Welcome to our newest column, Daddy’s Little Monster. Ron McKenzie and his daughter Emma will be breaching the generation gap to take a fresh look at horror classics, and give their personal spin on contemporary genre films, as well. First up is Child’s Play. Take it away, Ron…
When I met with Dave to discuss ideas for an ongoing column in the Abattoir, we looked at a few options. It was one suggestion he made, though, that seemed like a perfect fit. “You and Emma should do a father-daughter tag team review.” Emma’s my eleven-year-old daughter and a “monster kid” since the age of four. Lately, I’ve been introducing her to the films that made me a horror fan. Some, she’s loved. Others, not so much (we don’t see eye-to-eye on Romero’s Dead series – her thoughts on Dawn of the Dead are controversial, to say the least ).
There are a lot of “horror moms and dads” out there – some seasoned veterans, others are a little new to the process of introducing their kids to the genre. The offspring and I have decided to perform a public service, as well as an experiment. We’re going to watch several horror films, new and “vintage,” and compare notes. From time to time, we’ll even make suggestions on whether or not certain movies are right or not for the budding “monster kids” in your life. It could be enlightening, it could be educational… but mostly, I just hope it’s as fun for you, as it is for us.
We started off with an obvious choice, at least in name: Tom Holland’s serial killer doll classic, Child’s Play. This is the transcript of our conversation after watching it.
Ron: I think what surprised me, not having seen this for over twenty years, is how much of it holds up. The cast is great – Catherine Hicks and Chris Sarandon are great in this, successfully selling you on such a potentially camp premise. The real revelation, on second viewing, is Alex Vincent as Andy. It’s one scene in particular where he nails it – he starts to cry as he tells his psychiatrist that Chucky is coming to kill him. It’s a little scene, but you believe this little boy fears for his life. In the wrong hands, this could have failed miserably. But Tom Holland and his cast balance the thrills and humour remarkably well. Emma, thoughts?
Emma: Fun, very fun. It’s the type of movie you watch, and if you can’t enjoy it, then you don’t have a sense of humour. It’s definitely a fun horror movie that you can laugh at. There’s a ton of cheesy lines, like Andy’s final words to Chucky: “This IS the end, pal!” I love that the kid gets the cool line and gets the bad guy.
Ron: I’m glad you enjoyed it. You obviously got a lot out of the more fun stuff in the film, but did you find it scary?
Emma: Was it scary for me? Uh… no, not necessarily “scary.” There were some parts that had me sitting on the edge of my seat with anticipation, but I was never really scared.
Ron: You’ve had some exposure to some slasher stuff, mostly Elm Street and Halloween. Now, that you’ve seen Chucky in action, how does he stack up?
Emma: Well, he’s a psycho killer in a doll’s body. There’s nothing else I can really say there. If he were my doll, I would definitely treat him well after finding out he’s “alive,” because if you treat him the wrong way, he’ll come back and bite you in the ass (and I mean literally, he does a lot of biting). What I did like about Chucky is that they took a long time to reveal he was alive, with the scene where the mom looks in his back and there’s no batteries…
Ron: “Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna Play?”
Emma: Yeah. I liked that they didn’t reveal it too soon and it wasn’t till Chucky starts swearing at the mom and biting her that they finally show it. It seemed more mysterious that way, you know, instead of showing everything too soon.
Ron: I was very happy to see that that the effects for Chucky are still effective. The subtle changes in his appearance as he slides from Good Guy to Charles Lee Ray were done really well and I probably appreciate that more now that I’m older. You’ve grown up in the age of computer-generated visuals, Emma, but you also made an interesting point to me about the special effects here.
Emma: Well, I definitely prefer animatronics over CGI. In a movie that was made in 1988, they wouldn’t even have CGI or computer graphics, but the animatronics always feels more realistic, it’s actually there, it’s something you can touch. When you look at CGI, it’s like “Oh, I don’t really feel that feeling of reality” because you know, it’s not there. When they were filming that, it wasn’t there with the actor. They did it on with a green screen or on a computer. There’s a certain scene I love where Chucky goes back to see his friend, the one who taught him the spell to transfer bodies, and he’s like “Whaddya think?” Just seeing those movements was so amazing and better than computer graphics. It was so cool that back in the ’80s, they were able to do that. It was really awesome.
Ron: You did say, as we were watching it, that you had some problems with the film.
Emma: Yeah, and it happened really early in the film. Catherine Hicks’ best friend/co-worker is babysitting Andy and she’s Chucky’s first victim – which I shouldn’t have spoiled, I guess [laughs]. Before she’s actually killed, there’s about four or five jump scares which really ruined the effect of the kill. It’s like “Oh, no, she’s gonna get killed” and then she’s not, and then there’s another jump scare, and you think it’s gonna happen, and then it doesn’t again. This happens so many times that it really ruins it when it finally happens. I didn’t like that at all. I think jump scares are lazy, and too many of them just ruin a scene.
Ron: Let’s wrap things up here with a question, and you’re more suited to answer this then me. If a parent said to you, “My kid’s interested in horror movies – do you think I should let him watch Child’s Play?” what would you tell them?
Emma: It really depends on what your child has seen before. If your child hasn’t seen any horror movies before, I would definitely start off with something a little more subtle. Also, if you don’t want your really young kids afraid of dolls, you might want to skip it. If you’re asking me what the right age is, I’d probably say nine and up. Child’s Play has some bad language, a couple of bloody scenes and there are a lot of scenes where Andy’s in danger from Chucky, so you might want to think about if your kid’s gonna be scared or upset by that stuff. My dad watches any movie we’re going to watch ahead of time, so if there’s certain parts you don’t want your kids to see, then you can definitely skip those when you’re watching it with your kids.
Ron: So summing things up, Emma, let’s give you the final word on Child’s Play.
Emma: Good, cheesy fun.