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Child’s Play – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Child's-PlayThe 1980s was a decade that offered many new iconic horror villains and continued the lore and mythology of ones introduced in the 1970s.  It was a kind of resurgence of horror characters, harkening  back to the days of the Universal monsters back in the 1940s.  At the tail end of the decade we were introduced to one of its last and most iconic monsters, Chucky!  This evil was predicated on the fear of the sort of creepy My Buddy and Kid Sister dolls that were quite popular with the kiddos back in the day.  Even though we couldn’t see the movie, we all knew who Chucky was and feared this idea of him.  He got his due with multiple sequels, even being the leading franchise horror guy through to the mid-90s as horror was in a down period and he was the only one doing something and/or active.  Today we travel back to his original haunting, courtesy of a fresh, brand new release from Scream Factory.

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Film 

A mother gives her son a much sought after doll for his birthday.  After a strange series of violent murders happening around the boy,  the “Good Guy Doll” is discovered to be possessed by the soul of a cultist serial killer that detective Mike Norris had thought was dead long ago.

The weird thing about Child’s Play is that the film holds up quite well.  I’m not saying this is going to thrill the socks off of some millennials or anything, but those who choose to revisit the film may find it much better than they are anticipating.  Tom Holland, who was one of the more smarter horror writer/directors of the 1980s, crafts a film that takes its material serious, but also allows for some laughs and self awareness.  These factors, along with some others allow it to age better.  Its a competent production that doesn’t feel super rushed, pressed or compromised in its final form.

Helping keep the film intact are some strong performances by the film’s leads, who craft some fuller characters that give you people to root for and understand some of their complex conflicts.  Catherine Hicks, who was coming off a big movie in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, takes on the mother role and real true lead of the film.  She’s just great with how she really grasps this single mom role with such reality, conviction and fun.  She’s matched by Chris Sarandon (Reteaming with Holland after Fright Night), giving us a cop that we can root for and totally understand where he’s going without finding him to be sinister or a jerk.

One of the script’s strongest suits is how they handle how the human characters react to one another about Chucky.  The thought of reporting something like this, or proving it to the police is completely absurd and one that could lead to question one’s sanity.  Heck, its a little extreme, but during the investigation of some murders, little Andy Barclay is sent to some maximum security mental institution for some check ups.  One of the best moments is when Sarandon asks his newly converted to Chucky belief partner “Now do you believe me?” to which he replies “Yeah, but who’s going to believe me?”

Its quite easy to see they had an instant classic movie monster with Chucky.  Having an amazing effects crew on this only solidified it.  Chucky moves quite well, and eerily.  His facial movements look natural and his body for the most part creeps.  There are times where it is obvious when the small performer is playing the role, but those are for far out shots and the like.  If you check the home videos on the bonus features, you’ll be quite impressed with the animatronic work done on the film.   Oh, yeah, having the villain voiced by Brad Dourif helps too.  Dourif gets a little human cameo in the beginning, but boy does he have something special with Chucky in this first film.  Its dark, funny and quite a terror.

Child’s Play works as a good standalone late 80s-horror-slasher romp.  This is the kind of killer that came in the wake of Freddy Krueger.  Chucky was pretty iconic and he managed to stick around for 5 more sequels.  An impressive feat for him that differentiates him from his contemporaries is that he has not been rebooted yet (And its not like he’s laid dormant, dude had a sequel as recently as 2013).  That’s saying something as the Dourif connection must be pretty strong.  If you’re into Chucky, most of his entries are worthwhile (3 is a little boring, but hell if I ever have to sit through Seed again) and this first one, while not my favorite of the bunch, is still one of the best in the series.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Scream Factory’s release of Child’s Play comes with an all new transfer culled from a 2K scan of an interpositive.  And, I think we see a bit of a noticeable improvement here.  Colors look a little more natural in this appearance, but characters/objects/environments look a little more full and well rounded in this picture.  The image on Child’s Play is always gonna have a little bit of softness to it, but I think this is the sharpest its look and doesn’t looked to be tampered with too much (Or at least in a blatant fashion).  Details on fabrics, like sweaters and other clothes show fuzzies and threads as well as patterns that look pretty clear.  Details on knives and countertops and uneaten food also look more crisp and clear than the previous transfer of the film.

Depth:  The dimensional work here is pretty good in the fact that spacing and movements look loose and free of one another.  Said movements are smooth and cinematic in appearance with no real blur (or troublesome spots) to report.

Black Levels:  Blacks are thick and deep.  Hidden details come at a very minimum level.  Grain shows a little more prevalent in the darker sequences in the film.  Shadow and shading is done pretty well with this in the nighttime or darker scenes.  No crushing was witnessed in this viewing.

Color Reproduction:  Colors in the film take on a sorta used, dingier look to them.  There’s a good palette display, but the only color that really sticks out and pops is red.  Mostly looking vivid on clothing, though it never bleeds out.  Yellows and blues are other stronger colors, but they are nowhere near as commanding as the red is in this transfer.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural, maintaining a consistent appearances throughout the duration of the film’s runtime.  Its an improvement on what was considered to be a yellowish tint from the previous edition. Medium shots and far away shots reveal plenty of facial detail, with dimples, freckles, dried blood and stubble.

Noise/Artifacts: There appears to be a nice layer of grain still present in this transfer, but it looks to be clean of dirt and specs or any print damage.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: I’m pretty sure this is the same audio track used on the previous edition of Child’s Play.  That’s a very good thing.  That one worked very well.  Sound effects create a rollicking concert within the viewing space of gunshots, lightning strikes and all around crashing and bashing.  The score and vocals also mix in quite good with the effects as everything gets to have its due, but never at the expense of another’s outing.  This release also contains a 2.0 track which is probably closer to the theatrical experience and is also a very good option, if not the preferred one for some purists.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Gun cannons firing, car crashing, jump scare music beats and more pump your subwoofer in the mix.  Its a bit heavier (In a good way) than some of your standard 8os horror movie 5.1 tracks will include.

Surround Sound Presentation: All 5 speakers are active enough in this mix.  The rear speakers aren’t abused and only used as need be.  They do carry some nice ambiance while also playing a lighter bit of the score in places.  Front speakers carry the action back and forth and also master having good volume placement for background and close up action and dialogue.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp, loud and clear.  It maintains and captures pretty much every piece of diction in the actors’ voices.

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Extras 

Child’s Play – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Blu-ray Disc set featuring reversible covert art displaying the original poster artwork.

Disc 1

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Tom Holland – Brandon new for this release.  Significant because Holland had not returned for any retrospective interviews or anything for previous releases of the film.
  • With Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks and “Chucky” designer Kevin Yagher
  • With Producer David Kirschner and Screenwriter Don Mancini
  • With Chucky (Select Scenes)

Disc 2

Making Chucky 

  • Behind-The Scenes Special Effects Footage (HD, 1:00:08) – A full on hour of home video footage from the effects warehouse, showing various stages of building Chucky, animatronic work and the people who worked on individual little trinkets to make him come to life.  It also features the filming of scenes from the movie as well.
  • Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ‘Til The End (HD, 40:53) – The ‘B’ of the legendary KNB effects group gives a brief little intro about where his most solid starting point was, then goes through a very detailed anecdotal account of working on the set of Child’s Play and its effects.  He goes into a good detail about cast and such.  It features more of the home videos from the set, including a very flirtatious Catherine Hicks at one point with her later husband Kevin Yagher behind the camera.
  • Life Behind The Mask: Being Chucky (HD, 40:02) – A lengthy interview with actor Ed Gale, who played Chucky when they needed some far away, action stunts or tough motion shots in the film. He also goes into some movie magic set tricks (Like how they made the toy store look like it was full of Chucky dolls and that Tom Holland gave him an authentic one).  The guy has quite the memory and goes for a good entertaining bit of information.

Featurettes

  • Evil Comes In Small Packages (SD, 24:49) – A carry over from the previous release. The writer and producer lead a talking heads discussion over the genesis and technical aspects of the film.
  • Chucky: Building a Nightmare (SD, 10:05) – Another archive featurette that focuses on Kevin Yagher the animatronics of Chucky.
  • A Monster Convention (SD, 5:26) – A quick look at a convention panel from many years ago with Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent and Chris Sarandon.  Seen on the previous release.
  • Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play (SD, 6:15) – A vintage “making of” epk featurette that was also on the previous release.
  • Vintage Featurettes (SD, 4:54) – A brief studio EPK from around the time of release.

More Child’s Play 

  • TV Spot (SD, :17) 
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:02) 
  • Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (HD, 3:09) 
  • Posters & Lobby Cards Photo Gallery (HD, 1:45) 

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Summary 

Chucky continues to be a celebrated novelty among horror fans.  And with this first film, its actually pretty solid even if it doesn’t have the impact it may or may not have had upon its release.  Scream Factory continues its recent run of one-upping previous releases and giving fans easy enough reason to upgrade over their previous disc with solid bonus feature additions as well as a good new transfer of the film.  For Child’s Play, this is a terrific start and I’m excited by the prospect of them possibly getting a chance to do Collector’s Editions of the second and third films in the series (Bride of Chucky is my personal favorite, but the first 2 have never had good DVD releases even when it comes to bonus material).

Child's-Play-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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