Chucky has become one of the icons of horror boogeymen that gets mentioned alongside of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface and even Pinhead. Why are these characters the “icons of horror”? I’d like to think that all of these icons are relatable courtesy of common fears. While this may be a discussion or explanation you have already heard, I’d like you to bear with me for a few paragraphs so you can hear my side of some of these iconic films.
In Halloween, Michael Myers has always been scary to me because he is the flesh & blood representation of pure evil. The fact that he killed his own sister at such a young age in an almost ritualistic submission to some unknown entity and then became the literal boogeyman was just frightening. On the other side of it, Myers becomes a morality enforcer. While I know that Carpenter wanted to just make a scary movie, the reason why Halloween struck such a chord is that this also came at a time when babysitting was becoming very popular. Halloween barely shows or mentions the parental figures of our characters. It was one of the first films that didn’t play down to its audience. It was geared towards teenagers. The absence of parental supervision in the combination of immoral actions seems to have result in a fatal end in Carpenter’s film. It is only when Jaime Lee Curtis’ character of Laurie Strode seems to take a protective and parental stance on her friends and the kids that she is babysitting that she runs into a coincidental confrontation of Myers – the force of nature that cannot be stopped. Myers isn’t senselessly killing characters, he is targeting people that take the same actions as his sister did. Parental irresponsibility and morals come into play with A Nightmare on Elm Street as well. Nancy’s mother is a drunk that would rather be in her own world rather than the real world while Nancy’s father is too busy at work trying to keep the income steady. Freddy is a result of the parents of our teenage victims because of their vigilantism. I could go on and on about these characters as you will find something about parenting and the psychology of nurturing in all of these films. This is where Child’s Play sort of echoes these films at first as more of a device to gain the normality of horror audience. You might recall that Chucky makes his first kill, as a doll, when Andy is being cared for by his mother’s friend and co-worker. His next kill occurs when Andy ditches school to go on an adventure that Chucky coerced Andy to go on.
Three writers are credited to have written the screenplay to Child’s Play. Those writers are Don Mancini, who has been the driving force for Chucky to continue on in many sequels, director Tom Holland and writer John Lafia, who would go on to direct but not write the sequel, Child’s Play 2. IMDb also states in its trivia section that Howard Franklin contributed to the screenplay. He remains uncredited in the final film. IMDb also states Don Mancini and John Lafia were barred from the set after threatening to sue Tom Holland over a writing credit dispute. It seems like there were many cooks in the kitchen for this film. Therefore, I don’t know if any one person is to be commended for what I think is one of the most genius things about Child’s Play or if it might have been a collaborative effort.
While the film isn’t based around Christmas, I am always reminded around this time of year of Child’s Play. Sure, us horror fans have holiday classics like Black Christmas or Silent Night, Deadly Night. But as I have grown older, Child’s Play has really struck a chord with me about the stress of the holiday season. The month of December can be a really tough one for some folks. Especially those living paycheck to paycheck. Within the first 20 minutes of Child’s Play, if you didn’t know it was little Andy’s birthday, you would think that the film takes place during Christmas holiday. The film takes place in a cold and brutally emotionless environment of a Chicago winter. As the film begins with Andy’s storyline, he is preparing his mother breakfast while his show Good Guys, a children’s television program, plays in the background. His mother, Karen Barclay, is played by Catherine Hicks, who would ironically play television’s idealistic Christian mother in 7th Heaven, sleeps in the other room while Andy, unsupervised, makes cereal and toast for his mother on his birthday. Andy comes from a single parent household with Karen being the only parental figure in his life. Later when Andy’s mom gets out of bed they go to open his presents, Andy is disappointed to find that the Good Guys doll that he hoped to find was not there. It is at this moment when I realize, as an adult, that this is a fear of a parent. Letting your kid down is something that has to be one of the biggest fears in a parent’s life.
Child’s Play was released in 1988 and the film takes place in a modern universe. So, it is safe to say that the endless marketing for Good Guys products have planted the seed that Andy not only wants this doll but needs it. It is the one horror film that pops out of mind that also touches on the economical status of our characters which is rarely done in the genre. Karen wants the best for her son. There is also a void of a father figure in Andy’s life and while it really isn’t touched upon in the film directly, Karen knows that she must do everything she can to spoil Andy. It is one of the first movies that I remember as a kid where I saw poverty in a genre, or more specifically a “horror” film. Karen has to go on a 5 minute break to meet a street peddler who obviously grabbed the Good Guys dolls that spilled onto the street from the Playland Toys explosion form the beginning of the film to sell on the black market. She gets a slightly torn boxed up Good Guys doll to make Andy happy and upon returning to her shift, she is confronted by her boss at her job. It is the combination of these two scenes that makes me believe that not only was it to introduce the conflict that Karen would have to cover someone’s shift therefore missing Andy’s birthday night but also showing the fact that her role of being a parent is not easy for Karen.Please enter the url to a YouTube video.
I’m sure most of you know that the Good Guys dolls were allegedly modeled after the My Buddy dolls which were popular in the mid 80’s. Creator Don Mancini stated that he originally wanted the film to be a satire more than a horror film so I’d like to think that Mancini should get some of the credit for the commentary on societal need of children’s toys whether it was intended or not. The fact that this commentary on marketing and advertising gets lost in the shuffle of the film, particularly in the film’s latter portion, is kind of a bummer. I’m always reminded of this film because there is one toy every year that parents are clamoring for to ensure their status as a “good parent”. It is the society that we grew up in since the 80’s when children were marketed to in every department. Take a look at that opening scene again. Andy not only has the Good Guys television program playing in the background, he comments that he has seen the episode before. Instead of turning the channel to find something new or different to watch, Andy, dressed in his Good Guys clothing, pours Good Guys cereal for his mom. Karen is set up for failure because of the recent announcement of the Good Guys doll and her minimal income.
There are important things said in Child’s Play and the fear of letting something you brought into this world down because of the incredible pressures that toy manufacturers put on parents in order to sell their product. While the Child’s Play franchise has gone down a different route with the sequels and its recent entry, Curse of Chucky (which is a pretty good horror flick), Child’s Play has a message that just doesn’t get talked about enough.