This set comes as a pleasant surprise, especially taking the franchise's release history into consideration. Distribution rights for the original Child's Play resides with MGM and 20th Century Fox, so when Universal released a set of the Chucky films they owned in 2006, the original classic was omitted and had to be purchased separately. A suitable solution at the time, yes, but how do you market something like that today? "Hey Chucky fans! Buy this kinda-sorta-complete collection…?" Good luck. Trends have evolved in the home entertainment industry, and consumers have learned to get the most bang for their buck by harnessing patience. With even a little research, you're bound to find similar sentiments echoed across the web: I'll wait for a complete set… I'll wait for the inevitable double dip… In an apparent effort to stay ahead of the curve, Universal was wise enough to cut a deal so Child's Play could be included, albeit temporarily, in a complete set.
Still, there's one complaint that Universal won't be able to quelch - There's no option to buy these titles individually, at least not yet. That means the fans who already own Child's Play will feel the sting of a double dip, while others - who never wanted to spend a dime on the likes of Child's Play 3 or Seed of Chucky in the first place - will have to decide if the retail asking price is reasonable enough to compensate for pangs of buyer's remorse. That said, I'm sure most of you are well versed in all things Chucky, so this review will not be an attempt to convince or deter you from each individual film. I'll go in-depth with Curse of Chucky since it's unfamiliar territory to most, as well as the technical merits of each disc in the collection. I can only speak for myself here, but I think Universal has done a reasonable job of bringing the franchise to Blu-ray. Yes, certain aspects of the set could have been better, but we'll get to that in a bit. First, a little recap for those who managed to shield their inner-child from the prospect of a killer doll up to this point. There will be spoilers revealed in the plot synopsis of each film. You have been warned.
*Click on all images for 1080p screenshots.
Child's Play: Andy Barclay wants nothing more than a ‘Good Guy' doll for his birthday. It's a little pricey, but he's cool if that turns out to be his only present for turning the big 6. After all, they're ‘your friend ‘til the end', and what more does a child need when a toy comes with the promise of lifelong companionship? Desperate to make her son's birthday wish come true, his mother picks one up on the cheap from a street peddler near work. Shortly after Andy bonds with his new pal Chucky, terrible things start to happen. People die in mysterious ways, and the only constants to tie the grisly murders together are the boy, his doll, and three ominous words: "Chucky did it." Under threat of being removed from his mother's care, Andy reveals that his doll is actually possessed by the spirit of Charles Lee Ray, a criminal that had been dubbed as the Lakeshore Strangler in life. Nobody believes the poor boy, which proves to be a fatal mistake time and time again. Chucky can only inhabit the doll for a short time before he's trapped inside forever, and if he wants out, he'll have to transfer his soul to the first person he revealed his secret to - Andy - and he has no problem with leaving a trail of blood behind to get it done.
Child's Play 2: Andy may have survived his encounter with Chucky, but nobody got a chance to walk into the sunset. Andy's mom was committed to a mental hospital, leaving him little choice but to bounce in and out of foster homes for the next couple of years. Since so much time has passed and the public has mostly forgotten about Andy and his wild claims, Play Pals - the company behind the Good Guy brand - hope to recoup some of their losses with some clever publicity. With Chucky's charred remains released from evidence, a workshop crew scrapes, buffs and stitches him up until he's as good as new. Unfortunately, Charles Lee Ray's spirit is still linked to the doll, and since he's sporting what's essentially a new body, his timer to transfer his soul into the boy has been reset. He snaps and slashes his way to Andy's current foster home where an all too familiar series of events transpire. Everyone around Andy becomes expendable, but his foster sister Kyle sticks her neck out to save him when she realizes the killer doll shtick wasn't the fabrication of a disturbed mind.
Child's Play 3: 8 years go by, and life never got much better for Andy. Yes, he made it through the rest of his childhood without a red-headed knife-wielding doll trying to kill him again, but he was still subjected to being bounced around various homes. Obviously troubled, he's been sent to Kent Military School at the age of 16. In the meantime, Play Pals has once again recovered from the last media fueled fiasco, and are confident that bringing the 'Good Guy' back would be an excellent idea (despite some reservations from a member on the board). So, the factory where Chucky met his demise is put back online and Chucky's remains are melted in a steaming vat of toy-making gloop. A prototype doll is made, and it isn't long before Chucky makes a kill and mails himself to Andy's military school. Another little boy receives the package by mistake however, which causes a light bulb to go off in Chucky's brain - He's in a new body, so he can pretty much choose who his next 'hide the soul' playmate is. Should he go after an older and stronger Andy, or an unsuspecting little boy? Decisions, decisions... Andy comes face to face with his old nemesis and pulls all the stops to make sure that 'friend to the end' line gets an expiration date.
The original Child's Play is a classic, and although I wouldn't go as far as to call it one of the best horror films of all time, it's certainly amongst the most memorable. Don Mancini had recognized the effectiveness of animatronics, believed he could bring a doll to life on the big screen in a believable way and he went for it. Conceptually, the plot works on a number of levels regardless of age or gender. As a kid - and why I watched these films as a child, I'll never know - Chucky scared the crap out of me, but the main character was a boy who was around my age. I wanted to peel my eyes off the screen, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Watching the film felt like a way to support Andy, and I couldn't abandon him. Silly, I know, but I wanted to make sure he was alright in the end. As an adult, your perspective changes - The emotional investment is no longer strictly focused on the boy, but the mother as well. Parents were able to feel the fear and anxiety that Ms. Barclay felt…
And that's ultimately what made the first entry work as well as it did - The characters were relatable and we could identify with their biggest fears. Chucky isn't ‘just' some killer doll, is he? No, he's the embodiment of a parent's nightmare - He's the stranger, the bad influence, a kidnapper, the unhealthy imaginary friend, and the list goes on. Furthermore, the practical effects went a long way to convince us that Chucky was real. As the runtime progressed, so did Chucky's transformation into a living being - At first his face was a mold of marketable plastic, but that slowly and subtly transitioned to rough skin and hardened facial features which played with our suspension of disbelief on a subconscious level. If there's a single horror film that stands as a testament to the power of practical effects, Child's Play is at the top of the list.
But of course, things had to change. Child's Play 2 wasn't a drastic departure from the original, but notable changes were hard to ignore. For starters, Andy was harder to identify with. Here he was a troubled boy who experienced terrors we could never comprehend, terrors which uprooted his entire life. Because we connected with him in the previous film there was still room to be concerned for his well-being, but the fear wasn't as visceral as the previous installment. It certainly didn't help that Chucky was turned into the typical one-line slingin' villain, or that his kills were poorly executed and intentionally humorous. There were some precautions taken to ensure the sequel wasn't an exact replica of the original, so Child's Play 2 still manages to work on a level of entertaining horror, regardless of the tropes it decided to embrace.
And then, as Don Mancini has admitted himself, they ran out of ideas. There's only so much you can do with a simple concept before you run the risk of repeating yourself, but Child's Play was a hot franchise and the studio wanted more. I don't blame Mancini for following the plot's natural progression - which had been to follow Andy to a later stage in his life - but everything that made Chucky so frightening had been lost in the process. We're further removed from our connection with Andy, while the rest of the cast consists of genre stereotypes - The dweeby friend, the coy love interest, not to mention a host of disposable jerks. There was nothing to care about here, but if you wanted a horror flick by the numbers, then Child's Play 3 delivered. This film gets a lot of hate, but as far as horror sequels go I don't think it's as horrible as most would have you believe. Chucky executes a memorable scheme which involves replacing paint gun ammo with live rounds, and it's hard not to smirk when he delivers quality kill lines like, "Presto! You're dead!"
All in all, the original trilogy went slightly downhill as expected, but they're all entertaining films in their own right. We thought Chucky was finally done, but you know what they say - You just can't keep a Good Guy down…
Bride of Chucky: Six months after Chucky had been chopped into itty bitty pieces, Tiffany - an old flame of Charles Lee Ray - recovers the body from police evidence, stitches him up and brings him back to life with a familiar voodoo incantation. I guess they still had some issues to work out, because after a brief argument Chucky electrocutes her. Murder just doesn't provide the thrill it used to however, so he adds insult to injury by putting her soul into a doll's body. Together, they come across a couple of teens in love and plot to take their bodies and grow old together.
Seed of Chucky: Six years have passed since the unexpected birth of Glen (Chucky and Tiffany's offspring), and he's been forced to wade through the waters of life alone. Motivated to finally track down his parents, his journey takes him to Hollywood, where he's shocked to see the empty husks of his parents being used in a ventriloquist act. Glen brings them back with a voodoo amulet, but is horrified to learn his parents are psychopathic murderers. Although Tiffany agrees to alter her lifestyle for the sake of their son, Chucky feigns his desire to change. But, first thing's first - They have to get out of those bodies! They find an unsuspecting Redman and Jennifer Tilly, but things don't go as planned.
Since Mancini felt the ‘scary' Chucky premise had been done to death (pardon the pun), he felt it was time to take the franchise in a different direction. I was obviously skeptical at first, but weirder things have happened, right? Bride of Frankenstein is considered as one of the best monster films of all time, and even that had a dark comical flare to it. I couldn't believe it after walking out of the theater - and to a certain extent I still can't - but Bride of Chucky actually works. It embraces plenty of horror tropes for laughs and effortlessly blends them with an unlikely story about Chucky bonding with another soul. The finale is predictable if not somewhat a mess, but the rest of the film is so entertaining it hardly matters. It might be easy for a fan to dismiss this title before they've ever seen it, but that would be a mistake. Just go in with the expectation that this isn't a horror film, but rather a spoof on the genre and the franchise itself.
But Seed of Chucky? Abort. ABORT! There's a decent story about a kid that can't live up to his father's expectations, but it's muddled with absurd gags and what's arguably the dumbest twist to ever grace a reel of celluloid. I appreciate that Mancini wanted to tell a story he could relate to, but the execution of his story has been ruined by a mess of terrible ideas that were probably implemented to pad the runtime. I'm down for genre ripping and satire, but there's a fine line where funny ends and awful begins, but Mancini missed the road sign and just kept going. Honestly, Seed of Chucky is one of the worst films I've ever had the displeasure of seeing.
The franchise seemingly died with Seed of Chucky, but fans clamored for more. That said, their demands came with a caveat - Bring Chucky back to his horror roots - and Mancini heard them loud and clear. In 2008, Don Mancini and David Kirschner revealed plans to develop a reboot. I tend to groan whenever remakes enter the equation, but I was genuinely excited about this. After all, how could they do straight horror with the current plot after going in such an absurd direction? In 2009, both a remake and a sequel were announced, and then… nothing. Updates on the fate of the franchise went dark, but our patience was rewarded in 2012 when Mancini confirmed that production on Curse of Chucky was about to begin, with a direct-to-video debut targeted for 2013. The project shrouded in mystery, questions were rampant and anticipations ran high. Well Chucky fans, the wait is finally over! Is this a return to form, or should Chucky have been denied the extended warranty?
Although Nica loves her mother, Sarah - who has a history of mental instability - living with her has been quite the burden. It's not that she doesn't love her mom, but she takes care of her day in and day out and it's come at the expense of her freedom. Nica was born a paraplegic, so Sarah ‘protects' her daughter from our cold society by keeping her indoors. Still, family is family and Nica wouldn't dream of abandoning her mother.
One day, a strange package arrives at the house, and wouldn't you know it - It's a Good Guy doll! With no idea of who sent the damn thing or what the return address is, the doll gets thrown in the trash. Later that evening, Nica finds her mother bleeding out on the floor from what's believed to be a self-inflicted knife wound. Nica's family appears the following day to sort things out, and the rest is written on the wall. Chucky finds a little girl to play hide the soul with, and learning from past mistakes, he won't leave anything to chance - Before even attempting to transfer his soul, he's going to ensure there's no one left to get in his way. The family is so pre-occupied dredging up their own drama, that Chucky is able to enjoy his favorite pastime without much issue… until Nica discovers the truth, and she's not as helpless as he had assumed.
I really wanted to like this film and even approached it with lowered expectations, and although I was entertained, it's hard to ignore its many flaws. It isn't great, but isn't bad, especially for a direct-to-video flick.
Starting with the bad, Don Mancini had told us the film would be a ‘darker and scarier retelling of the original', but I think he's out of touch in regards to what constitutes as dark and scary. Again, the original Child's Play worked because it had relatable characters while anchoring itself to a dark and gritty reality we could believe, but Curse of Chucky is the antithesis of that. The setting is a mansion that could have been decorated by Tim Burton, which instantly rescinds my suspension of disbelief. When the sun sets, the interior of the home is bathed in blue moonlight and the occasional flash of lighting. In short, it's a clichéd haunted house and conveys a strong sense of fantasy. It's certainly an interesting visual aesthetic, but doesn't do a thing to make the film scarier.
Furthermore, there's absolutely zero reason to invest in the characters. A fair majority are unlikeable if not downright loathsome, so there was no tension leading up to their deaths because I actually wanted them to die. To make matters worse, at least two of the characters felt as if they were shoehorned into the plot so Chucky could pad his body count.
No, there's only two people who deserve a round of applause, the first being Fiona Dourif (as Nica). She had to shoulder the responsibility of delivering the only character with depth… a final girl who lacked mobility at that. Not only does she make the grade, but she practically carries the film. The other obvious contender is her father Brad, as he still has what it takes to make Chucky sound as maniacal as ever. He's provided the voice for the ‘Good Guy gone bad' for over 25 years and he's better than ever. There wasn't a single line that felt phoned in, which is a testament to how much respect he still has for the role. I'm unable to say the same for the writing however, because some of Chucky's one-liners are just lazy.
So, despite Mancini's intentions, Curse of Chucky just isn't scary… but then again, neither were Child's Play 2 or 3. If you're a fan who just wants to see a classic villain return to wasting unsuspecting idiots with little or no humor involved, then you're in for a treat. The film was wisely constructed as a slow burn, and although there's no tension for the reasons stated above, it does add a bit of spice to the proceedings. Unlike most of the mindless genre flicks out there, the careful pacing in Curse allowed me to hate its disposable characters, so when they began to get offed one by one, it was like taking the first big plunge on a rollercoaster. Warts and all, the anticipation was worth it. Mancini also does a great job of tying all the films together, and although he doesn't ignore Bride or Seed completely, he was careful to tiptoe around the aspects that were ill-received. He also manages to bring everything full circle with a couple of unexpected twists, and does so without introducing any major plot holes. This film is clearly a sequel, but fortunately manages to feel like a reboot at the same time, an accomplishment I hope isn't overlooked by the masses.
After all is said and done, Curse of Chucky does nothing new for the genre or even the franchise, but it does a decent job of resurrecting a series that was dead and buried some years ago. Fans with realistic expectations won't be blown away, but they should walk away satisfied. If Mancini directs another installment that can stay true to the franchise's roots without getting silly, I'll be watching.
Child's Play looks damn good in high-def (1080p AVC - 1.85:1). There are no issues with compression, edges are well defined and there's often an impressive amount of detail. That said, clarity has a tendency to bounce around, but that's an issue inherent to the source. Grain has been left intact so there's no sign of digital scrubbing. Color saturation and contrast - vital aspects of the film considering how dark it is - are flawlessly reproduced. In short, Child's Play has never looked better and likely never will. For those curious about the transfer provided in the Complete Collection, it's 100% identical to the previous release from MGM/20th Century Fox.3.5/5
To be perfectly honest, Child's Play 2 (1080p AVC - 1.85:1) and Child's Play 3 (1080p VC-1 - 1.84:1) look better than I expected. Detail and clarity improve upon the initial entry, and their wider variety of colors pop off the screen. It's obvious no digital noise reduction has been applied, because the grain field can come off heavy during day scenes (more so in part 2). My only complaint is that each film displays a fair amount of nicks, scratches and debris. Universal obviously have the tools to do a proper restoration when they want to, but I guess the franchise isn't considered a big enough contender for such an undertaking. Contrast can be a tad hot and skin tones can look a tad warm, but these are minor complaints. Child's Play 2 has a slight edge here, and I can't imagine these films looking much better than they do here.4/5
Bride of Chucky (1080p VC-1 - 1.85:1) and Seed of Chucky (1080p AVC - 1.85:1) are a different story though, and are the unfortunate products of old transfers that were meant for DVD. Colors, contrast and black levels are superb, but DNR scrubs away most of the fine detail that would have made such recent entries sparkle. There's even some minor stair-stepping if you have a big enough screen to notice it. These are an upgrade over the DVD's for sure, but after seeing how good the previous entries look, they're still disappointing. Seed maintains a slight edge over its predecessor, but is still plagued by similar flaws.2.5/5 - 3/5
And Curse of Chucky (1080p AVC - 1.78:1)is the unsurprising star in the video department. Regardless of how you feel about the film itself, there's no denying its reference quality presentation. Mancini's stylistic approach relies heavily on playing with lighting and shadows, and the contrast works well to ensure nothing's out of whack, and blacks only hide what the director intended. Sharpness, detail and clarity are lifelike and convey an impressive amount of depth. 5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track on Child's Play leaves something to be desired. The minimalistic score and sound effects are loud and proud, but the dialogue sounds flat and quiet. Dynamic range is one thing, but it's almost as if the dialogue was lowered so the ‘boo scares' would have more effect. If you can listen with headphones or have the freedom of not having neighbors to worry about, this shouldn't be a problem, but I actually prefer the lossy 5.1 track that appeared on the DVD as it didn't seem to have this problem. 3.5/5
Child's Play 2 and 3 both feature lossless 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, and I imagine they represent the source fairly well. Everything here is serviceable and not exactly impressive, but that's apparently by design. The dialogue is typically clean and nicely prioritized when madness ensues, and the sound effects are spaced appropriately enough, and close to ‘convincing' for a front-centric design. 3.5/5
Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky up the ante a bit with their 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. The soundtracks pump and the LFE delivers brutal thwacks when appropriate. Dialogue is prioritized well, and sound effects are convincing across the entire sound stage… mostly. Some moments are less convincing than others, but that's the exception and not the rule. Because a lot of the gags involve Chucky dealing with his new family, you can expect a lot of scenes that are driven by the front end. 3.5/5
Again, Curse of Chucky stomps over the rest of the set with its 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The film doesn't offer as many crazy sequences as some of its predecessors, but that's because the film is more restrained by design. Much like the first Child's Play, it takes a while before Chucky really starts to step up his game, so a fair portion of the track focuses on providing spooky ambience. It does it well, too. Once heads begin to roll however, the track roars to life and provides a hefty - but not overpowering - dose of LFE. Dialogue is clean and always prioritized, too. The mix could have provided a bit more immersion, but the final product is impressive enough for a direct-to-video release. 4.5/5
There are two commentaries here - The first 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.
Also, select scenes have received commentary from Chucky himself.
Evil Comes In Small Packages is a featurette broken into three parts: The Birth of Chucky, Creating the Horror, and Unleashed. They're nearly 25 minutes combined, and fill us in on where the script originally came from, project name changes, interviews with cast and crew, and even old film footage where Brad would voice Chucky on set for the rest of the cast. Interesting stuff here!
Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child's Play - Behind the scenes footage that shows us the basic animatronics of Chucky.
Chucky: Building a Nightmare - Modern day interviews about the variety of animatronic dolls.
A Monster Convention - Cast reunion panel from 2007.
Child's Play 2 / Child's Play 3: Unfortunately, the only thing included on these discs are the original theatrical trailers.
Bride of Chucky:
-Commentary with Director Ronny Yu - There's plenty of good information on this track, including the challenges of blending horror with comedy, but the director's presentation is fairly dry.
-Commentary with Don Mancini, Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly - Things start off kind of slow, but it isn't long before the trio behind the mic start to share memories and having a good time. This is definitely the better of the two tracks, because there's not much silence and everyone is fun and playful.
-Spotlight on Location - It's a 10 minutes behind-the-scenes featurette, but more for advertising than anything else.
Seed of Chucky - Unrated:
There are two audio commentaries with Don Mancini. In the first, he brings along Tony Gardner, who was responsible for the special effects, including bringing the dolls to life. Next, Mancini brings Jennifer Tilly along for the ride, and much like her contribution to the Bride commentary, they share a good time together and reminisce about their time shooting the film. Both offer very different sides of the coin as far as filmmaking is concerned, so both are worth a listen.
-Conceiving the Seed of Chucky - More of a comedy piece than anything, this features Chucky, Tiffany and Glen discussing the franchise.
-Slashed Scene - This sequence, featuring Debbie Lee Carrington as herself, would have offered nothing to the final product, so I can see why they left it on the cutting room floor. My only question is - Was there really only one scene that had been removed from the final product?
-Fuzion - Up Close with Seed of Chucky Stars - A short chat with Chucky, Tiffany and Jennifer Tilly on the boob tube.
-Here's Chucky - A brief (2 minute) interview with Chucky himself.
-Family Hell-iday - Vacation slides featuring the most dysfunctional family ever.
-Storyboard to Final Feature Comparison - An interesting look at the storyboards and how they translated to the final product.
-Tilly on The Tonight Show - Tilly appears on Leno's late night program.
Curse of Chucky:
It's worth noting that the disc in this collection is the same as the stand-alone retail disc - Both R and Unrated cuts are included. There's only a 2 minute different between them, and the differences were minimal enough that I couldn't really tell what was different on my second viewing.
-Commentary with Don Mancini, Puppeteer Tony Gardner, and Actress Fiona Dourif - Details during the film's development were secretive, but anyone who was curious about the creation of this film need look no further. They discuss everything from the project's conception to its eventual production.
-Playing with Dolls - The Making of Curse of Chucky - An interesting discussion about returning the franchise to its horror roots without erasing the memory of its predecessors (name Bride and Seed).
,br> -Living Doll - Bringing Chucky to Life - Want to know what it's like to make a Chucky doll 25 years after the original Child's Play? This featurette is a nice addition, as the first film's DVD has a similar featurette. The contrast is pretty amazing.
-Storyboard Comparisons - More storyboards to film comaprisons.
-Deleted Scenes - I think the final product was paced fairly well, so I'm glad to see these scenes - which are uninteresting in their own right - were left on the cutting room floor.
-Voodoo Doll - The Chucky Legacy - This featurette discusses how the doll has become one of the most celebrated icons in horror history.
-Gag Reel - There's only a minute of footage here, and it's pretty bland. Nothing to see here...
This has arguably been the best year for the genre on Blu-ray, and Universal only solidifies that fact with the release of Chucky - The Complete Collection. Make no mistake about it; this release is a big deal. Not only does it contain the original Child's Play - something the previous DVD set from Universal lacked - but provides the killer doll's return to horror in Curse of Chucky. Speaking of which, the Chuckster's latest is actually a pretty decent romp. It's no masterpiece or anything, but does manage to resurrect a soured franchise in a way that left me wanting more. Here's hoping that Mancini gets the green light for another installment.
Of course, more than a few fans will admit to inconsistencies in the franchise, so is this set ultimately worth the asking price? I'd say so. The distribution deal that Universal has (allegedly) acquired for the original classic won't last forever, so if you want a collection that's truly complete, you might not get another chance. As far as the technical stuff is concerned, I'm satisfied. The first three films look great while Curse offers a reference quality transfer. Bride and Seed leave a bit to be desired, but for transfers that were originally intended for DVD, they could have looked worse. The supplements were the only thing I was disappointed with, as there's virtually nothing new outside of what Curse of Chucky offers. I also have to applaud Universal for using a package design that uses plastic hubs for storage instead of cardboard pages, which are the bane of collectors everywhere. After all is said and done, I can easily recommend this set to consumers at large, but if you're a Chucky fan, don't hesitate to pick this up.