monster movies

Child’s Play

Childs-play-movie-poster1In The Horror of It All: One Moviegoer’s Love Affair with Masked Maniacs, Frightened Virgins, and the Living Dead, author Adam Rockoff asked, “Why is Halloween loved but Friday the 13th despised?” One word. Blood.

Critics love restraint and Child’s Play is mostly bloodless too. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t bloodcurdling. Roger Ebert, whose antipathy to horror was infamous, said the film was “cheerfully energetic,” undoubtedly due to it holding back.

But for true fans, it’s neither here nor there if horror’s got gore. That’s at odds with public perception. We’re open to getting frights where we find them, even if it’s Toys ‘R’ Us. And unlike critics, we don’t punish films for gore. (The word “punish is forever ruined by Silent Night, Deadly Night.)

In Child’s Play, like A Nightmare on Elm Street, the series’ quality is inversely related to the number of lines spouted by its antagonist. For most of the first installment, the Chucky doll’s utterances are of the Ned Flanders variety, a “hi-da-lee-ho,” paired with an innocent rhyme, “I’m your friend to the end.” And when the doll becomes animate, it’s actually the silence that drive the horror, not the one-liners.

The spirit of a serial killer, Charles Lee Ray (an amalgam of Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray) enters into a Good Guys doll, which is then purchased in a back alley by a penny-pinching Chicago mom for her son Andy.

One night mom has to work late and Maggie, a babysitter co-worker, is a last minute sub to put Andy (and his new friend) to bed. Director Tom Holland makes great use of the hulking 19th century Brewster apartment complex in Chicago’s north side, and the creepy, creaky building becomes a character until itself, almost like the sprawling Brooklyn mansion in The Sentinel. It’s in the apartment’s living room where Chucky comes to life, after making excuses via Andy to stay up late “to watch the 9 O’Clock news.” Dutiful Maggie balks, and for her troubles she’s pummeled with a hammer between the eyes, causing her to fall to her death from the kitchen window.

childs_play_movieChicago’s Finest is soon on the scene, including the former Mr. Susan Sarandon, Chris (speaking of The Sentinel).

The cops notice tiny footprints leading up to the crime scene, and eventually, they realize there’s a killer in their midst, the likes of which unseen in The Windy City since perhaps Henry in Portrait of a Serial Killer.

The animate doll, unwilling to be trapped in a plastic body for eternity, tracks down a Voodoo practitioner to “be a real boy,” to quote Pinocchio, and leads sweet Andy out on a CTA train to a seedy neighborhood (probably the kind President Obama once tried to “community organize).

Chicago PD finally comes around after dismissing mom’s tale of a doll minus its batteries that’s wreaking havoc.

The film holds up exceedingly well. A mere blink from the psycho ginger doll causes shivers. Creepy dolls may be overused in supernatural horrors, but killer dolls are a different matter entirely.

And here’s some advice: as collectors know, these toys retain their value when kept in their packaging.

***3/4 (out of 5)

[CHECK OUT OUR CHILD’S PLAY DISCUSSION ON THE REALLY AWFUL MOVIES PODCAST]

Bunny the Killer Thing

Foreign horrors often benefit from cultural unfamiliarity. Bunny the Killer Thing (2015) is one such film. Not that it’s unwatchable by any means, but it carries with it a kind of societal advantage of not being set on these shores, upping the interest level that might not otherwise have been there.

A raunchy Finnish horror/comedy (with English and Finnish breezily interspersed), Bunny the Killer Things brings the fun + gore, while suffering from laughs lost in translation. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an interesting viewing exercise, if only to get a better understanding of Finnish culture — one that’s more holistic than you might glean from watching an NHL game.

Tuomas, a pant-pissing hipster whose face is bisected by a very punchable mustache, has a rich uncle who’s offered him use of his fancy cabin in the woods. Yes, this is a cabin in the woods movie, replete with the trappings of Finnish culture (it’s got saunas, and clear spirits are the go-to beverage choice).

En route to their wintry getaway, Tuomas and friends come across a car that’s broken down, driven by three, somewhat seedy Brits…however it’s not one of THOSE kinds of movies.

Back in town, a mad scientist has injected an unwilling patient with a serum, and he’s busted loose from his confines possessing….not er, superhuman strength but large furry rabbit physicality (while retaining some parts of his human anatomy intact, for some, shall we say “interesting” POV shots).

This hare/humanoid thing escapes into the dark woods, then goes after the Finns, as well as their newfound British compatriots, and they have to band together to tackle the sicko bunny.

This sounds like a pretty straight-up creature feature, but this is bawdy stuff. And even if this is Nordic, the tone is really all over the map.

The leads are dynamite though, particularly Jari Manninen as Mise, an N-bomb dropping bigot who soon becomes fast drinking friends with Nigerian-Brit Tim (Orwi Manny Ameh).  Their relationship is sweetly unexpected. The female leads are great too, including Veera W. Vilo as the conniving Nina, and her unrequited love interest Sara (Enni Ojutkangas).

Park your brain in neutral and go with it.

*** (out of 5)

[For those who are interested, on Episode 38 of the Really Awful Movies Podcast, we chat about the killer bunny feature, Night of the Lepus]