks.

  • "A Chucky Is Born"
  • "Chucky Blows Up A House"
  • "Speak Up, You Little Bastard"
  • "Momma: Lookin' For A Bum"
  • "Chucky Takes A Drive"
  • "Chucky's Chant"
  • "This Is The End, My Friend"
  • "Chucky Goes To Pieces"
  • "At The Hospital"
  • "The Doctor Is A Shocker"
  • "It's Only A Doll"
  • "Batter's Up"
  • "Chucky: His Last Days"
  • "End Titles: When The Composer Sings"


Child's Play has been adapted into two comic book series:

DVD releases

The film was first released on DVD by MGM in 1999. The film was presented in an open-matte full screen presentation and included a theatrical trailer and a "Making Of" booklet. However the Australian DVD release by MGM featured the film in non-anamorphic widescreen transfer. The DVD was re-released in 2007 with a lenticular cover.

A 20th Anniversary DVD was released by MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on September 9, 2008.[12] The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 Widescreen format (for the first time in the U.S. in 20 years) enhanced for 16x9 monitors and includes an English 5.1 surround track and English, French, and Spanish 2.0 surround tracks. Special features include two audio commentaries with Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, Kevin Yagher, producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Don Mancini, a "Selected Scene Chucky Commentary," "Evil Comes in Small Packages" featurettes, a vintage featurette titled "Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child's Play," and "Chucky: Building A Nightmare" featurette, Theatrical Trailer and a Photo Gallery. The film received a Blu-ray Disc release on September 15, 2009. The DVD does not feature any contributions from director Tom Holland, who claims he was not asked to contribute to it. In response, the website Icons of Fright contacted Holland and asked if he would be willing to record a commentary track that would be free for download on their website. He agreed, and the track is downloadable from here.[13]


In a September 2008 interview, Don Mancini and David Kirschner spoke of a planned reboot of the franchise to be written and directed by Mancini, although nothing was official yet.[14] They described their choice of a remake over a sequel as a response to the will of the fans, who "want to see a scary Chucky movie again," and "want to go back to the straightforward horror rather than the horror comedy." They stated that if the remake was made, they would want Brad Dourif to reprise his role as Chucky, because "no one could fit the part like he could".

In a subsequent interview, Mancini described the script as a darker and scarier retelling of the original movie, but one that, while having new twists and turns, will not stray too far from the original concept. Additionally, Brad Dourif confirmed that he will reprise his role in the remake.[15]


External links

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