Childâ€™s Play (Scream Factory Collectorâ€™s Edition)
Released by: Shout! Factory
Released on: October 18th, 2016.
Director: Tom Holland
Cast: Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon
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The first of (so far) six films in the franchise, Tom Holland's 1988 killer doll film, Child's Play, follows a young boy named Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) who wants nothing more for his birthday than a $100.00 Good Guys doll. His mother, Karen (Catherine Hicks), just can't afford it but Andy isn't good at hiding the disappointment on his face when it comes time to open his gifts.
A day or so later, Karen's friend Maggie (Dinah Manoff) tells her that there's a homeless man behind the department store that they work at who is selling off some toys and that he's got a Good Guys doll in his cart. Five minutes later and thirty dollars poorer, Karen's got the toy her son wants so bad and she takes it home to him before heading back to finish off her shift at work, leaving Maggie to babysit him. When Karen comes home from work that night, Maggie's dead, she fell to her death from the window of Karen and Andy's Chicago apartment.
The cops, led by Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon), think that Andy might have had something to do with it but Andy keeps telling them that his Good Guy doll, now named Chucky, is the one that's behind it. As more bodies start piling up, Andy keeps telling them that Chucky is the one whose up to no good, and it's starting to look like the cops aren't going to have any choice but give the kid's theories some serious thought, especially once Norris connects the Chucky doll to the death of a voodoo practicing murderer named Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif).
Fast paced and laced with some fantastic black comedy, Child's Play isn't the classic that some have made it out to be but time has been surprisingly kind to the picture and it holds up quite well. Anyone who is susceptible to the natural creepiness inherent in big dopey looking dolls will fast realize where the film is going fairly early on, Holland leaves plenty of hints and foreshadowing in easy to spot areas of the film (the footprints in the flower, Andy's reactions to Chucky early on, etc.). That said, the script, if predictable, gives the effects technicians who created the creepy doll plenty of room to flex their muscles.
And then there's Brad Dourif, in a dual role. Never the A list star he should have been, Dourif has made an interesting career out of playing eccentric types and villains. Playing an interesting dual role here as both Charles Lee Ray and the voice of Chucky, Dourif is all sarcastic menace and really he's the perfect choice to play the part and he completely makes the film. Chris Sarandon, Catherine Hicks, and Alex Vincent are all fine in their respective protagonist roles but it really is Dourif who shines here even if the vessel for his insanity is a two foot doll.
While the movie has lost some of its scare power over the years thanks to a pair unimpressive sequels (though the later efforts, Bride Of Chucky and Seed Of Chucky are good films, they're played more for dark laughs than for scares) imaginatively titled Child's Play 2 and Child's Play 3, the first film in the series remains an effective one. A couple of good jump scares, some impressive special effects, a few moments of honestly eerie atmosphere and a great performance from Dourif have earned the film its rightful place in the hears of horror movie fans around the world.
Childs Play comes to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc from Shout! Factory in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in a transfer taken from a new 2k scan of the inter-positive and it shows quite a substantial improvement over the past Blu-ray editions. Colors look a bit better here, they pop a little more than on the old release, while detail seems a bit stronger too. Black levels are nice and deep and the image is free of compression artifacts. Thereâ€™s very little print damage here and the image is free of obvious noise reduction and edge enhancement. There are some shots that look a little soft, theyâ€™ve looked that way on past releases and likely stem back to the original photography, but otherwise this is a really strong transfer.
Audio is presented in English language DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo options with removable subtitles available in English only. Those who want the extra channel separation will obviously opt for the 5.1 mix while those who prefer the original mix will likely enjoy the 2.0 track more. Both options sound fine. There are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion, the levels are well balanced and the dialogue is easy to follow throughout. Sound effects, gun shots in particular, seem to have a bit more power behind them in the 2.0 track but both provide a very good listening experience.
First up is an all new audio commentary track courtesy of director Tom Holland. Itâ€™s a welcome addition to the disc and quite an informative listen. He talks about how and why he came to be involved in this project, some of the difficulties of bringing a homicidal doll to life, the efforts of the cast and crew he worked with, some of the locations and the stunt work and a fair bit more. Carried over from previous editions is the commentary with stars Alex Vincent and Catharine Hicks who are joined by Chucky designer, Kevin Yagher. Also recycled here is an audio commentary courtesy of producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Don Mancini. While the track with Kirschner and Mancini is the more enjoyable and fact filled of the two, both tracks lend some insight into what it was like working on this film and squaring off against an evil doll! Mancini dominates his talk as this film really is his baby through and through but the cast commentary is also interesting as it talks about what it was like working on the film from in front of the camera rather than behind it. Both tracks are interesting and don't take themselves too seriously, as such, they're quite a bit of fun to listen to.
If that weren't enough commentary action for you, Brad Dourif provides an in character â€˜Chucky' commentary for a few select scenes in the picture, also ported over from the previous special edition release. You can access these directly from the menu so that you don't have to sift through the film messing with audio options to find it. This is pretty amusing and worth listening to if you enjoy Dourif's character as Chucky rips on what it's like to be a film star and some of his fellow cast members.
The rest of the extras are found on the second disc in this set. Three new featurettes are found here, the first of which is an hour long piece called Behind The Scenes Special Effects Footage which is just what it sounds like. This is basically â€˜home movieâ€™ material shot on set during the shoot and itâ€™s pretty interesting in that it gives fans a fly-on-the-wall look at what it was like while the production was rolling. A lot of this footage shows off effects work, such as the animatronic Chucky doll being worked on and tinkered with, but along with that we also see the actors working on material and the rest of the cast and crew involved in things.
In the forty-one minute long piece Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend â€˜Til The End weâ€™re treated to a lengthy interview with the man who was in charge of the effects work on the shoot. Thereâ€™s a lot more of the home movie footage included here but itâ€™s focused more on Bergerâ€™s work than the more rounded, generalized material included in the first batch. Berger offers lots of insight into his work on this film and shares some interesting stories about working with his team and with the different cast members.
The third new featurette is a forty minute piece called Life Behind The Mask: Being Chucky, wherein actor Ed Gale gets in front of the camera to share his side of the story behind Childâ€™s Play. He was basically the stunt man recruited when the film called for Chucky to do something that the animatronic version couldnâ€™t handle, so heâ€™s got some pretty great â€˜stories from the trenchesâ€™ to share here.
From there we move on more material carried over from the previous special edition release, starting with a three part featurette entitled Evil Comes In Small Packages. The three parts are The Birth Of Chucky, Creating The Horror and Unleashed and the titles more or less give away what is covered within. Totaling just over eighteen minutes in length, this well rounded piece includes interviews with most of the people who worked on the film (save for Tom Holland who is mysteriously missing in action throughout most of the supplements on this disc) as it covers the project from pre-production, production, and post-production before moving on and covering the popularity and influence of the film and the franchise that followed in its wake.
A second featurette, Chucky: Building A Nightmare, takes a look at the special effects that were used in the film. This is an interesting and fairly in-depth look at the animatronics that were used and the wealth of behind the scenes footage used in this ten minute segment makes it completely worthwhile and genuinely interesting at that. You'll walk away from this one with some newfound respect for what Kevin Yagher accomplished with this film as the effects work really is quite inventive.
A Monster Convention is a five minute panel discussion that was recorded at a horror convention where Sarandon, Hicks and Vincent all sat around fielding questions from attendees. While this definitely could have been longer and more substantial it's a fairly amusing and off the cuff talk and it's fun to see the stars of the film interact with the people who made them stars in the first place.
Also on hand is the vintage Introducing Chucky: The Making Of Child's Play promotional featurette (a fairly stale and rather dated look at the production while it was being shot that includes some moderately interesting comments from director Tom Holland), two still galleries, a TV spot the film's original trailer, animated menus, and chapter selection (for the movie on disc one).
Both discs fit inside a blue Blu-ray keepcase that features some nice reversible cover art with the original theatrical poster art on one side and the newly created artwork on the opposite side. The case in turn fits inside a cardboard slipcover featuring the new art on the front panel.
The Final Word:
Childâ€™s Play holds up well, and while the sequels would take things in some very different directions, this first film in the series remains a pretty solid horror picture with some great set pieces and an iconic turn from Dourif. Shout! Factoryâ€™s Blu-ray release is pretty impressive, stacking the disc with some great new extras, carrying over everything from the last special edition release and presenting the movie in a noticeably improved transfer. Fans should be very pleased with the results!
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!