Child's Play [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - MGM Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (24th November 2009).
The Film

Clowns are creepy, dolls are even creepier, especially ones that come to life and try to kill you. There's something not right about dolls with realistic features, their lifeless, cold expression stare at you, conjuring up nightmares. It's this convention that's exploited greatly in "Child's Play" another in a line of cheaply made horror films churned out in the 1980's. By the late 80's just about every studio had established their horror franchise, and MGM unleashed what would be the start of a successful series of films that generated a cult-like status among horror fans. The Chucky films have never generated hundreds of millions (like other popular franchises) but the low budgets meant that making a profit was much easily achieved (a similar strategy used by Lionsgate and their "Saw" films (2004-2009)). Despite the financial success of the film and it's cult following, "Child's Play" plays on every cheesy horror convention, offering up little new to the genre. While the film may be considered a "classic" it's in my opinion that the term "classic" here is used simply because of the film's age.

Criminal Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) is on the run from the cops, he is hit in a police shoot-out, and his injuries are life threatening. Determined to keep his soul alive, he uses a voodoo spell to transfer into a "Good Guys" doll named Chucky. Unfortunately for little boy Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) it's this doll that his mother, Karen (Catherine Hicks) gives to him on his birthday. Chucky (Brad Dourif) comes to life and continues his murderous spree taking out anyone that gets in his way, including Andy, Karen and a Detective, Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) who is investigating the strange murders.

I'm not entirely sold on "Child's Play," to begin with the story is rather stupid, compared to other classic horror films from the 80's this one's plot is the most outlandish. I can buy a killer whose broken out of a mental hospital, I can buy a deformed killer that haunts your dreams, a hockey-masked killer with some mommy issues and chainsaw wielding freak who likes to wear other people's skin... but a possessed doll? Well aside from the creepiness of the concept, it's not entirely scary, nor does the story particularly generate interest from this reviewer. Matched with dialogue that sounds like its written by a film school drop out, it surprises me that "Child's Play" was even picked up by a major studio and not produced by Roger Corman.

I've read some reviews praising the performances, particularly that of Catherine Hicks. I'm not sure what movie these people were watching but the acting is horribly amateurish, especially that of Catherine Hicks who spends her screen time being just plain annoying. Chris Sarandon isn't any better as the Detective investigating the murders, phoning it in would be an accurate description of his turn in this film. Finally we get to the child star of the film, Alex Vincent, what irks me about this kid is that I know plenty of children his age that aren't nearly as naive as his character. His "cutesy" performance didn't do him any favors. Brad Dourif's voice work for Chucky, however, was the only performance worth mentioning, he's pitch perfect as the psychotic doll.

What "Child's Play" does right is heaps an appropriate amount of suspense, which is built upon by the film's pacing. There's a level of uneasiness as viewers know exactly what's going to happen, it's just the 'when' that the filmmakers play with and to decent effect. Furthermore I was impressed with the animatronic doll effects, which for the time are pretty good, especially the burned Chucky head from the end of the film, which was just horrific looking. A few clunky movements mar the overall sell of the doll come to life, but the technology has its limitations.

For most this'll be a guilty pleasure, this is the first time I've seen a Chucky film and I'm not that impressed, nor I am intrigued in seeing the subsequent sequels. This one's just for the fans... newcomers should know there are way better horror films out there worth your time.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 high-definition 1080p 24/fps mastered with AVC MPEG-4 compression. This transfer was created using the same restored image created for last year's "20th Birthday Edition" DVD. This image is a step-up from the standard definition image but not by much. It still feels like I'm watching an up-scaled DVD rather than a true 1080p picture. This of course comes from the limitations of the film stocks used at the time, heavy grain is an occasional problem as is some softness, specks as well pop-up. Detail is occasionally limited, while wide shots look good, some close-ups suffer, and black levels aren't as solid as they could be. Colors are good, skin tones appear natural and the print is mostly clean from dirt. Overall I wasn't all that impressed with this transfer, it's simply OK at best.

Audio

Four audio tracks are featured in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, as well as Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround and French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD lossless audio track. This is an up-mixed track from the film's original stereo track, adding a but of depth to the surround experience but mostly it's a front heavy track. With clean and distortion free dialogue, the film's audio is suitable but doesn't overly impress either. The score does well throughout the sound space, ambient sounds are somewhat limited, the more suspenseful scenes fare a lot better in terms of audio separation and overall immersiveness.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Korean and Mandarin.

Extras

This 2-disc includes a decent amount of extras, two audio commentaries and a selected scene commentary start things off, along with a 3-part documentary, 3 featurettes, a theatrical trailer, photo gallery and bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by cast members Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, and Chucky designer Kevin Yagher. Sadly the film's director was not asked to participate in the supplements of this disc, which is a shame as it would have been nice to hear from him. Instead we get some cast and the guy that designed the doll. 20 years later the participants look back on the film as they remain largely screen-specific commenting on the happenings onscreen, they talk about the other cast members, share some memories of the production among other things. Trivial information is delivered about the locations, the sequences and set-ups, while Yagher provides most of the intriguing tidbits in regards to the creation of the doll and the effects. There are some quiet gaps, but it's far from boring. Fans might find something new here to sink their teeth into but there aren't exactly any revelatory comments.

The second feature-length audio commentary features the film's producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Don Mancini. The producer and writer kick the track off talking about United Artists and how the studio isn't what it was when the film was originally made. They talk about how the franchise wound up at Universal having started out at United Artists. Again, these two remain largely screen-specific as they comment on the locations, casting the various roles, especially the challenge of casting Andy. It's interesting to hear these two talk about the voodoo elements of the film, the development of the story and how they all came together. Memories are shared about the production, working with the cast and also other producers such as Oscar winner Barrie M. Osborne and what he brings to complicated film shoots. Some repeat information is found here in regards to the dolls design, and some background on the production. Overall I found this track a much more enjoyable commentary than the previous, and worth listening to.

There's also some select scene audio commentary by Chucky himself. Brad Dourif lends his creepy voice once again to the doll as he provides a commentary on a select grouping of scenes from the film. In character he talks about the kills and how they bring back so many memories. It's a nice novelty extra but gets a bit tedious after a while.

"Evil Comes in Small Packages" is a 3-part documentary which can be viewed in parts or with a 'play all' option and feature:

- "The Birth of Chucky" runs for 7 minutes 20 seconds and examines the development and creation of the film. The clip looks at how the film is a commentary on the dark aspects of children's marketing. Screenwriter Don Mancini talks about writing the script, producer David Kirschner comments on discovering the script among other things including getting financing for the film. Interestingly enough the film was originally presented to Disney as producer Kirschner's first project to work on (obviously that didn't happen with Disney). The clip also looks at the evolution of the script and rewrites, the changes made from the original script and final version among other things.
- "Creating the Horror" runs for 12 minutes 10 seconds, the cast talk about what initially attracted them to the film, on casting the role of Karen and explores her back story and finding a little boy that can go through the various horrific moments of the film. The clip takes a look at establishing the dynamic between Alex Vincent and Catherine Hicks as they share their memories of the principle photography and on how the cast prepared for the film as we get a look at some vintage behind-the-scenes footage from the set as well as a look at the creation of the Chucky puppet.
- "Unleashed" runs for 5 minutes 20 seconds, takes a closer look at the editing process and the release of the film and how Don Mancini and David Kirschner would go to public screenings. The rest of the cast comment on the theatrical run of the film, the media reaction about the film, the fans that come out to horror conventions and impact the film had on its viewers.

"Chucky: Building a Nightmare" is a featurette which runs for 10 minutes 5 seconds. This takes a much closer look at the work of Kevin Yagher and his involvement in the Chucky films. The clip covers the development of the animatronic dolls that were created for the film, the design of the doll and the challenges that it posed the designers and effects crew.

Next up is "A Monster Convention" featurette which runs for 5 minutes 26 seconds, explores the fan conventions, where fans get to meet the principle cast in a Q&A.

"Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child's Play" is a vintage featurette which runs for 6 minutes 23 seconds and is your typical EPK clip that covers the basics of the production.

The film's original theatrical trailer is also included and runs for 2 minutes 8 seconds.

There's also a photo gallery which features 75 images.

Finally a bonus trailer is included for:

- "Fox Digital Copy" spot which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.

DISC TWO: DVD

This DVD edition includes all the same extras as on the Blu-ray disc and also adds a couple of bonus trailers for:

- "Mr. Brooks" which runs for 2 minutes 23 seconds.
- "Pathology" which runs for 2 minutes 13 seconds.

Overall

The Film: C- Video: C Audio: C Extras: B Overall: C

 


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