Release Date(s)1988 (October 18, 2016)
Studio(s)MGM/UA (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
[Editor’s Note: The film portion of this review is by Adam Jahnke, while the A/V disc comments are by Tim Salmons.]
In the rogues’ gallery of 80's movie maniacs, Chucky is something of an anomaly. To date, he’s only appeared in six movies, which by horror standards is a model of restraint. Despite their consistently low budgets, none of them (until 2013’s Curse of Chucky) have gone direct to video (not even Pinhead can make that claim). The franchise has endured by embracing the inherent absurdity of its premise: a doll possessed by the spirit of a serial killer. But while Chucky never seems to get the respect enjoyed by Jason, Freddy, or Michael, the original is still fondly remembered by those who first stumbled upon it as a child.
While Child’s Play is a bit less jokey than the series would eventually become, the tone for the series is still established early on. Little Andy (Alex Vincent) receives a Good Guy doll for his birthday, unaware that it holds the spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray (franchise MVP Brad Dourif, appearing on screen for one of the only times in the series). When his babysitter plunges out the window, Andy tries to explain that Chucky is alive. But for some weird reason, both his mom (Catherine Hicks) and the investigating cop (Chris Sarandon) think he’s crazy.
Child’s Play isn’t a particularly distinguished movie but it is an effective one. Virtually all kids can relate to the fear of a doll that comes to murderous life. Remember the Talky Tina episode of The Twilight Zone or the killer clown from Poltergeist? Sure you do. Besides the vocal work of Dourif, what makes Child’s Play work is the doll itself created by Kevin Yagher. Chucky is a fantastic creation and the fact that he’s so hideously ugly makes perfect sense to those of us who remember those deformed Cabbage Patch Kids back in the 80s. Tom Holland’s direction seamlessly blends Yagher’s puppet with long shots of little person Ed Gale as Chucky. The illusion works surprisingly well, even without the crutch of CGI to back it up.
Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition release of Child’s Play sports a brand new transfer, which is taken from a new 2K scan of the film’s interpositive element. Many of the problems assessed by others from MGM’s previous Blu-ray release, such as smoothness and possible DNR, are not present here. Grain levels are very even from scene to scene with a strong level of fine detail and an abundance of depth and clarity, much more than ever before. The film’s color palette is also quite strong with reds and yellows that really pop, and some very nice skin tones as well. Black levels are deep with wonderful shadow detailing and no noticeable crush. Brightness and contrast levels are quite excellent too. There are also no signs of digital enhancement such as excessive DNR, nor are there any major film artifacts leftover. It’s a very clean and crisp-looking presentation. For the audio selection, there are two tracks: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. Both feature crisp, clear dialogue, a strong score, and excellent sound effects. The 5.1 track is mostly relegated to the front speakers, but there is some nice ambient activity at play, as well as room leftover for the score to breathe. Directionality also plays a part, as does some really good low end activity. The 2.0 track is, obviously, a little more compact, and will probably the choice for most purists, but the 5.1 track has a slight edge over it, mostly for the ambience. Both are fine tracks. There are also subtitles in English SDH for those who might need them. Overall, this is definitely the best the film has ever looked and sounded on home video, hands down.
As for the extras, this is another amazing supplemental package from Scream Factory. On the first disc, you get four separate audio commentaries. First up is a new commentary with director Tom Holland, moderated by Nathaniel Thompson from Mondo Digital; another with actors Alex Vincent and Catherine Hicks and “Chucky” designer Kevin Yagher; another with producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Don Mancini; and another with Chucky himself. The second disc is where the bulk of the extras reside. Under Making Chucky, there’s a new set of behind-the-scenes special effects footage and two new interview segments: Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ‘Til the End and Life Behind the Mask: Being Chucky, an interview with actor Ed Gale. Under Featurettes, there’s the Evil Comes in Small Packages segment in three parts (The Birth of Chucky, Creating the Horror, and Unleashed); Chucky: Building a Nightmare featuring Kevin Yagher; A Monster Convention; the Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play vintage featurette; and an additional vintage promotional featurette, which features footage from an early version of the movie including some alternate versions of scenes, a lack of overdubs, and a temp score. Under More Child’s Play, there’s the film’s TV spot, the original theatrical trailer, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, and a posters and lobby cards photo gallery. The 20th Birthday Edition DVD and Blu-ray released by MGM came with Easter eggs featuring a computer-generated Chucky that would say various things. Those haven’t been carried over to this release, but the disc is fine without them.
Child’s Play has always been an effective film. It can be a tiny bit rough around the edges, and the remarkable work by Kevin Yagher and his crew doesn’t entirely hold up, but it’s still a dark film that’s not afraid to get its hands dirty. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray release is a sure-fire winner, and one that Chucky fans everywhere should be very happy with. Highly recommended.
- Adam Jahnke and Tim Salmons