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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Child's Play
Child's Play
MGM // R // September 9, 2008
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Michael Zupan | posted August 30, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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Highly Recommended
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Universal owns the latter films in the Child's Play franchise and they've certainly stopped at nothing to market and sell them by whatever means necessary. Thanks to some slick new packaging, they've been able to get consumers to double dip on a boxed set containing Child's Play 2, Child's Play 3, Bride of Chucky, and Seed of Chucky. The original wasn't included because MGM retained the rights to the original classic that introduced the plastic icon of terror turned one-line slingin' nightmare, but unfortunately the only thing nightmarish about the original full-frame release by MGM was the transfer. Chucky turns twenty this year however, an occasion we can all celebrate together as the marketing team decided to come back from a seemingly indefinite vacation and finally give Child's Play the treatment it deserves.

Little Andy Barclay wants nothing more than a 'Good Guy' doll for his birthday. It's a little pricey, but if that's the only present he gets for turning the big 6, then that's good enough for him! It's not like he'd need any other stupid toys anyway. The Good Guy dolls are advertised to be 'your friend to the end', and when a toy can promise a child lifelong companionship, what could possibly top that? Desperate to make her son's birthday wish come true, his loving mother picks one up the only way she can afford to - by getting it on the cheap from a peddler in an alley near work. It's too bad neither one of them are able to have the same advantage of perspective as the audience, otherwise they might have realized 'your friend to the end' is one of the most obvious uses of foreshadowing in cinematic history to date.

Shortly after bringing home the Good Guy, one of Andy's babysitters is viciously murdered. With nothing but a pair of Good Guy sneaker-prints around the apartment as evidence, all questions raised lead back to poor, innocent Andy. Despite being the only logical choice to pin the murder on, the birthday boy insists his doll is actually a known (and deceased) criminal by the name of Charles Lee Ray and is using 'Chucky' as his new alias. Despite Andy's innocence, he's taken away from his mother and locked up in a psych ward. Chucky has seemingly gotten away with murder easier than ever before, and all that's left for him to do now is walk away and live his life as an immortal. His soul now resides in the body of a plastic doll, a body that's not made out of the fragile flesh and bones that would eventually wither away and die. Chucky had it all figured out... didn't he?

Apparently, Chucky didn't brush up on his voodoo too well. Turns out the Good Guy body is turning into an honest to goodness living being, and he's sure as hell not about to finish his life out as a doll. His only shot at becoming human again is to transfer his soul into the person he first revealed he was alive to - Andy. Chucky begins one of the most unusual and frightening games of cat and mouse in cinematic history to date, leaving a trail of blood behind him wherever he goes. Unfortunately for him, the bodies he fails to dispose of are just the breadcrumbs Andy's mother and a detective need to keep one step ahead of him every step of the way.

Each sequel after this decided to take Chucky and turn him into a one-line spewing comic. The second and third films tried to mix up the comedy and terror much like the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise did. Once we hit Bride of Chucky, it was all about comedy and little about terror. I can see why the studios thought it would have been a great idea to take a murderous doll and make him say things that were truly adult for some comic value, but they just didn't know when to quit. That's why I love the original Child's Play so much. It actually did a great job of creating dread and terror. The actors were all believable, right down to Alex Vincent who played Andy. The photography was dark and realistic, and there's plenty of suspense and buildup as Chucky doesn't truly come alive until the film is well under way. I've always appreciated that Spielberg-esque approach to holding the villain back until just the right time. A lot of care went into bringing an evil doll and a dark film to life and it paid off in the end. Combine what I've already mentioned with terrific use of a simple score and even some haunting imagery, and it's easy to see why Child's Play is considered a timeless classic in the realm of horror.


Video

This is probably where a lot of you are going to decide if this edition is worth it. The previous release of Child's Play was presented in open matte full screen with a picture that left a lot to be desired. It was soft, dark, and riddled with film damage.

Finally we're given more of a theatrical experience with an anamorphic widescreen picture that's in a ratio of 1.85:1. Compared to the original release it seems there are some minor improvements but there's still a little to be desired. Contrast is better this time around. The original full screen picture looked as if it were always a little too dark. Some of the details were missing and didn't give any life to the image most of the time. This time contrast seems to leave darks as they should be and let anything that's bright have its time to shine. Color saturation is decent and looks the way it was intended to.

The picture is also a bit sharper than the old soft full screen release as well. At times I was able to notice some jaggies due to this, and it brought the grain from the film out a little more. The amount of grain can vary from shot to shot. The other issue that's still here with this release is the marks you'll be able to see on the film. It's not as rampant as it was on the previous release, but it's still there.

Overall it's definitely worth the upgrade. The original open matte picture was incredibly disappointing in almost every way. Although there's still room for improvement, Child's Play looks the best it has in a long time.


Audio

The original MGM release also left a lot to be desired in this department as it only had stereo tracks. This time however, we get a full 5.1 Dolby surround track that has an incredibly surprising delivery. It's a horror film from 1988, so it's not the most impressive thing I've ever heard but it gave me a hell of a lot more than I thought it would! The dynamic range was fairly impressive between quiet dialogue scenes and the times we were meant to jump out of our seats or witness an explosion. The chilling score would come out of all five speakers to envelop me in the experience. The sounds quickly crept from one channel to another as Chucky ran around in a place we couldn't see him. The audio is a huge upgrade from before and really helped me feel the chills again for a movie I've seen so many times!

The stereo tracks in English, Spanish, and French aren't nearly as dynamic. If at all possible use the surround track, you won't be disappointed.

Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.


Extras

There are two commentaries we can choose from. The first is with Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, and "Chucky" designer Kevin Yagher. There's a lot of information presented in this first commentary. We get to hear all the ideas behind the film, the main characters experiences during and after making the film, Alex's sheltering from filming that could have been traumatic for him as a child, and even the thought process behind the evolution of the doll. You read me right, evolution. They even took into consideration that as Chucky turned more and more human; his hairline would recede like a grown man. I can't believe I actually was told something I didn't ever notice on-screen myself!

The second commentary features producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Don Mancini. Here you have the minds behind the film and anything the actors and doll designer couldn't tell us in the first commentary gets brought to the fold in this one. It's interesting, and these guys cared and still care about their work on this film and it's easy to tell.

Commentaries aren't being skimped on for this release as we have select scenes presented by Chucky himself! It's an additional feature that's short and sweet, but definitely fun to listen to. The only thing that hurts them at all is that there's a lot of silence as Chucky waits for something to happen on screen.

Evil Comes In Small Packages is a featurette broken into three parts:
-The Birth of Chucky
-Creating the Horror
-Unleashed

They're at a length of almost twenty five and a half minutes together and fill us in on where the script originally came from, film name changes, working off of a touch of social commentary, interviews with cast and crew, and even old film footage where Brad would act in person with the other actors as if he were Chucky. Interesting stuff here!

Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child's Play is a featurette that's only a little over six minutes, but it shows us a lot of the interesting behind the scenes stuff that shows us a basic animatronics Chucky doll.

Chucky: Building a Nightmare shows some modern day interviews about the different kinds of animatronics dolls that had to be made for the film.

A Monster Convention shows a cast reunion panel from 2007 where they sat to answer a lot of questions. Many more horror films should include a panel interview such as this from a horror convention, because they seem to happen often enough for most horror films both new and old alike.

Also included is the theatrical trailer, additional trailers for Mr. Brooks and Pathology, photo gallery, and an Easter egg on each extras menu by clicking on Chucky's eyes. Do this and you'll see a computer animated Chucky say something.


Overall

It's unfortunate that Child's Play had to wait so long for a proper release. We've had to endure the likes of Seed of Chucky and now we're moving into a growing acceptance of high definition content. It's a little late in the game to try and release something that we should have had a long time ago. This new edition has it all though. It comes with better picture that has anamorphic widescreen, a soundtrack that's leaps and bounds better than the stereo tracks that sounded flat and dull, there's a decent amount of extras, and it can all be picked up for a pretty low price. I saw my local Best Buy advertise this for just $9.99. You absolutely cannot go wrong. If you're a fan of classic horror and especially the only Child's Play that ever offered any really spooky atmosphere, then I highly recommend Chucky's 20th Birthday Edition. It's loaded and it's a bargain.
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