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" and stylish thriller with "excellent special effects" 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!
As far as guilty pleasures go, 'Child's Play' has somehow crawled its way onto my list of tolerably entertaining flicks, one that I can sit down and watch every so often without much change in judgment. As for why that is, I really can't tell. It's not as if the movie about a doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer has any true redeeming value whatsoever. Seriously, how much damage could a two-foot doll inflict upon a grown adult --- it's made of plastic and batting material for Pete's sake! Granted, director Tom Holland ('Fright Night') generates some good moments of suspense and action; but in the end, there is nothing really terrifying about this story of a maniacal doll.
Mortally wounded while being chased by Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon), Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), the notorious "Lakeshore Strangler", breaks into a toy store to hide. Desperate for a way out, he performs a voodoo ritual which transports his soul inside a Good Guy doll. The next morning, Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks), anxious to please her six-year-old son Andy (Alex Vincent), buys the much sought-after doll from a street peddler. Little do they know, it is the same toy on which Charles performed his black magic. Referring to himself as Chucky, he resumes his killing spree and seeks vengeance on the detective. Later, he discovers his only way out is to transfer his soul to the first person to whom he reveals his identity, placing Andy in grave danger.
So what the heck is it about the Good Guys doll which grabbed the attention of millions and spawned four sequels, including a comic book? One thing I always point to is the unexpected franchise, which if truth be told is nothing more than a parody of itself, somehow changing the way we watch the darn movie. 'Child's Play' is today a less serious, straight horror flick and more ironic and facetious in its attempt to be realistic. The other is without a doubt Brad Dourif as the iconic voice of Chucky. Without his talent, the movie would lack a great deal of feasibility and at least some hint of believability. It is only with the evil, wicked attitude he imposes in the character that we enjoy watching Chucky strut his stuff and trust that the doll is capable of terrible malice and malevolent intent.
This is not to ignore the spot-on performances from the rest of the cast. I am simply pointing out Dourif's as a central and crucial piece to the movie's enjoyment. Chris Sarandon has worked in some very memorable roles in the past ('Fright Night', 'The Princess Bride', 'The Nightmare Before Christmas') and for most horror fans, his portrayal here as the skeptical detective happens to be one of them. Considering that a good chunk of her acting is based on reactions to an autonomous doll, Catherine Hicks definitely pulls her weight and wins over the audience. But the one person who stands out is the very young Alex Vincent, showing some excellent range for a child his age, particularly the scenes at the children's hospital. In the end though, Dourif remains the primary reason for fans revisiting the film and encouraging the series to continue.
Other than the 'Bride of Chucky', the original installment of the franchise lingers in the memory banks of horror aficionados because of its surprisingly good and stylish direction. Not only does Tom Holland put the dark shadows to fine use and actually generates a eerie atmosphere, but he's also skilled at keeping the camera from revealing the many tricks-of-the-trade. Most interesting is the way in which the movie tapped into the strange cultural phenomena of children's toy marketing of the 1980s. While the plot's creator Don Mancini has admitted to the Cabbage Patch Kids craze as a direct influence, I still like think the Good Guy doll possesses a striking resemblance to My Buddy or even a demented version of Teddy Ruxpin. In either case, the idea of toys which try to appear more lifelike is quite creepy and disturbing, and the filmmakers take advantage of this and provide audiences with a tale that plays into our childish nightmares.
Making it all a reality is of course the amazing F/X work from Kevin Yagher, creator of The Crypt Keeper and make-up artist for Freddy Krueger. In this day and age of CGI fakeness, it's hard to believe this film was pushing the boundaries of special effects and animatronics. But back then, audiences were blown away by how realistically Chucky moved and looked, to watch his horrifying facial expressions slowly morph from innocent doll to a raving psychopath. Personally, I find it utterly hilarious to watch the Good Guy doll start off with a basic parted haircut that evolves into a receding hairline by the end. The groundbreaking special effects to this day still hold up as major part of the film's entertainment value. If not for the remarkable work done by Yagher's team trying to be as realistic as possible, 'Child's Play' could have easily been nothing more than a faded memory of terribly made horror flicks.
What started off as a straight-forward "whodunit" mystery thriller has grown into a popular series with yet another unforgettable psycho-killer in Chucky. While other installments have transformed the franchise into a horror comedy, even to the point of being a mockery as seen in 'Seed of Chucky', 'Child's Play' remains the movie in which the filmmakers tried in all seriousness to frighten the hell out of the public, which oddly comes off more comical than anything else. Still, it serves up some good fun on a late Saturday night and remains a popular fan favorite amongst horror fans.
Last year, Fox/MGM decided to throw Chucky a 20th birthday celebration by providing the killer-doll with a makeover. As part of an exclusive package, the studio was nice enough to include this anniversary DVD copy, which looks fine for the format. Side-to-side comparisons, unfortunately, reveal the Blu-ray edition to have been culled from the same remaster, which is not a bad thing except that it shows only a small improvement in picture quality.
The 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer (1.85:1) arrives with an unobtrusive thin layer of film grain and a surprisingly good contrast level, exposing plenty of visual information in the background. Of course, the picture has its moments of hot spots, such as scenes involving lightning and fire, and it is generally on the softer side due to some intentional optical photography. Still, fine object and textural details are a bit sharper here than in its standard definition equivalent, and facial complexions appear more natural for the cold climate. Blacks exhibit strong resolution and consistency, with clear visibility of objects in the darkest portions of the image. The color palette is nothing spectacular, but it's cleanly rendered and secondary hues are accurate. Even if the jump into hi-def is not significant, 'Child's Play' makes for a fine presentation on Blu-ray.
At least the audio shows a more significant improvement over the video.
Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio codec, the soundtrack exhibits some decent presence and separation. There is plenty of movement and commotion in the fronts, keeping the audience engaged at all times. Dynamics are not very expansive, nor do they reach the upper levels, but they are cleanly delivered and well defined. Low-frequency effects are also put to good use, adding heavy palpability to several action sequences and every gunshot fired. The real shocker is the amount of activity in the rear speakers, offering many instances of atmospheric immersion like the sounds of thunder or the ricochet of bullets. Even Chucky has his moment where he scurries along behind the listener, extending the soundfield and generating a welcomed instant of creepiness. Only complaint is a vocal track that can be overwhelmed in few areas, but it is clear and precise for the most part. In the end, it's a strong lossless presentation for a twenty-year-old mix.
Mirroring the bonus material from Chucky's 20th Birthday Edition, the supplemental package of this Blu-ray offers a bevy of fun compared to previous releases. Presented in standard definition, the featurettes offer the sort of material fans crave, with a few hidden surprises along the way - Easter Eggs!
Twenty years later and 'Child's Play' remains a fun little late-night flick on a Saturday night. The original installment to the popular franchise, which also introduced Chucky to the world of horror cinema, arrives on Blu-ray with nice picture quality and a strong audio presentation. The supplements are the same found on the anniversary DVD, but it's a satisfying collection nonetheless. Fans are sure to be pleased by the package, but everyone else should at least give it a rent this Halloween season.