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When serial killer Charles Lee Ray is mortally wounded in a police shoot-out, he uses a voodoo spell to transfer his soul into Chucky, a Good Guy doll. Every kid wants a Good Guy doll, so for his birthday, Andy Barclay receives the doll from his mom, Karen. Unbeknownst to both, this Good Guy doll just happens to be Chucky, who according to Andy, is alive and knocking people off (though obviously no one believes him). However, Chucky doesn't want to be trapped in the body of a doll forever. His only escape would be to transfer his soul into the first human he revealed his true identity to, which just so happens to be Andy.
Way back in the day (1989, to be exact), my first exposure to CHILD'S PLAY was the film's poster, stuck on the wall of D&D Video. Being a young and impressionable five-year-old, the image of a deranged Chucky staring at you whilst holding a knife scared the crap out of me (I was also a giant wuss back then). Flash-forward thirteen years, and I finally get the chance to see Chucky doing his thing on DVD. Zip over to the present, and Universal's granted fans a 20th Anniversary Edition of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray. JimmyO hit up the DVD version right here, and I get the Blu-Ray version. But, first things first: the film itself.
Yes, it's hard nowadays to buy a story like the one presented in CHILD'S PLAY. Then again, is it any harder to buy a story about a mongoloid wearing a hockey mask killing teens at a summer camp? Probably not, but where's the fun in having grounded horror movies all the time? Anyways, the film goes off at a fairly nice pace, with allusions to Chucky possibly being the killer or sweet, innocent Andy doing the dirty work, which leaves for fun times speculating. The direction by Tom Holland also serves to get the tension going for those moments where Chucky does his ninja movements, as well as the reveal involving Catherine Hicks.
Bar none, though, the performances put forward by everyone involved sold me on this film. Catherine Hicks plays the understanding and caring mom perfectly, but also makes the whole playing off of an animatronic doll believable. As for Alex Vincent, he was the perfect child actor, and he played it smart as Andy. He didn't annoy the crap out of me, nor did he fall into the stereotypical child roles we see all too often in horror films. Chris Sarandon is as effective as the hero cop as you could get. He too makes the interactions with Chucky believable, which is the big key. Brad Dourif. Chucky. What more needs to be said?
Another plus going for the film at the time was its effects by Kevin Yagher and team. Yeah, we eventually got shots of a little person dressed as Chucky, but damn, those animatronic puppets looked f*ckin' creepy then as they do now. There's really just something very eerie about those puppets (apart from the homicidal tendencies). Between the facial expressions on Chucky and the flailing act he does, man...
Complaints? Well, aside from the obvious use of real people standing in for Chucky, and the obvious plot holes involving the voodoo stuff, not much else. There's some obvious dating with the clothing, but I'm reaching for it. CHILD'S PLAY is a nifty little slasher from the late 80s that's both suspenseful and fun to watch. Great acting with equally-nifty effects make this one a must-have for your DVD/Blu-Ray bookcase.
Video: You already knew that you could toss out your 1999 DVD release with the new disk's arrival last year, but what about Blu-Ray? There's not that much more of a step up when comparing the two, although Blu-Ray gets the edge in colour with it's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Film grain is thankfully still present, keeping the film's character in that respect, as is the detail in scenes. There are a few instances of print damage, but it's not distracting.
Audio: With the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, things are just as great as they were with the SD release. Granted, with a lossless audio track, you get more 'oomph', but they're both neck and neck in terms of quality. The dialogue, however, sounded a bit flat to me, especially when compared to the the score and other effects. Also available on the disc are an English Dolby Digital 2.0, a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 and a Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 track.
Basically a port of last year's 20th Anniversary Edition, but this time around the package consists of the Standard Definition DVD and its Blu-Ray counterpart, each with matching extras. Screw that digital copy crap!
First up are two audio commentaries. The first one with involves Chucky designer Kevin Yagher and actors Alex Vincent and Catherine Hicks. We get to hear all the ideas behind the film, the actors' experiences during and after making the film, the eventual questions involving Alex's sheltering from filming, and other nuggets of information. The second commentary involves producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Don Mancini. Anything that wasn't told in the first commentary gets spilled here, as the duo acknowledge the obvious cheesy concept with the film and some of its disliked aspects (that voodoo thing again). Just as enjoyable as the first commentary, which is a lot.
As for Brad Dourif, he gets his turn as Chucky involving four scenes. While the first couple of scenes has Chucky gabbing for the sake of gabbing, once he drags Don Mancini into the fray, things get 101 times better.
Unfortunately for director Tom Holland, he's nowhere to be found on these tracks. Fortunately, he did take the initiative and recorded his own commentary for the film with Icons Of Fright staffer Tim Sullivan, which you can download right here.
Evil Comes in Small Packages serves as the film's look back at the production, divied up into three parts. "The Birth of Chucky" has producer David Kirschner talking about the original pitch for the film, Don Mancini's screenplay and other goodies. "Creating the Horror" involves the casting process for the film, shooting in Chicago, little person Ed Gale tooling around as Chucky on a plus-sized set, as well as some great behind the scenes footage and cast interviews. "Unleashed" looks into the release of the film (including the initial two-hour cut) and how it and its infamous ragamuffin are remembered now. Quite a bit of info is crammed into the 25 minutes, making this a must-watch extra.
Chucky: Building a Nightmare goes into Kevin Yagher's territory, and how he and his team brought Chucky to life. Just to show how groundbreaking the puppetry effects were at the time, other big-name effects guys such as Tom Savini, Alec Gillis, and Shane Mahan show up to drop some love. Not bad for a 10-minute feature.
A Monster Convention is a reunion of sorts for Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, and Chris Sarandon, who all showed up at Monster Mania 2007 for a discussion panel. While some of the stuff already divulged in previous extras is repeated here, it's still fun to see. Unfortunately, the whole thing is only 5 minutes long.
Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child's Play is a vintage featurette made back in 1988 (don't you wish more filmmakers did this back then?) that comes off as more of an EPK than anything, but there's still info to be gleaned.
Finally, there's a Photo Gallery with 70+ production stills, and the film's theatrical trailer in Standard Definition. While it's unfortunate that none of the extras on the Blu-Ray disc were upgraded to HD, and the fact that director Tom Holland was left out of the loop, this is still a great set to have, given the wealth of information within.
Reasserting my fear of possessed dolls (thanks, TRILOGY OF TERROR), CHILD'S PLAY is a delight to see, if not for Chucky, but for the efforts put forward by Catherine Hicks and Alex Vincent. While the Blu-Ray doesn't add much more to the DVD release last year, this is still the way to go, especially when you have both the Standard and High Definition versions in one package.