Welcome to our Killer Dolls series! Creepy dolls are a classic horror movie trope. Whether it’s a supposedly real-life haunted doll (one highlighted in our Cursed Art post), a mannequin, a ventriloquist dummy, or a weird Hostess cupcakes commercial, they’re all terrifying residents of the Uncanny Valley. But some dolls aren’t just creepy—they’re killers.
Today, we conclude our series with the quintessential killer doll movie: Child’s Play! This 80s flick introduced a whole franchise dedicated to serial killer-turned-toy Chucky. It features fun cartoonish kills, impressively gullible adults, peddlers, and an exploding toy store. Join us for a bloody B-movie classic.
Child’s Play starts with a very cool opener. It’s basically a scene out of Law & Order: Supernatural Squad. Brad Dourif, sporting a Metallica-style mane of hair, runs down a smoggy alley in a trench coat. I imagine this is how Brad Dourif spends most of his Saturday nights. Dourif is playing Charles Lee Ray aka a serial killer labelled The Lake Shore Strangler.
(As established in our Urban Legend and The Exorcist 3 posts, I love weird character actor Brad Dourif. I promise to temper my love with objectivity in this review. Objectively: Brad Dourif is great as evil doll Chucky. The end.)
In hot pursuit is Detective Mike Norris aka Chris Sarandon aka Prince Humperdinck from The Princess Bride. I dub thee Detective Humperdinck. Fun Fact for you Hot Topic nerds out there (aka me and most of you reading this): he was also the voice of Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas!
The Lake Shore Strangler is wearing a suit and tie under that trench coat, which throws me. What was he doing when this police chase started? Does Charles Lee Ray have some lame day job like an accounting clerk? Was he about to enter his favorite deli thinking ‘I’d strangle a woman for an everything bagel with lox right about now’ when Detective Norris spotted him?
Detective Norris and Charles Lee Ray get into a shoot out on the streets of Chicago. Seriously, I want Law & Order: Supernatural Squad to be a thing. Hardened homicide detective Lenny Briscoe taking down werewolves in Brooklyn, skilled prosecutor Jack McCoy cross examining warlocks on the stand. It would be amazing!
Anyway, Mr. Lake Shore Strangler may be great at strangling, but he’s much less skilled with guns. Plus, while the long trench coat may be required for the creepy serial killer mystique, it’s a poor choice when running from the cops.
Detective Norris fires a shot, injuring Charles Lee Ray.
Meanwhile, a guy in a creepy van tensely watches the chase. This is Eddie, the Lake Shore Strangler’s accomplice. I strongly doubt this premise that the Lake Shore Strangler has a partner. We’ll see later that Charles Lee Ray is big on the solo act and not keen on letting people around him stay alive.
Bleeding out, Ray runs for Eddie’s van, but Eddie peels out and ditches. It’s kinda great to see a scumbag like the Lake Shore Strangler limp after his buddy, screaming “Don’t leave me!”
Left out of options, Ray must use his masterful evasive skills! He breaks into a toy store. Perfect! So inconspicuous!
Following close behind, Det. Norris cautiously surveys the store. He’s surrounded by stacks of brand new dolls…creepy brand new dolls. Modeled after Teddy Ruxpin and My Buddy dolls of the mid 80s, these ginger monstrosities are called “Good Guy Dolls.” Nope. No. Not a single one of these little freaks is a ‘good guy.’
Among brightly colored shelves of toys, the detective and the killer trade bullets once more. Det. Norris shoots Charles Lee Ray again, this time in his side. Ray stumbles deeper into the toy store, leaving a trail of blood.
“Oh god, I’m dying,” the serial killer announces, with a surprisingly bland ‘oh biscuits’ tone of disappointment.
But this is the moment when the switch flips. This is when this pathetic, sorry-looking scumbag in a bad suit transforms into something actually scary. Brad Dourif lets loose his trademark rage and begins yelling. …hmm, ‘yelling’ is not a strong enough word. It’s a bellowing roar where the only proper response is “I must leave this area immediately.”
Detective Norris hears Charles Lee Ray furiously proclaim, “I’m going to get you!” A clichéd phrase, yes. But when said in that voice, I’m a little concerned that Chris Sarandon himself is in danger. Do they use a handler for Brad Dourif on these sets, just in case?
Charles Lee Ray stumbles around the toy store, looking determined. He mutters, “I’ve gotta find somebody…”
He collapses into a display of Good Guy dolls, and is half buried in happy yellow boxes sporting eerie grinning dolls. …welp, we’re back to ‘pathetic criminal’ rather than ‘horrifying monster.’
Face-to-face with a creepy-as-fuck Good Guys doll, Ray is suddenly struck with inspiration. Creepy inspiration. He places his hands on a Good Guys doll and begins chanting.
Outside the store, we see dramatic storm clouds gathering, as is required in every movie when dark magic is being used.
Yep. This serial killer also knows black magic. While this is an established part of the Chucky franchise, they don’t explain this at all in the opener of the first movie. Out of nowhere, we’ve gone from Homicide: Life on the Street to Hocus Pocus.
Also, just a thought: if you can wield the Forces of Darkness, why settle for strangling your victims? Seems a waste if you aren’t using those powers to *ka-pow!* your victims into oblivion or zap them into frogs.
In another aisle, Det. Norris wanders, trying to follow Ray’s chanting. Suddenly, lighting darts through the store. Norris has the look on his face like “The fuck…? I thought the weirdest part of my day was going to be arresting a serial strangler!”
Lightning crackles through the store and strikes precious stuffed and plastic product. There is an explosion of sparks, dolls, and packing peanuts like something out of Michael Bay‘s remake of Kindergarten Cop.
The store is wrecked, yet somehow Det. Norris has survived unscathed. Stumbling through the debris, he finds the body of Charles Lee Ray, lying next to a dead-eyed Good Guys doll. Gee, wonder what happened here?
We cut to an apartment with a big ‘happy birthday’ banner in the living room. We overhear the most depressing toy commercial ever. On the TV, a little boy laments that he has no friends and no one will play with him. But don’t worry, the commercial assures. He can play with a Good Guy doll all by himself without any real human interaction required!
The doll gives its prerecorded catchphrase: “I’ll be your friend to the end!”
Watching the commercial is our newly-turned-six protagonist, Andy. He’s wearing a striped shirt and overalls, matching the doll’s outfit. I do not approve of this.
Little Andy starts fixing breakfast, getting up on a stool to make—that is to say, burn to oblivion some toast. He spills milk and Good Guys cereal all over the kitchen. It’s chaos, just absolute chaos.
Andy turns back to the TV, which is now happily announcing the Good Guys live action show.
And now we must pause. Because while the doll is creepy, it ain’t got nothing on the live action Good Guys mascot. It is not okay. There are a lot of terrifying mascots out there, but this is one of the worst. It’s a normal-sized human but with a big plastic Good Guys head. This is the unholy king of the Uncanny Valley. Flee before him!
Somehow Andy is not terrified by this image. He happily takes the mangled breakfast on a tray to his mom. Surprise breakfast in bed! How adorable yet awful—a phrase that I assume makes up most parenting during ages 0-11.
Although it’s Andy’s birthday, he wanted to bring breakfast to his mom at 6:30am on what he calls “a beautiful day!” Oh, aren’t we teeth-grindingly precious?
His mom, Karen, is played by Catherine Hicks whom you might remember from 7th Heaven. For those who don’t know: 7th Heaven was a 90s show for parents who wanted to watch dramatic TV with their kids featuring life lessons, no ‘indecent’ problems, and regular doses of Christian propaganda. To put it another way: 7th Heaven was a big favorite of The Parent Television Council.
I’m bringing this up now because the context is going to be hilarious later.
Having paid the bribe of a terrible breakfast and a deplorable mess in the kitchen, now Andy wants to open his birthday presents. Meanwhile, a news report announces that the notorious Lake Shore Strangler is dead. Huzzah! Guess that plot is over! Let’s move on to this little family’s great day and happy ending.
Andy opens a big box excitedly. Aaaaand it’s new clothes. Which mom is very excited about because Andy “really” needs the new clothes.
Hmm. Interesting. Hey, maybe you could’ve opted for a smaller less luxuriant apartment if your kid needs clothes that badly, mom. Not kidding—this apartment is huge and situated on the top floor of what is clearly in a very expensive building in downtown Chicago.
But Andy does get some actual toys: a Good Guys brand tool set for kiddies. Cool! ….and you know what this little kitchen-destroying goblin says? He doesn’t even say ‘thank you.’ He just pouts, “I want a Good Guy doll to go with them.”
Mom tries to explain that, hey kid, if we can’t afford new clothes on a regular basis, do you really think Mommy has enough cash for this overpriced ugly doll?
No dice, this kid has been fully enveloped by the Madison Avenue marketing machine. His heart will only be fulfilled by that very expensive, very hideous talking doll. Alas.
Later, Karen’s at her job in a large department store. Maybe she’s asking herself how she raised such an ungrateful brat. Suddenly, her friend Maggie runs up and excitedly says that she has a lead on a Good Guy doll.
And what is that lead? Oh, just a peddler in the alley behind the store.
Oh yeah, that sounds totes legit. Think he has a lead on any magic beans too?
Karen is rightly suspicious. “What would a peddler be doing with a doll?” Well selling it, obviously. But more importantly: this is 1988 Chicago. What the fuck are peddlers doing around anywhere?
But oh well, I guess this is happening.
Karen goes to the alley and tries to rip off a homeless man, offering $10 for a $100 toy (they eventually haggle for $50). But suddenly Karen is concerned: what if the toy is stolen? Lady, you’re buying a sold-out toy for half price in an alley from a peddler. Of course it’s stolen. …or possessed by a dead murderer.
But she buys it nonetheless. Anything for that brat who makes a mess of the kitchen and then complains about his gifts that you could barely afford.
A stern-looking man in a pink bowtie is waiting for the women when they return. Uh oh—I’d know that look of “asshole management” anywhere. Mr. Bowtie is incensed that these women would dare go outside during their scheduled breaks. As punishment, Karen will have to fill in for someone tonight.
Karen says she can’t—she has to pick up her son from daycare. But the manager insists—this is an emergency! Yep, according to capitalism, an abandoned department store is a greater emergency than an abandoned child.
The manager graciously permits Karen to leave to pick up her kid, and then come straight back. Um, yeah, that still leaves us with the ‘abandoned six-year-old’ problem. Worse: it’s actually an ‘abandoned six-year-old on his birthday’ problem. But the demands of the American economy must march on!
Maggie offers to babysit Andy tonight. Hey Maggie, you know what would be even better? Offering to cover the nightshift to avoid this entire tragedy. But no no, she’ll just console the kid while his mom isn’t with him on his birthday. That way, she’ll get cake!
Later, mom and son arrive home. Karen announces that she has something very special for Andy. Why it’s so special, it came from an alley!
Andy excitedly tears into the gift and—ta da!—it’s the Good Guy doll! Andy prompts the toy to speak and, in its pre-recorded cheery voice, the doll responds: “Hi, I’m Chucky, and I’m your friend to the end! Hidey-ho!”
For the record: nothing that says “hidey-ho” is allowed in my living quarters.
Karen and Andy are a happy pair once again. Remember, parents: the key to making your kid happy on a shoestring budget is to just get them whatever they want, even if it’s likely ill-gotten, defective, or possessed by a dead serial killer.
Later, Maggie is watching Andy and a demolished birthday cake sits on the counter. We don’t see how Andy reacted to his mom ditching him on his birthday, but I guess as long as the brat has his cake and toy, he’s all set. After all, more shifts for mom mean more toys to come, right?
Maggie watches TV while Andy plays with Chucky nearby. A news report comes on—the Lake Shore Strangler saga continues! It’s about Eddie, the accomplice who ditched Charles Lee Ray. The doll’s head swings toward the TV screen (oh spoilers: Charles Lee Ray is the doll). Turns out, Eddie was the better criminal of the pair. He not only evaded that shootout, but after being arrested, he escaped.
The news report briefly concludes, promising more details about the escape at 9.
Maggie announces it’s bedtime for Andy. But after a brief pause to lean closer to the doll, Andy explains to Maggie, “Chucky wants to stay up to watch the news.”
Oh my, aren’t we precocious.
This ploy doesn’t work. Maggie carries Andy and Chucky off to bed.
With Andy tucked in, Maggie is surprisingly more helpful than I would’ve guessed and starts cleaning up the kitchen. But again: you know what would’ve been more helpful? Covering that nightshift for the single mother on her son’s birthday, Maggie.
Suddenly, the TV turns back on. Maggie peers into the living room and sees Chucky in a chair, coolly watching the news with that creepy, dead-eyed, freckle-faced smile.
Unamused, Maggie brings Chucky back to the bedroom. She scolds Andy for disobeying her. Andy denies that he did anything.
Maggie says sarcastically, “Well, what? Did Chucky walk into the living room and turn the TV on by himself?”
Get it? Because that’s what actually happened, audience—get it?
Andy settles back into bed and gives Chucky a smooch on the cheek, which is revolting in context.
A little later, Maggie reads a book on the couch. Down the hall, Andy’s bedroom door opens. We get a point-of-view shot as “something” quickly darts down the hallway and watches Maggie.
Maggie sees something move out of the corner of her eye. She pauses and listens. Then, with a shrug returns to her book as if nothing is stalking her from behind the couch. Classic mistake.
But then she hears another noise and goes to investigate. This time she sees a chair propped in front of the apartment door. As if someone short is trying to unlock the deadbolt. Hmmmm…. Is Andy making a break for it? Perhaps to runaway to an even larger apartment with even more toys?
Suddenly, there’s noise from within the dark kitchen. Maggie follows the sound. Some flour has been spilled over the counter and floor.
At that moment—jumpscare! The phone rings. It’s Karen calling to check in. On her end, the department store looks completely deserted. So yeah, clearly this crisis outweighed a mother being with her child on his birthday.
Maggie says that everything’s fine. Of course, things are not. But such are the rules of engagement in a movie when Things Are Not Fine.
We get another point-of-view shot as “someone” picks up the wee little hammer from the Good Guys toolset. Maggie hangs up and crouches down to clean up the spilled flour. Suddenly, the adorable little hammer slams into her face, knocking her over.
…somehow, someway, the force of that wee little hammer is enough to send her flying out the window. In a hail of shattered glass, Maggie plunges to her death with a shriek. It’s a ridiculous but great kill. I love it.
Ironically, Karen comes back home to an actual emergency. The apartment is clearly a crime scene, filled with police. Yet no one stops her from barging in. Yeah, it’s becoming increasingly clear how the Lake Shore Strangler was able to pursue his reign of terror for so long.
Terrified, Karen looks for Andy. She finds him in his bedroom clutching Chucky and being interviewed by Detective Norris. Norris tells Karen that Maggie had an accident but introduces himself as a homicide detective. Karen asks why a homicide detective is here investigating an “accident.”
After ruffling little Andy on the head like he doesn’t suspect the tot of murder, Detective Norris shows Karen the scene in the kitchen. There are little footprints in the flour spilled on the counter and the floor. Footprints that perhaps were left by a tot who committed the murder!
Karen, rightfully indignant, demands, “What are you implying?”
Uh, well, obviously that your child is a murderous maniac!
Okay, so I don’t expect the police to jump to the idea that the doll is possessed by a dead serial killer and committed this crime. But it is pretty wild that in less than an hour, they’ve decided that this little kid threw a fully grown woman out the window. …I mean surely they would’ve found an innocent black person to blame first.
But Detective Norris assures, “Don’t worry. I already checked Andy’s closet. None of his shoes match these prints.”
That is not as assuring at you think it is, detective. You keep your paws off my little kid’s shoes!
Suddenly, Andy runs into the crime scene. Because why even try to preserve anything in crime scene where the key clues are in flour. Still holding Chucky, the kid explains that the doll wants to know what’s going on.
…why? Does Chucky thinks the cops might be onto him? Did the Supernatural Victims Unit show up?
But Det. Norris is on the case. He sees that Chucky and Andy are wearing identical sneakers.
“Wow, come here!” Detective Norris says in a way that no strange adult should say to a child.
Finally catching on that this police department is stupid enough to blame her child for this, Karen sends Andy straight to back bed.
Detective Norris is nettled that this mother won’t let him investigate her kindergarten-aged son in this violent death. “Look, if Andy didn’t make those footprints, who did?”
Well, even if Andy made the footprints, what does that prove? Maybe after hearing his babysitter go screaming out the window, Andy went into the kitchen to see what all the racket was. Maybe at any point this child wandered through this utterly uncontrolled crime scene. Or maybe the doll is possessed by a dark sorcerer / serial killer. I’m just spit-balling here.
But nope, why use logic when an innocent child could be blamed? In fact, I’m going to guess that Detective Norris just assumes that most people he encounters are devious criminals. With Charles Lee Ray, he just got lucky.
But Detective Norris has finally had enough—for now. He and the police begin to pack up.
Back in his bedroom, Andy puts Chucky in a chair instead of bringing him back into bed. Seems the kid is starting to wise up. Why sleep next to that hideous thing?
…but then Andy realizes that there’s flour on the bottoms of Chucky‘s shoes.
Just as Detective Norris is leaving, Andy comes running out of his room to stop him. “I know who was on the counter!” Andy exclaims. For a second, the detective looks hopeful. It’s so much easier to arrest children when they confess!
Andy proclaims, “It was Chucky!” And the detective’s face falls.
Karen sends Andy back to bed yet again and nearly pushes Detective Norris out the door. But Detective Norris resists.
“Are you gonna call me?” he demands. Call you about WHAT exactly? How to find the leprechaun that apparently pulled off this murder?
He explains, “I hate loose ends.”
Karen retorts, “I hate people who don’t know when to stop.”
…would you believe that these two end up having a romantic connection?
As they head out, Detective Norris tells his partner that he wants the adorable toy hammer found at the crime scene to be sent to the lab right away. It’s a possible murder weapon.
His partner bursts into uncontrollable laughter.
Yes, that is the correct reaction.
Back at the apartment, Karen overhears Andy talking to Chucky. She opens the bedroom door and finds a creepy scene of Andy attentively sitting cross-legged on the floor, looking up to Chucky sitting on the chair. It’s a very “tell me your orders, Master” type image.
Karen stares down the unsightly doll, silently cursing peddlers everywhere.
She asks Andy what Chucky has been saying to him. Oh, not much. Just that his real name is Charles Lee Ray and that he’s been sent down from heaven by Andy’s dead daddy to play with him.
Karen’s eyes widen to the size of dinner plates.
Andy adds that “Aunt Maggie was a real bitch,” which is frankly hilarious. Aw. Kid’s say the darndest things about their dead babysitters.
And then, of course, we have the back-and-forth you’ve seen in every piece of fiction where a kid is corrupted by an “imaginary” friend: “How could you say something so horrible?” “I didn’t say it, Chucky said it.” “You’re making this all up.” Etc., etc.
Karen wrangles Andy and Chucky back into bed. She closes the door and hopefully goes to pour a nice tall glass of scotch because she’s earned it today.
The last 16 hours of her day have been made up of:
• A terrible breakfast in bed.
• A brat who doesn’t appreciate new clothes or toys.
• A peddler.
• An asshole manager.
• A best friend who’ll volunteer to eat cake but not to cover your shift on your kid’s birthday.
• A dead best friend.
• A detective who is so stupid, he thinks her six-year-old son murdered the best friend.
• A kid who is already waaaaaay too into his doll, even by little kid standards.
After Karen leaves, the Chucky doll surreptitiously turns its head to check to make sure the door is closed and then turns back to Andy. In the pre-recorded doll voice, it says “Hi! I like to be hugged!”
CRINGE. What is going on? Did we take a left turn onto Elm Street? Does Charles Lee Ray have a thing—a bad thing for kids?
The next day, Karen takes Andy and Chucky to daycare. I am very concerned about this. Even putting aside the ‘serial killer-possessed doll brought into a gaggle of small children’ problem, there are many openings for tragedy here. The doll is going to get scuffed up, fought over by the kids, taken away by the teacher, etc. There will be children’s tears everywhere, even if the serial killer in the doll keeps quiet.
But that chaos will be avoided and replaced with a totally different disaster. Mere moments after mom drops him off, Andy just leaves the fucking school. Just opens the front door, makes a quick peek around, and starts walking away with Chucky.
Yep. No one bats an eye as this small child, carrying a very conspicuous doll, walks down the snowy streets of downtown Chicago in the middle of the day. He gets on the L train, among bustling adult commuters, and no one cares.
Why did kids go missing so much that we had to put them on milk cartons? This is why.
Andy gets off in what looks like a not-great neighborhood. Why, perhaps the kind of neighborhood where you would find dangerous fugitives like Lake Shore Strangler accomplice Eddie Caputo.
Andy eventually comes to an old, battered house at the edge of a junkyard. He sets Chucky down with the announcement that he needs to “tinkle.” Andy steps away for a sec, and as soon as he looks back, the doll is gone.
We cut to the POV of Chucky as he dashes across the street and into the house. Pretty speedy for a body of fluff and plastic. But I guess he’s very determined, as demonstrated by his dual CV of serial killer and master of black magic.
Eddie is indeed in the house, asleep on a pile of junk. Seems Eddie has a hoarding problem—if only he had better hoarded Charles Lee Ray’s friendship!
A little doll hand opens the door to the house. Uh oh. Then the little doll hand opens a gas oven. UH oh. Chucky blows out the pilot light and turns on the oven. UH OH.
At the sound of pitter-pattering feet, Eddie wakes up. Suspicious, Eddie grabs a gun and searches the apartment. Buddy, you can hear a doll’s footsteps but you can’t notice the gas pouring into the kitchen?
Outside, Andy hears gunshots coming from the decrepit house. He runs after the sound. Yep, run toward the abandoned building the gunshots are coming from, kiddo.
Between taking orders from a doll and getting into this situation, it seems the Forces of Survival of the Fittest are setting Andy up for a fall.
Inside the house, Eddie shoots the gun within the gas- filled apartment and the building goes KABLOOIE.
We last saw Andy right next to that building, so he must be dead, right? Because even in the face of a serial killer who uses black magic to defy death and enter a doll, it is unbelievable that this small (not very bright) child came through that huge explosion unscathed. Right?
Seems the Forces of Survival of the Fittest are having some fun today, because Andy is A-OK.
Karen arrives at the police station. Guess who the police have identified as Suspect #1 in this tragic accident?
In fact, the child is being interviewed (along with his doll) by the police without his mom’s knowledge. Gee, wish I could be surprised.
The detective interviewing Andy, by the way, is the ineptest interviewer I’ve ever seen. Olivia Benson he ain’t. It’s like before today, he thought children were a kind of snack food.
Karen breaks up the interview, but does not leave the police station immediately. Amateur move, mom! Karen demands that Andy start telling the truth about whatever’s going on. “They’re going to take you away from me!”
Now, the emphasis in this scene continues to be “Andy is in trouble.” That isn’t what should be happening here. Why isn’t the school in trouble? Why isn’t Karen in trouble? Heck, Karen would be a pretty good suspect for tossing her frenemy Maggie out the window!
Helpless, Andy pleads to Chucky, “Please say something. Tell me why you lied to me.” Oh, my heart, it is broken.
Chucky just replies with his pre-recorded greeting, “Hi, I’m Chucky! I’m your friend to the end! Hidey-ho!”
Andy, vapid and sweet though he is, is sick of this doll’s shit. He punches Chucky right in the gut. Where did Andy learn that move? What was happening in the interview before Mom arrived?
Andy then tells his mom that Chucky has already threatened to kill him.
Welp! The child walking himself out of school and across Chicago, appearing at the scenes of two violent deaths? That was all fine. But a kid saying his doll is gonna kill him? Now we need professionals involved!
A doctor from County General Hospital, Dr. Ardmore, has been observing the scene. He tells Karen that he’s seen “more than enough” to justify institutionalizing this six-year-old for a few days.
Seriously what bizarro universe have we stumbled into where a kindergartner is assumed to be a criminal mastermind or a raging maniac and that no adults might be responsible instead?
Again, this is a little kid. He can’t even do toast. Even stupid Charlie Brown could make toast!
Also, what county hospital could possibly offer actual residential mental health facilities appropriate for a little kid? Do they have straight jackets in “Size XXS?
That night, Karen arrives home. Not with her son, but with the Chucky doll. …Karen, please tell me this is a classic “whoopsie.” You meant to toss the doll into the dumpster and rescue your kid from the incompetent authorities, right?
Defeated and very much over this sinister doll, Karen puts Chucky down on a chair. Glaring, she commands, “Say something, you little bastard.”
Hope Catherine Hicks enjoyed this opportunity to swear, because not so much as a “god damn it” will be allowed later in her 7th Heaven years.
Karen shakes her head and gives a laugh like “Jesus Christ, my life has dissolved in just twenty-four hours and all I have to show for it is a creepy doll I paid fifty bucks for.”
She picks up the GoodGuy doll box, perhaps looking for a warranty or some FCC warning that the doll causes childhood psychosis. Something falls out of the box: batteries for the doll. Karen drops the box in shock and stares at Chucky. No manufacturer is ever considerate enough to include spare batteries!
After a thought, she picks up Chucky and turns him over, opening the doll’s battery compartment. And as you likely guessed, there are no batteries inside.
At that, Chucky’s head turns 360° and the doll chirps, “Hi, I’m Chucky! Wanna play?”
Karen shrieks and drops the doll. Regaining her composure, she picks the doll up again. She begins shaking and prodding it. Karen says, “Talk to me.”
Silence. Getting increasingly agitated, Karen declares, “I’m gonna make you talk!”
She turns on the gas fireplace. She threatens Chucky, “Talk to me, damn it, or I’ll throw you in the fire!”
…so, remember earlier in the film when Charles Lee Ray was cornered in the toy store? And then it was like a switch flipped and he flew into a rage?
Here we go again!
The doll’s face contorts and the killer’s voice roars, “You stupid bitch! You filthy slut!”
I’m sorry, but that’s fucking hilarious. The mom from 7th Heaven being cursed out by a doll is laugh out loud funny. Also, where’s that ‘filthy slut’ comment coming from? That’s uncalled for!
Still in her arms, Chucky attacks Karen. Now, you may be saying, surely your average grown adult can handle a doll flailing around? But thanks to that black magic, Chucky has super-strength, giving him the physical abilities he had as a full-grown person. Plus, he is the size of a beefy preschooler, so he can deliver a good bit of damage.
Chucky bites down on Karen’s arm, drawing blood. She throws him across the room. While this gets the psychotic toy away from her, he isn’t injured. As is explained later, the dark magic at play prevents Chucky from getting hurt. How convenient. Seriously, all of this makes a good case for anyone with these powers to just cheat death by turning themselves into a doll.
Even though he previously couldn’t reach the door handle, Chucky makes a run for it. I guess this time he got up on his tippy-toes. Karen chases after him. She sees Chucky descending in the (again absurdly nice) building’s old-school gate elevator. She runs after it.
But she arrives too late. Chucky has already disappeared into the streets. …well with these moves, why did Chucky need Andy at all? Seems he could’ve gotten across town to murder Eddie just fine.
We next see Karen leaping out of a taxi at the police station, just in time to catch Detective Norris as he comes off shift. Unprompted, she announces that the doll is alive and killed Eddie Caputo. No pussyfooting about for Karen.
She explains about bringing the doll home, the batteries not being in, the doll talking by itself, threatening the doll, Chucky attacking her, and then fleeing to cause more mayhem on the streets of Chicago. Yep, she goes through all of that in the span of a TikTok.
Appropriately (for once), Detective Norris simply says “Goodnight,” and starts to leave.
Karen stops him, rolling up her sleeve to show the nasty bite Chucky gave her. Detective Norris, very reasonably, responds that he doesn’t believe that an evil doll did that. Indeed—it’d be more believable that packs of rabid peddlers are biting passerby.
Exasperated, Karen just starts running down the street. A wee bit concerned for Karen, Detective Norris calls after her. Where does she think she’s going? To track down the peddler who sold her the evil doll, Karen replies.
Det. Norris has this expression like “Did she say a peddler?” He likely assumes that this is just one more piece of poor Karen’s developing delusion.
He warns that it’s a very bad idea for a woman alone to just run around bad parts of Chicago in the middle of the night. Well, apparently six-year-old kids with expensive dolls can waltz through Fugitives Boulevard without trouble, so how bad could it be?
As he watches Karen go, the detective clearly thinks but does not say: “…I’m gonna have to save this crazy broad aren’t I? Yep. Yep I am. Let’s go.”
To begin her investigation, Karen doesn’t return to the alley to find the peddler. Nope, she just heads on down to the Peddler District of downtown Chicago. After questioning many resident peddlers (seriously was this the 1988 politically correct way of saying “people who are homeless?”), Karen spots the peddler who sold her Chucky. She demands answers. How dare this man sell her something defective out of any alley for half price?!
And then out of nowhere, because something-something the 80s, the local peddlers start to crowd Karen and attempt to sexually assault her. Way to stay classy, movie. This basically only happens so Norris can play hero and rescue her.
Suddenly super-engaged in this whole killer doll plotline, Detective Norris makes the peddler say where he got Chucky from. The peddler answers that he salvaged the doll from a burnt-out toy store. Det. Norris’s face falls. He knew that exploded toy store would come back to haunt him.
He explains to Karen that is the very toy store is where he shot serial killer Charles Lee Ray dead. Surprised he didn’t flex a little as he said that.
Karen is angry that Detective Norris didn’t tell her this information before. …Um, when? How? Where in any of their encounters was there room to add “oh also I killed a serial killer in a toy store, which then exploded?”
Because believe me, if the opening were there, Detective Norris would’ve seized it like a Republican does an opportunity to talk about how oppressed they are.
Speaking of not saying things that are very important to the plot: when Detective Norris drops Karen off at her apartment later, she finally reveals that Andy told her that Chucky’s full name is Charles Lee Ray. Therefore, she declares, Chucky the doll must be Charles Lee Ray!
…in spite of everything, it’s very understandable that Detective Norris once again deadpans, “Goodnight,” and sends her on her way.
But before being pushed out of the car, Karen convinces the detective to give her Charles Lee Ray’s address. Yeah, detective, just keep enabling the delusion and give her even more places to go to alone in the middle of the night!
Karen warns that Norris shouldn’t go anywhere alone. After all, Chucky may be out to get him!
Detective Norris, someone who easily accuses kindergartners of murder, says that he can’t jump to such crazy conclusions.
Although I wish he would’ve said something tough, like “I sent him to Hell as a man, I’ll send him again as a doll.”
But in spite of himself, Norris can’t shake his detective instincts. He returns to the police station and picks up the Lake Shore Strangler file. When he returns to his car, however, we see the little ginger noggin of Chucky pop up from the backseat.
From behind, Chucky loops a cord around Norris’s neck and starts choking him. Hey! The Lake Shore Strangler is finally doing some strangling!
We get our first full-blown Chucky cackle of violent glee as Detective Norris struggles for his life.
Rather than just stopping the fucking car, Norris keeps driving and grabs the car’s cigarette lighter with his free hand. Remember those, kids? No? Well, I can’t blame you—I barely do myself.
Norris jabs the hot lighter into Chucky’s plastic face, burning him. Crying out in surprise and pain, Chucky lets go. Norris crashes into a mailbox, but just keeps driving.
Suddenly, Chucky attacks with a butcher knife. Now where did Chucky get that? Is that evidence from another horrific crime scene that Detective Norris just forgot in the backseat?
Detective Norris, somehow, still doesn’t realize that he can just stop and leave the car at any time. He continues, as if he can outdrive the pint-sized maniac behind him.
Chucky crawls under the seat and starts messing with the gas and brake pedals. Um. Okay. If his little hands are down by your feet…why not just stomp those very stomp-able little hands? Or just slam that brake pedal and leave this deathtrap!
But it’s too late—the car does an epic flip, landing upside down.
Miraculously totally fine aside from being upside-down, Norris tries to regain his bearings. Suddenly Chucky, already out of the car, reappears with the knife!
Somehow, while upside-down in a crashed car, Norris fends Chucky off. He even manages to draw his gun.
Chucky sneers, “Won’t do you any good. You can’t hurt me!”
But apparently ol’ Chucky has spoken too soon! Norris is still very good at putting lead in Charles Lee Ray. He shoots the doll square in the chest. Chucky is knocked to the ground and manages to scurry away before Norris can extricate himself from the wrecked car.
Later, we see Karen entering Charles Lee Ray’s decrepit apartment, which somehow isn’t a sealed-off crime scene. Then again, we’ve seen how seriously the CPD takes those.
The décor is classic Serial Killer chic. There are broken doll parts strung from the ceiling, posed mannequins, cut-outs from pinup magazines lining the walls, etc.
Quite the artiste, Charles Lee Ray painted elaborate murals on his walls. I guess security deposits don’t matter so much when you’re a dark wizard and serial murderer. Many images are of a naked (ick) Charles Lee Ray performing various bloody rituals.
Detective Norris sneaks up behind Karen and startles her. Because he’s an asshole.
Further evidence of him being an asshole: he doesn’t say ‘you were right and the doll is alive and I was attacked by him!’
But Norris does provide the info that Charles Lee Ray was obsessed with life after death and magic. He was being taught by a guy named “Dr. Death.” Sounds like a man as subtle as this apartment.
We cut to the man himself: Dr. Death, aka John Bishop. Yes, he’s a black Haitian man who practices voodoo. Yes, it’s an embarrassing and overdone racist trope. No, I don’t approve of it.
However, John is presented as a good guy. He’s a spiritual teacher, who wants no part of strangling innocent women. Dr. Death is really just taking it one day at a time, occasionally enjoying a nice cup of tea.
John is making himself one such nice cup of tea when suddenly Chucky jumps onto his kitchen counter. As a note, with every maniacal attack he makes, the doll is looking less ‘kinda cute’ and more ‘I can tell you found this in an alley.’
To a shocked John, Chucky drawls, “You know, when you were telling me how to beat death? I thought you were pulling my chain.”
Really? You stopped running for your life to perform a ritual that you thought was bullshit? Wow, talk about luck!
Chucky’s pleased about cheating death. But he does have a complaint or two. Wow, you overcame death itself and that wasn’t good enough for you? You and that brat Andy deserve each other!
But the ritual should have made Chucky invulnerable to harm. However, he’s got a fresh burn on his face from Detective Norris. Wow, who knew the Forces of Darkness could be unreliable?
John explains that Chucky is becoming human. The longer he stays in the doll, the more human he’ll become.
What? Wait. What?
How does that even work? How does that even make sense? Does the stuffing become muscles and tissue? I don’t even want to know what’ll become of that battery compartment…
Also, what’s the downside? You seem pretty content to be in a little doll body, Chuck. Why not be in a little human body? You’d have a whole new life without needing to rely on kindergarteners to take you everywhere.
Chucky snarls that since John got him into this, he’s getting him out of it. John declines. Why? “Because you’re an abomination! You’ve perverted everything I taught you and used it for evil!”
John: weren’t you tipped off that something might go awry when you taught powerful dark magic to THE LAKE SHORE STRANGLER?
John steps into a backroom, saying he’s going to get some magical tools to help Chucky. But instead, he tries to get to the phone.
What? Wait. What?
Who are you going to call? What are you going to say? “Hey, Doug, it’s John. You know how we had a bet on whether that dumbass Charles would turn himself into a doll? … Well, I owe you five bucks. … Stop laughing.”
But before John can call whoever, Chucky approaches. He has, of all things pulled out of cartoonish terror, a voodoo doll. With a cackle, Chucky jerks the leg of the doll, breaking John’s leg.
How could you just leave a voodoo doll lying around like that, John? That’s irresponsible! Voodoo dolls should be registered, kept in a locked safe, and away from children (and serial killers in child-sized dolls).
In other words: the scriptwriters are out of ways for this doll to attack people and they’re asking the interns down the hall for ideas.
Using the voodoo doll (I rolled my eyes so hard typing that out), Chucky tortures John into revealing how he can defeat the curse.
Turns out, Chucky can transfer his soul into the body of the first person he ‘revealed his true self to.’ You’d think that would be a short list, but this idiot has revealed his ‘true identity’ to no less than four people already!
Unfortunately, the first was Andy. At this revelation, Chucky declares, “I’ve got a date with a six-year-old boy!”
*buzzer noise* Nope! Stop! Sorry, Chucky, but we already have Freddy Krueger. Pick a perverted quirk that doesn’t involve children.
Chucky delivers a killing blow to John using the voodoo doll (rolling my eyes sooooo verrrrry harrrrrrd) and exits.
Karen and Norris arrive at the apartment of “Dr. Death” to, ironically, find the doctor dying. John, having no idea who these people are, just explains the doll-soul stuff to them. I guess he wisely assumes that any white people bumbling into his apartment must be mixed up in this serial killer doll nonsense.
Somehow, someway, John even knows that Chucky’s heart is just close enough to being human that destroying it will kill Chucky. Darn it, why can’t John be the hero of this story? You’d have this whole Obi-Wan vs Darth Vader thing but with magic and dolls!
But that’s all the time we have for characters of color in this film, so John dies and we move along!
We cut to Andy in a cell at County General Hospital. Great job, doctors. Just great.
Andy looks out a barred window and sees Chucky climbing up the fire escape. Terrified, he cries out for help. Dr. Ardmore sees the child crying out in utter fear…aaaaand just leaves him. Do no adults in this movie care about this kid?!
Chucky gets into the hospital (of course), grabs the room keys (of course), and figures out what cell Andy is in (oooooof course). Chucky opens up the cell and takes out that handy-dandy giant knife. Having already hidden, Andy manages to sneak around Chucky. A cat and mouse chase through the hospital ensues.
Again: where are the adults? Where is anyone?
Andy, still not the brightest kid, runs straight into a surgical room filled with sharp instruments.
Andy snags a scalpel to defend himself—just in time for Dr. Ardmore to spot the littlest in-patient wielding the weapon. Dr. Ardmore knocks the scalpel away and grabs Andy.
Naturally, Chucky picks up the tossed scalpel and attacks the doctor. In the scuffle, Andy makes a run for it.
Proving once again that this script is running low on ideas, Chucky finishes off the doctor by hooking him up to an electroshock device and frying him. It’s stupid, but it’s a fun 80s-era kill.
Karen and Norris arrive at the hospital just in time to do absolutely nothing.
Andy has escaped the hospital (what a stellar institution this is). In fact, Andy has made it all the way home. Although I doubt Andy could make that trip without a 41-year-old serial killer giving him directions.
Proving my point about Andy being a dim bulb, rather than locking the apartment’s deadbolt, Andy barricades the front door with a sled. Yep. A flimsy contraption of only the thinnest wood. That’s what Andy thinks will protect him from a cursed doll possessed by a serial killer.
Chucky catches a ride on that fancy elevator, going all Toy Story limp as an older couple step in. As the couple get off on their floor, the old woman remarks, “What an ugly doll!”
The elevator ascends and Brad Dourif delivers the best line in the movie: “Fuck you.”
Meanwhile, Andy hides in a closet. Yeah, good luck with that, champ. This doll tracked you to the mental ward sans nary a Google Map. But a closet, that’ll throw him.
So as to how Chucky eventually gets in… You know how we saw Chucky in the building, riding an elevator? And thus the obvious course of action would be for him to enter the apartment via the front door? Again, the apartment is unlocked and is being protected by a sled that wouldn’t survive an over-excited beagle. In fact, Chucky has entered multiple dwellings with next to no trouble at this point.
So why… and how… does Chucky break into the apartment via the chimney? Yes, the chimney.
Again: Why? How? For pete’s sake, he put less effort into entering the hideout of a fugitive and the dwelling of a powerful sorcerer!
Anyway, Santa’s little ginger helper starts stalking the apartment, looking for Andy.
Somehow, the six-year-old gets the jump on this magic-backed serial killer. Andy pops out of the closet, swinging a toy bat. …but he misses. Chucky lunges at Andy with a knife and misses as well. Truly a clash of the pint-sized titans!
But Chucky knocks Andy out with the toy bat. Again: the Forces of Survival of the Fittest are not rooting for this kid. If a Whiffle bat can take you out, maybe you should just stay down, kiddo.
Karen and Norris arrive just in time for the Storm Clouds of Magic to start brewing above.
Inside, Chucky has started the soul transfer ritual. …you know, for a process so powerful that it literally defies life and death, you’d think it would take longer to set up. More effort, blood, and tears go into putting together a coffee table from Target.
The adults attempt to enter the apartment to rescue Andy, but they are delayed by the rock-solid barricade the kindergartner placed behind the door. Great job, kid!
The adults eventually break in and interrupt the ritual. It takes two full grown adults to throw this doll across the room. But Chucky is quickly back on his little feet again. He slashes at Norris with the knife. There’s scuffling, and Chucky scurries away once more.
Norris gives Karen a spare gun, so now we have two adults, one dumb kid, two live firearms, and one very competent killer doll. Hmm, I’m not liking that math!
Chucky attacks Norris with that toy baseball bat, apparently thinking the adult police officer is as easy to subdue as the small child. Depressingly: he’s correct and Norris drops like a sack of donuts.
Karen attempts to shoot Chucky, but the gun jams. Guess that’s why it was a spare!
Chucky comes after Karen. She, as is required when a small thing is attacking you, trips on something and falls to the floor prone. With a contorted rage face (which is one of my favorite parts of the Chucky design), the doll attacks.
Karen, for once being extremely competent, throws Chucky into the fireplace and keeps him contained with the fire screen. Still, Chucky has his magic strength and Karen struggles to keep him pinned.
Andy stares in wide-eyed terror at the scene, frozen.
Understandably so, because Chucky starts going frickin’ berserk behind that fire screen.
I don’t know what was happening in the sound booth when Brad Dourif drifted into incoherent raging for over three minutes straight. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know. I can only hope that no one was hurt. But it works. The filmmakers knew that there are only so many methods available to make a doll threatening. And having a huge, furious voice come pouring out of it is one of them.
Karen calls for Andy to come help. He jumps to action, lighting a match.
The look on this little kid’s face as the match lights is great. Andy has a sort of dull or in-awe expression for a lot of this movie. But when this little kid grasps the revenge he’s about to wreak upon this Cabbage Patch Asshole, it’s spectacular.
Chucky pleads, “But Andy! We’re friends to the end!” which is hilarious.
Andy replies coldly, “This is the end, friend,” which is fantastic.
Andy throws in the match. Chucky was apparently made out of paraffin-soaked dryer lint because he bursts into flame immediately. The little animatronic spasms and flails in the fire horrifically. The noise Brad Dourif makes as Chucky burns is nightmare-inducing.
The flames eventually die down. The doll has been rendered to a blackened mess.
Karen then remembers Norris, who was rendered helpless from a bop on the head. Great job, detective.
Andy goes to get the first aid kit. But when he looks back, Chucky’s vanished from the fireplace.
He runs to warn his mom, but he’s grabbed and pulled to the floor. Chucky has nailed his ‘Terminator in the Third Act’ look. A grotesque blackened husk of plastic and metal, he’s still very much alive.
Andy shakes him off and runs to Karen and Norris in the bedroom. Chucky limps toward them with the raised knife, screaming, “Give me the boy and I’ll let you live!” …I dunno, Chuck. I like our odds.
The adults just close the door on him. However, he still has enough strength to stab the knife through the door. Then Chucky tries to enter via an adjoining bathroom door. They just close that too.
While the adults aren’t guarding the other door, Chucky runs back to that door and bursts into the bedroom.
Karen then remembers that they have fucking guns. She starts shooting at Chucky. Again, in tribute to The Terminator (released 4 years previous), Chucky continues stepping forward. She shoots his head off. The body keeps coming. She shoots off an arm. He keeps coming. It’s the Black Knight from Monty Python all over again.
…Um, what about that whole “becoming more human” bit? Is this what happens when humans get their limbs / head shot off? I wouldn’t know, it’s never happened to me.
The doll body keeps crawling forward. Finally, Karen stands over the doll and shoots directly down, presumably striking the heart and delivering the killing blow.
Then, Detective Norris’s partner arrives on the scene for absolutely no reason. Norris is still disabled on the bedroom floor. Wow, what a great help he was throughout all of this. Like the time he… No, that was Karen. …or when he… No, that was Andy. Or that scene when… No, that was Dr. Death.
Norris tells his partner that yep, killer doll thing was real. The partner surveys the scene, destroyed doll included. Norris sternly warns, “Don’t touch the doll.”
The partner gives a half nod before immediately picking up the discarded Chucky head.
Suddenly, the fuck-out-of-nowhere, the mechanical body bursts through a ventilation grate and grabs the partner. The Chucky head commands, “Kill him!”
Guess Karen is as good a shot as she is a mom…
The body chokes Norris’s partner. Again, that Lake Shore Strangler showing off his true talent!
Karen grapples with the body and throws it across the room. The head continues to command the body, “Kill them! Kill them all!”
Detective Norris finally realizes that he’s in this scene. He shoots the doll body right in the heart. The body falls limp. The head chirps one last time, in its original voice, “Hi I’m Chucky! Wanna play?” And then it falls still too.
“You believe me now?” Norris demands of his partner.
“Yeah!” the partner wheezes, “But who’s gonna believe me?”
Hmm, fair point. I think that mental ward is about to have four new guests!
Karen gathers up Andy. He looks back at the toy he got to enjoy for about 2 hours before it turned out to be evil. That’s what happens when you try to rip off a peddler, kids!
So yeah, I think this killer doll movie is the most fun out of our picks for this series. It has great moments, it has silly moments, and it definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously. Even with the silly voodoo stuff, the plot more or less makes sense and keeps moving. Brad Dourif is of course great, but the special effects that bring Chucky to life are also fantastic. The Chucky franchise itself continued from here, persistent in its half-farce, half-slasher tone. Child’s Play has since been remade with a more modern Chucky, featuring the voice talents of Mark Hamill.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this short series. Feel free to recommend more Killer Dolls for next time in the comments!
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