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Police shoot and kill a convicted strangler after cornering him in a toy store. As the man is dying, he transfers his soul into a doll.
For more about Child's Play and the Child's Play Blu-ray release, see Child's Play Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on September 26, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Tom Holland (I)
Writers: Don Mancini, John Lafia, Tom Holland (I)
Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon (I), Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow
» See full cast & crew
Child's Play Blu-ray Review
The film that made dolls cool again...
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, September 26, 2009
For fans of the horror genre, late September marks the beginning of a month-long release schedule that rivals Christmas. Considering the momentum Blu-ray has picked up over the course of the past year, it's not surprising to see more and more studios jump on the bandwagon with a proper high-definition treatment of some truly classic titles. Child's Play might not make it to the top of every horror fan's list, but there's no denying the popularity of the franchise, or the fact that it rapidly derailed as each passing release stepped further from the chemistry that made the original so charming. I honestly can't remember the last time I sat down to watch the original Child's Play, but I feel confident it's been at least ten years since my last experience with the terrible little doll known as Chucky.
Every young boy longs for the companionship of a "Good Guy Doll", but not every parent has the resources to afford the steep cost. Such is the case with Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks), a single mother who can't scrape enough money together to deliver on her son's birthday wish for a Good Guy Doll. In a strange turn of luck, Karen learns of a peddler behind the building in which she works, who's selling a Good Guy Doll for a fraction of the price. Her son Andy (Alex Vincent) is overjoyed with the belated birthday present, welcoming "Chucky" into their home as his new best friend. Unfortunately for Andy and Karen, mysteriously violent occurrences begin to take place around Andy, who insists Chucky is responsible. Not believing the wild accusations of a 6-year-old boy, the suspicious eyes of law enforcement land on Andy as the perpetrator of the crimes. Even Karen remains skeptical about the idea of a doll as a vengeful killer, until one night when she finds herself alone with Chucky and discovers the talking caricature of an innocent young boy houses the spirit of a maniacal serial killer.
Child's Play is one of the most preposterous plotlines in the history of horror cinema, but it works far better than one would assume. This is largely due to the amazing animatronics work by Kevin Yagher, who absolutely nails the facial expressions and movements of Chucky. If you took away the doll's ability to scowl or form lip movements that accurately reflect the dialogue, I doubt we'd be looking back at this cult classic with such fond memories. When not utilizing animatronics, Chucky is brought to life with the use of a young child dressed up as a large doll. I'm convinced this played a slight role in the eventual gravitation on the part of Hollywood toward using children as creepy antagonists in the horror genre. Watching Chucky climb the stairs across the courtyard from Andy's room in the mental facility is surprisingly chilling, despite knowing he's merely a doll.
Much has been said about Brad Dourif as the serial killer who transforms into Chucky, but I need to briefly weigh in and say he is a huge factor in the success of the film. Revisiting this initial entry in the franchise, I'm reminded just how wicked and vulgar Chucky once was. His persona changed slightly in following sequels, gradually evolving into a sarcastic wise-cracker that constantly spews one-liners. I certainly don't mind the decision to take the film franchise in a horror-comedy direction, but the talented voice-acting of Brad Dourif is much more effective when he's focusing 100% on the creepy factor.
The acting from the rest of the cast is also effective, but I'd like to give a special mention to Catherine Hicks in her role as Karen Barclay. As the lead screamer throughout the film, and the crucial character through the climax, Hicks does a marvelous job in some truly challenging scenes. We've all seen how difficult it can be for actors to step into their role when placed in front of a green screen, and I'd imagine it's just as difficult when you're asked to get into character for a scene with a two foot doll connected to animatronics wiring. The same positives can be said for Chris Sarandon as the detective tasked with solving the crimes committed by Chucky; and 9-year-old Alex Vincent as Chucky's companion/prey.
The original Child's Play is still the best entry in the franchise despite passing its 20th anniversary last year. Not only did it spawn multiple sequels (four to be exact), but it opened the door to a wide range of horror concepts through the late-80's and early 90's that otherwise would have been laughed at. It might not be the pinnacle of success at generating a lasting scare factor, but what it lacks in chills, it makes up for in charm.
Child's Play Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at a bitrate that hovers around a healthy 35Mbps), Child's Play doesn't represent a dramatic visual improvement in the transition to Blu-ray, but still looks decent for a film of this age. First and foremost, the level of fine-object detail on display isn't what I'd call impressive, though the image still retains a smooth film-like texture. Those of you who are looking for confirmation that this is an accurate reflection of the source material will be happy to hear that there's a fine level of film grain noticeable throughout the picture, meaning the haziness that permeates the picture from time to time is not a result of excessive DNR. From a color standpoint, the palette is largely natural and vibrant, though I noticed several scenes where skin tones took on a yellowish hue (particularly noticeable in an early scene around the jewelry counter at the mall). Continuing with the positive attributes of the transfer, black levels offer a nice level of depth and contrast exhibits appropriate differentiation throughout the full runtime of the film. I never noticed the presence of digital artifacts or edge enhancement, resulting in an overall impression that this is a proficient (but not spectacular) visual offering from MGM that offers a satisfying experience for long-time Chucky fans.
Child's Play Blu-ray, Audio Quality
While the visual upgrade doesn't deliver in spades, the audio experience is a true revelation. I never expect to be blown away by lossless tracks of films that exceed twenty years in age, but that's exactly what happened as I watched the opening chase sequence of the film. The primary cause for excitement is the use of every speaker in the soundstage to deliver some truly rousing sequences. You'll notice Chucky's footsteps behind you as they pass from the right to the left side of the room, and gunshots ricochet in perfect response to the onscreen action. In addition, your subwoofer is afforded an LFE track that contains some wonderful booming explosions, which is typically a rarity in the sound design on horror films of this age. Continuing with the positives, the balance of various elements in the sound mix is exceptional (without a single aspect overpowering the others), and the clarity of the dialogue is exceptional. From an audio standpoint, Child's Play is a true revelation on this release, showing just how good an aging horror film can sound.
Child's Play Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Chucky Commentary (1080p, Dolby Digital 2.0, various runtime): This supplement offers an entertaining commentary track by the knife-wielding doll during the bulk of his attack scenes. Most of the commentary is delivered in a tongue-in-cheek style, making this an entertaining entry for one viewing, but probably not something you'll ever watch again.
Evil Comes in Small Packages (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 24:49 min): This recent behind-the-scenes supplement focuses on the origin of the production, and how the story was developed/refined by the writer and director. There are also interviews with the actors, as well as a slight degree of focus on the technical aspects of the production.
Chucky:Building a Nightmare (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 10:05 min): One of the best supplements on the disc, this featurette is an analysis of Kevin Yagher's use of animatronics to bring Chucky to life.
A Monster Convention (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 5:26 min): footage from the Monster Mania 2007 panel interview with Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent and Chris Sarandon is presented. The questions aren't that interesting considering the brief runtime of this extra.
The Making of Child's Play (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 6:23 min): introduced as a vintage featurette, this extra focuses mainly on the animatronics technology that was utilized to bring Chucky to life on the screen.
Rounding out the extras, we have a photo gallery containing snapshots from different scenes in the film, a standard definition theatrical trailer and two audio commentaries. The first audio commentary is heavy on sentimental revelations courtesy of Alex Vincent (Andy Barclay), Catherine Hicks (Karen Barclay) and Kevin Yagher (Chucky's designer). The second commentary features David Kirschner (producer) and Don Mancini (screenwriter), revealing a great deal about the technical elements involved in shooting the film.
Child's Play Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you haven't seen the original Child's Play, but managed to catch one of the subsequent sequels in the franchise, you owe it to yourself to give the first film a shot. The pacing is different, the mood is darker and Chucky is portrayed as a menacing character. From a technical standpoint, this release is largely impressive, delivering an audio experience that rivals some of the most proficient vintage releases on the Blu-ray format. I have no qualms about recommending Child's Play to a whole new generation of horror fans, but be forewarned you'll want to part with your doll collection first.
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Child's Play Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Child's Play Blu-ray Detailed - July 22, 2009
MGM Home Entertainment in conjunction with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Child's Play', which is scheduled to hit store shelves on September 15th, day-and-date with ...
• MGM Gives Blu-ray the Chills in September - May 27, 2009
In an early announcement to retailers, it has been revealed that MGM Home Entertainment will release a set of highly-appreciated horror movies on September 15: 'Child's Play', 'Misery', and 'The Hannibal Lecter Anthology', which will include 'Manhunter', ...
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