Serial strangler Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) is on the run, being hunted down through the night time streets by policeman Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon). It looks as if time is up for the killer, as despite firing off shots at his pursuer he can't shake him off and makes a split second decision to take refuge in a toy store. Norris follows him as Ray hides amongst the merchandise, and manages to hit the psychopath with a bullet, leading to desperate measures - he knows he's about to expire so puts his voodoo practices into play by transferring his soul into the nearest Good Guy doll. One huge lightning strike later and Ray is dead - or is he?
Considering the high camp horrors that the Child's Play series turned into it's strange to see the original film approached with such straight faced vigour; in fact, the only laughs here are largely unintentional. From Don Mancini's story he and John Lafia and director Tom Holland crafted a typical eighties slasher with elaborate rubber effects and rather silly plotline to excuse its characters' behaviour. The expected antics with them being chased around by a two foot tall talking doll called Chucky, which Ray has tranferred his spirit into, don't occur until the last half, so there's a lot of "is he moving or isn't he?" business to contend with before that.
Interestingly, the family that Chucky settles with is a single parent one, as if to demonstrate, in a conservative twist, how much more difficult it is for a mother on her own to look after her child, although saving their offspring from deadly, possessed toys can't be high on most parents' lists. The mother in question is Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks), who disappoints her son Andy (Alex Vincent, a young actor who constantly appears on the verge of forgetting his lines) on his birthday by not buying him the Good Guy doll he so desired. When she's at work, her friend (and obvious first victim) Maggie (Dinah Manoff) alerts her to a vagrant selling one of the toys behind the shop they serve in.
And wouldn't you know it, the doll she picks up is the very same that Ray put his soul into, but the only person who finds out is little Andy who becomes his confidant. So when babysitting Maggie is propelled out of the window of the apartment to her doom in a laughable sequence (which only happens because the scriptwriters needed a death in the first half hour) the police's suspicion centres on Andy due to the small footprints in the flour around the crime scene. Nobody believes him when he says that Chucky did it, and this tiresomely predictable development continues for as long as the audience can tolerate it, if not longer.
Norris is the detective investigating the Andy case, and he is particularly insensitive considering that Karen's best friend has just died, but when Chucky can't resist the appeal of revenge for much longer he discovers Andy was telling the truth in an especially ridiculous scene where the doll attacks him in his car. The only clever bit is where Karen realises that the talking Good Guy has been operating all this time without batteries, but mostly the film runs on the tram lines of the very much as we anticipated. Actually, the only truly creepy aspect is the giant sized Good Guy man-in-a-suit we see on TV - stick Brad Dourif in one of those and you may have had a better movie. As it was, Child's Play was successful enough for a run of sequels which thankfully employed irony after the third instalment, which may have been too late for some. Music by Joe Renzetti.