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MGM

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Tom Holland
Cast:
Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow, Jack Colvin
Writing Credits:
Don Mancini (and story), John Lafia, Tom Holland

Tagline:
You'll wish it was only make-believe.

Synopsis:
The "chills come thick and fast" (Los Angeles Times) as voodoo and terror meet within an innocent-looking doll inhabited by the soul of a serial killer who isn't ready to die. From the Director of Fright Night comes a "clever, playful" (The New York Times) and stylish thriller with "excellent special effects" (Leonard Maltin) and heart-pounding suspense guaranteed to scare! After 6-year-old Andy Barclay's (Alex Vincent) babysitter is violently pushed out of a window to her death, nobody believes him when he says that "Chucky," his new birthday doll, did it! Until things start going terribly wrong dead wrong. And when an ensuing rampage of gruesome murders lead a detective (Chris Sarandon) back to the same toy, he discovers that the real terror has just begun. The deranged doll has plans to transfer his evil spirit into a living human being young Andy!

Box Office:
Budget
$9 million.
Opening Weekend
$6.583 million on 1377 screens.
Domestic Gross
$32.842 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 87 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 9/15/2009

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Actors Alex Vincent and Catherine Hicks and Chucky Designer Kevin Yagher
• Audio Commentary with Producer David Kirschner and Screenwriter Don Mancini
• Scene-Specific Chucky Commentary
• “Evil Comes in Small Packages” Featurettes
• “Chucky: Building a Nightmare” Featurette
• “A Monster Convention” Featurette
• “Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play” Featurette
• Still Photo Gallery
• Trailer
• Bonus DVD


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Child's Play [Blu-Ray] (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 22, 2009)

Back when it hit the screens in 1988, Child’s Play didn’t seem like something with the potential for enduring appeal. A movie about a killer doll, it looked like a cheap horror gimmick without much to keep it going.

More than two decades later, though, the series endures. Child’s Play spawned four sequels to date and it looks like a remake will emerge before too long. Chucky isn’t quite as big a horror icon as Freddy or Jason, but he remains popular and fairly beloved by genre fans.

Play introduces us to a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif). On the run from police detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon), he takes refuge in a toy store. Ray shoots him, so Ray uses his dying moments to transfer his spirit into the nearest vessel: a “Good Guys” doll called Chucky.

What happens to this doll? It ends up being given to young Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) by his mother Karen (Catherine Hicks). Chucky’s dark side quickly emerges, as he offs Karen’s friend and Andy’s babysitter Maggie (Dinah Manoff). Andy tells Karen that Chucky’s alive, but of course she doesn’t believe him, and Andy looks like the prime suspect in Maggie’s demise. Further mayhem emerges along the way as Ray’s psychopathic side comes out more and more via the Chucky doll.

Like the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Child’s Play started off with a relatively serious horror film and quickly turned into comedy horror as the main baddies became the big attraction. There’s a bigger contrast between the Freddy of the first Elm Street and the sadistic quipster of the later flicks than there is between this one’s Chucky and the later character. Perhaps because Child’s Play came out after Freddy and Jason had become pop icons, the filmmakers seemed more aware of the character’s one-liner potential from the start.

Nonetheless, Play is definitely closer to straight horror than its sequels, for better or for worse. Probably for better most of the time, as Play offered something fairly unusual for its genre at the time. Like I mentioned, the idea of the killer doll wasn’t original, but the movie used the concept in an interesting way, and Dourif’s voice work allows the character to become more interesting than otherwise might’ve been the case. Dourif turns Chucky into a truly devious presence. It’s both shocking and amusing when the Dourif voice emerges after we’ve heard Chucky’s little boy vocals for half the movie.

The other actors offer less consistent pleasures, but they’re generally fine. After Star Trek IV, I find it very hard to view Hicks as anything other than that film’s smug, annoying Gillian. She’s actually pretty good as the terrified single mother, though, so I shouldn’t hold her earlier work against her. (I really hated Gillian, though, so this is my hang-up!)

Sarandon was usually a solid professional, and he does fine here as the inquisitive cop. Vincent is acceptable in his role as young Andy but no better. Granted, it’s a big role for such a young actor, so the film asks a lot from him. Vincent can look cute and play that side of things, but he lacks any greater complexity. Still, he doesn’t actively harm the movie; he just doesn’t add anything to it.

Chucky’s the flick’s calling card, though, so it lives and dies with him. The doll creators did a nice job with the Chucky animatronic, as it still looks pretty convincing two decades later. The film uses the character in a satisfying manner as well. It gives us enough of homicidal Chucky to please us, but it doesn’t go overboard.

This means that its extended climax proves all the more satisfying. Since it takes us a while to see Chucky in action, those moments work much better than they would’ve had the movie made him more active at an earlier stage. The last third of the flick comes packed with Chucky on the warpath, and that’s where it really excels. I wouldn’t call this a scary movie, but it blends Chucky’s creepiness with action pretty well.

All of this adds up to a solid “B+” level horror flick. It’s a little too goofy and “Eighties” to qualify as a true classic, but it works much better than I thought it might. We get a clever and fun horror romp here.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

Child’s Play appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Given the general ugliness of its era’s movies – especially those with low budgets – I expected the worst from this transfer. To my pleasant surprise, it actually looked pretty good.

To be sure the late 80s film stock hurt it a bit, though not as much as I thought. Sharpness usually seemed acceptably crisp and well-defined, though a bit amount of haziness occurred as well. Occasional bouts of mild softness occurred, usually during interior shots. Much of the movie appeared pretty distinctive, though. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement seemed to be absent. Source flaws were also negligible. A blotch or two cropped up, but nothing severe occurred.

Hues varied. Exteriors offered nicely vivid tones, but interiors tended to be somewhat muddy. That was mostly a reflection of those 80s film stocks, so the occasional blandness of the colors wasn’t unexpected. Black levels were decent, and shadows tended to be reasonably clear. Neither of those elements excelled, but they didn’t cause concerns. This was a generally positive picture despite the minor problems.

As for the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it also fared better than expected. The audio gave the soundfield more of a workout than I expected, though it didn’t go nuts. The mix reserved its big guns for dynamic sequences like explosions and gunfire, and those provided a good sense of involvement. These elements cropped up all around the room and blended together pretty well.

Quieter scenes worked fine, too. General ambience sounded convincing, and music boasted very good stereo presence. The audio didn’t dazzle, but it exceeded era-related expectations by quite a lot.

Solid audio quality appeared as well. Effects occasionally seemed a bit thin and dated, but they displayed acceptable accuracy. Bass response was loud and a little boomy but generally positive. Speech seemed fairly natural and concise, and music displayed nice range and clarity. Given the restrictions of its era, the soundtrack worked well.

Quite a few extras flesh out this set. We find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from actors Alex Vincent and Catherine Hicks and Chucky designer Kevin Yagher. Real-life married couple Hicks and Yagher chat together for their side of things, while Vincent offers his own running, screen-specific remarks edited into the rest. Though a few other minor topics emerge, two dominate: cast/characters/performances and subjects related to the design and execution of the Chucky sequences.

While that may sound like a limited scope, it’s fine with me, especially since it makes sense for the commentary’s lineup. After all, it wouldn’t make much sense for actors to start yakking about cinematography or whatnot. The folks at hand get into the subjects in an involving manner and reveal quite a few interesting details. For instance, Hicks lets us know that it was a challenge to work with a kid as a not-yet mother, while Vincent includes some intriguing notes about his audition. Add to that all of Yagher’s details about bringing Chucky to life and this becomes a good chat.

For the second track, we hear from producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Don Mancini. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at sets and locations, cast and performances, effects and stunts, Chucky subjects, script and story, visual design, music, deleted scenes, and a mix of other topics.

Once again, we find a nice overview of various production issues here. Both men throw out a lot of good information, though dshajda probably does most of the chatting; dsjdsad often falls into interviewer mode. Not too much material repeats from the first commentary, so we get an interesting discussion here.

Footnote: weather comes up often during both commentaries, but no one seems to agree on the actual severity of the Chicago winter. Was it the coldest in 10 years, 20 years, or 100 years? You’ll hear all of them; it becomes amusing to discover the varying accounts of the weather’s nastiness.

Some in-character content comes from four Scene-Specific Chucky Commentaries. These fill a total of 24 minutes 48 seconds. The first three are pretty lame, as “Chucky” – voiced by Brad Dourif, I presume – offers remarks about how much he loves to kill. Even with brief running times, the tracks suffer from plenty of dead air, and they’re dull.

The fourth – and longest – clip also includes Mancini, and it’s the best of the bunch. Mancini and “Chucky” interact pretty well, and the commentary shows some signs of life. Give it a listen but skip the first three, as they’re pretty much worthless.

Plenty of featurettes fill out the set. Under Evil Comes in Small Packages, we get three components: “The Birth of Chucky” (7:17), “Creating the Horror” (12:15) and “Unleashed” (5:17). These feature Mancini, Kirschner, Hicks, Vincent, Yagher, director Tom Holland (circa 1988), writer John Lafia, and actors Chris Sarandon and Brad Dourif. These cover the origins and development of the film, story, rewrite and character subjects, cast and performances, shooting in Chicago, bringing Chucky to life, editing, and the flick’s release/success.

After two commentaries, we already know a lot about Child’s Play, so expect some redundant material here. Nonetheless, a reasonable amount of fresh information emerges here, so the clips deserve a look. I especially like the quick glimpses of rehearsal footage.

Many more featurettes ensue. Chucky: Building a Nightmare goes for 10 minutes, four seconds, and provides statements from Yagher, Kirschner, Mancini, special FX experts Tom Savini, Shane Mohan, Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis. As the title implies, “Building” looks at the design and creation of Chucky. Once again, a moderate amount of repetitive information shows up here. Nonetheless, new details show up as well, and a lot of good behind the scenes helps turn this into a useful piece.

In the five-minute and 26-second A Monster Convention, we visit “Monster Mania 2007” for a cast reunion panel that involves Vincent, Hicks, and Sarandon. They answer audience questions about the film. It’s a short piece with yet more semi-redundant content, but it’s still a decent viewing.

A vintage piece, Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play lasts six minutes, 11 seconds and provides statements from Holland, Kirschner, Sarandon, and Yagher. Though promotional in nature, “Making” is surprisingly informative. Granted, we’ve heard most of the details elsewhere, but we find some new behind the scenes footage, so the show’s worth a look.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a Still Photo Gallery. It includes 73 shots. A few interesting pics appear, but most are dull shots from the movie.

Over on Disc Two, we get the 20th Anniversary DVD of Child’s Play. In terms of special feature content, it includes everything also found on the Blu-ray. Why is it here? To encourage Blu-ray purchases from folks who don’t have players yet and want the DVD to tide them over until them move up, I guess. It seems redundant to me.

The last big horror franchise to launch in the 1980s, Child’s Play never quite reached the pop culture ubiquity of Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street. That doesn’t make it a lesser film, however, as Child’s Play actually offers a pretty cool little piece of work. It occasionally falters, but it does a lot more right than wrong. The Blu-ray provides dated but generally quite good picture and audio along with a satisfying set of supplements. Heck, there’s even the 2008 DVD version for fans who’ve not yet invested in Blu-ray players! With a reasonable list price of less than $30, this is a nice release and one I recommend to fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main