A good horror movie is made up of good direction, acting, writing, and cinematography. A great horror movie utilizes these techniques in almost every single scene to effectively tell the story, give a good scare, or build suspense. Everyone has their list of favorite films that they can watch over and over again. But what about those specific scenes that you always look forward to seeing when settling in with one of your favorites? Or that scene that has you nudging the person sitting next to you and saying, “You’ll love this part!” Certain scenes in a film can speak to us in any number of ways, and Scenes We Love will attempt to spotlight some of the best of the best.
With Chucky being the well-known horror icon that he is, it’s hard to imagine watching the first film and not knowing what to expect from the pint-sized killer doll. Child’s Play was originally (and still kind of is) supposed to play out so the audience is not sure whether Chucky really is alive or if it is Andy himself who is the killer. This scene in particular is a fantastic example of how a truly great horror film can build up amazing tension for the movie, and for one of the greatest and scariest reveals of all time.
This scene occurs after Karen Barclay leaves Andy in the care of the mental hospital and returns home with Chucky in tow.
Taking off her coat, Karen heads into the kitchen to get a glass of water. This is where the scene’s brilliance starts. Director Tom Holland makes sure to keep Chucky in the audience’s sight in the background, over Karen’s shoulder.
Now this builds up a bit of tension because the audience is probably thinking that since we saw Chucky in the background in the previous shot that this is going to be something like the old “mirror scare.” When the camera follows Karen as she walks back to place in front of the sink, Chucky will be probably be gone or have moved… right?
…the batteries fall out! Suddenly very terrified, Karen drops the box and spins around to face Chucky. Also, the scene has been silent up to this point and the musical cue that hits when the batteries drop is perfectly timed and placed.
Now things are getting really stressful for the audience as Karen slowly makes her way across the room to Chucky. And, just as slowly, she reaches across him to pick him up. By now we know that something has got to happen–it’s just a question of what and when.
Knowing that it is empty, this is when Chucky decides to really mess with Karen and proceeds to give us the scariest moment of the whole film (really, of the whole series). Chucky spins his head around and says “Hi, I’m Chucky! Wanna play?” The line comes out in the doll’s electronic voice as opposed to Brad Dourif’s, but it is just different enough from how it previously sounded to add to the intensity of this creepy moment.
This moment relieves a lot of the tension in the scene. What really makes this part of the film brilliant, though, is that Holland is able to build up all this tension, then relieve it with the head-spinning part, then he manages to almost immediately build it right back up again. When Karen drops Chucky, he doesn’t get up and run or attack her. Instead, he rolls himself under the couch.
Still, Chucky does nothing. By this point, we have to wonder what he’s doing here. The head-spinning part pretty much proves to both Karen and the audience that Chucky is alive, but he doesn’t yet fully reveal himself to her. Most likely, he is just enjoying toying with her. The scene goes on as Karen slowly pulls Chucky out from under the couch and shakes him.
Self-preservation forces Chucky to finally reveal himself–and finally release that tension again–as he comes alive in her arms and attacks her. This scene is also kind of funny because the first words we get to hear Chucky say in his real voice are “You stupid bitch! You filthy sl*t, I’m gonna teach you to f**k with me!”
In this pivotal scene from Child’s Play, Holland really does a beautiful job here of creating one of the most tense scenes in horror history. It is truly a feat how he is able to completely build up the tension almost to its breaking point, then finally break it, then almost immediately build it all up again until the next breaking point. Each time to you think something is going to happen, Holland holds it in to keep the audience guessing and squirming in their seats. Some shots are held for a long time, there are not a lot of cuts, and each shot is framed to perfection. This is mostly definitely a Scene We Love!