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.
So what the heck is it about the Good Guys doll which grabbed the attention of millions and spawned five 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.
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. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
Child's Play 2
Although the first movie in the franchise is the furthest from a cinematic masterpiece and it didn't make a huge impact to the genre, it's sad nonetheless to see a direct follow-up make a mess of the storyline and take it in a weirdly cartoonish direction. While I wouldn't necessarily expect a repeat of part one, which frankly would have been worse, it would have been nice for the filmmakers to maintain the same creepy thriller atmosphere. Instead, the sequel turns the concept of a doll possessed by a serial killer — granted, that does sound incredibly silly — into a more straightforward "slasher" flick mixed with a good amount of wacky goofiness. A viewer's mileage will largely depend on their tolerance for a blend of darkly offbeat absurdity and standard genre tropes.
Interestingly, Chucky originator Don Mancini, who has written the screenplay for every movie in the series, including the latest installment, returns as the genius behind this unconventional sequel. Right from the start, it's apparent he embraces the mindless, goofier aspects of his creation, reviving a literally burnt-to-a-crisp doll in a Frankenstein-like opener that's roll-your-eyes cockamamie and somewhat funny all at once. Reassembled from new body parts and jolted back to life by a freak electrical accident, an energized Chucky is more determined than ever to transfer his soul into the body of little Andy (Alex Vincent). After the events of the first movie, mom has been institutionalized and he lives in a foster home that includes a generously caring Jenny Agutter, a sympathetic big sister in Christine Elise and a cold, stony-hearted Gerrit Graham.
Director John Lafia also embraces this drastic change in tone while at the same time designing some eccentrically spooky moments that at times border on a kind of cartoonish nightmare. Chucky's attack of the school teacher (the wonderful Beth Grant) with a ruler is both dementedly creepy and over-the-top funny. The movie's highlight is undoubtedly at the Good Guys assembly line factory as the screen fills with an array of bright, bold colors while all sorts of gruesomely twisted mayhem ensues. Brad Dourif also returns as the voice of the maniacal doll, and honestly, he is the primary reason for watching any of the Chucky movies, including this somewhat disappointing but still watchable and twisted follow-up. (Movie Rating: 2.5/5)
Child's Play 3
Picking up eight years later after the sequel, Mancini pens a third entry to the series about Chucky's unhealthy obsession with Andy Barclay, but not without a few jabs at children's product marketing and dastardly corporate greed. Thinking it's recuperated from the publicity nightmare caused by the murders seen in the previous two movies, the Play Pals company takes a stab at re-launching their most popular toy line: the Good Guys doll. In what is arguably the best opening titles sequence of the franchise, Chucky's mangled and melted body is lifted from the assembly line floor, blood dripping everywhere, including a fresh cauldron of liquefied rubber. Trick photography shows blood coursing and mixing with flesh-colored plastic as our favorite cheeky maniac is assembled into a new doll.
One murder involving marbles, darts and a red yo-yo later, a very frustrated Chucky (Dourif) quickly finds the whereabouts of a now 16-year-old, emotionally-troubled Andy (Justin Whalin). Turning this mischievous tale into a bizarre darkly subtle farce of Kubrick's 'Full Metal Jacket,' Mancini sets the plot inside a military boarding school where it's even more difficult for Andy to find anyone that will believe a doll is possessed by the soul of a serial killer. But when the younger Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers) finds the Good Guy first, this adds an interesting twist to Chucky's original plan, forcing Andy to the position of hero rather than a relapse into helpless victim. It's not enough to save the film as a whole, but it makes for a bearable story that finishes with an amusing haunted funhouse finale.
Director Jack Bender, probably best known for his work on the 'Lost' TV series, also does what he can to make the movie a tolerable watch. How successful he is at achieving that, however, is up for debate. He brings a good pace to the narrative and injects it with a few decent, moody moments, though they are mostly standard genre tropes and camerawork. Unfortunately, his style must contend with flat, generic plot devices, such as the dull, humdrum Perrey Reeves providing an uninteresting love interest in the tough Kristin De Silva. Then there's the questionable Travis Fine as Lt. Col. Brett Shelton doing a horrible teen version of R. Lee Ermey. It loses steam at the halfway point, but in spite of recovering with a pleasing finale, part three is rightly considered the weakest in the franchise. (Movie Rating: 1.5/5)
Bride of Chucky
To celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Charles Lee Ray transferring his soul into a children's Good Guys doll, the filmmakers bring Chucky back from the dead with the help of a greedy cop, who steals the plastic toy from a police evidence locker where other horror icons have been retired. Well, truth be told, Jennifer Tilly has more to do with Chucky's resurrection by stitching him back together and performing a voodoo ritual — which for some reason requires a satanic pentagram — inside her ornately-decorated trailer. Tilly plays Ray's former girlfriend Tiffany, a demented woman with a disturbing fascination for death and murder who's been scouring the country in search of the doll for the last decade. It's the sort of twisted love story only the horror genre could embrace.
After a heated argument over a mistaken marriage proposal that ends with Tiffany inside another doll, the deranged couple goes on a killing spree looking for the perfect human pair to possess, except they're missing a special amulet to complete the ritual. The story suddenly turns into a road movie where runaway love birds, Jesse (Nick Stabile) and Jade (Katherine Heigl), unknowingly take the dolls to Ray's grave. Adding good amusement to the journey about not knowing the person you love until you actually live with them is the clueless pair thinking the other is guilty of murder as corpses keep piling up around them. John Ritter also makes a great cameo performance as Jade's corrupt police-chief uncle and falls victim to the best, over-the-top kill scene.
Although the script written by Don Mancini follows the continuity of the series — supposedly picking up within a few months after the events of the last movie but made seven years later — 'Bride of Chucky' marks the point where the franchise embraces the silliness of its premise and becomes a dark horror comedy. Not only does it make references to James Whale's classic horror films, but it doesn't shy away from poking fun at itself when the occasion arises. Chucky is also given a new look, the face which has pretty much become the staple of the franchise. From commenting on Chucky's killing methods to at the time contemporary cultural jabs, the movie offers a variety of twisted laughs and humor, including a bizarre romantic moment between the two dolls while encouraging protection as a priority. Three 'Child's Play' movies had already made Chucky a genre favorite, but this fourth installment turned the maniacal doll into a cultural horror icon. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
Seed of Chucky
Like Tiffany (voiced once again by Jennifer Tilly who also has a live-action starring role opposite, well, herself) trying to beat her addiction to murder and mayhem, I probably need to admit I have a problem and should join some 12-step program because I rather like this fifth installment. I know the movie is largely a travesty and just plain stupid in several areas, but it also manages to entertain me, garnering various laughs throughout, as only guilty pleasures can. It's a bonkers, twisted horror comedy which I revisit every once in a while, just to see Chucky run Britney Spears off the road or hear Tilly make fun of her acting career. Julia Roberts should have made an appearance while Redman talks about his reimagining the Christ story like he was some sort of Mel Gibson.
I suppose what ultimately sells part five for me is that last bit, making it an enthusiastically debauched feature that dives head-first into self-referential parody and cultural lampoon. Some gags are blatantly obvious, like the whole movie-within-movie theme, while others are so incredibly subtle they can easily go over the heads of many viewers, such as Redman directing a religious film or the fact that Jason Flemyng dressed as Santa Claus looks suspiciously similar to the crazed killer from the Tales from the Crypt episode: "And All Through the House." Billy Boyd, who's best known as Pippin from 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, providing the voice of Chucky and Tiffany's son also makes for a good laugh, but the doll being an over-the-top campy spoof of Ed Wood's 'Glen or Glenda' is ridiculous comedy gold. That, and the awesome, memorable death scene of John Waters as an annoyingly creepy paparazzi.
I'm probably over-selling the movie, but as you can see, I find something worth enjoying in 'Seed of Chucky.' Its excessive and mostly imprudent silliness has me laughing, yet I can admit it's not up to the level of the others in the franchise. In his directorial debut, Mancini does surprisingly well with the material he's given . . . which, actually, he wrote. He brings a dark visual style that plays with the energy and humor of the story, but there's no denying certain aspects of the plot fall flat. Tilly's fight with her assistant (Hannah Spearritt) makes absolutely no difference to the story, and Tilly's budding romance with her limo driver (Steve Lawton) is lame and unfunny. The final moments are also a mix of stupid and disappointing. However, if you can't already tell, I largely overlook those weaker parts and concentrate on the areas that make me laugh, enjoying number five in all its stupid glory. (Movie Rating: 3/5)
Curse of Chucky
After a nine year slumber, Chucky originator Don Mancini takes his monster creation back to basics in this sixth and latest installment in the franchise — marking the first non-theatrical release in the series. Returning as writer and director, Mancini has Chucky revert to his original plan of action as a straightforward horror-action thriller, eliminating much of the dark humor seen in the previous movies although there a few moments here and there which are pretty comical. Audiences are reminded once more that an otherwise innocent-looking doll is in fact possessed by the soul of the viciously diabolical serial killer Charles Lee Ray, and he's ready to play "Kill All the Adults" with a gullible child.
With excellent cinematography by Michael Marshall, Mancini also brings back that dark, sinister air of mystery and suspense long missing in the series since the first sequel went in the offbeat cartoon-like direction. Looking like he's gained a few pounds around the face, Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) arrives wrapped in a large box at the creepy Victorian house of paraplegic Nica (Fiona Dourif) and her mother, Sarah (Chantal Quesnelle). The original sender of the package quickly becomes a guessing game of sorts as viewers try to determine who and why, especially after over-protective mom is stabbed in the chest later that night. Answers are, of course, withheld until close to the end, and while not exactly mind-blowing, they do provide a nice twist that connects the movie to events in the original 'Child's Play.'
Set a few after the last film, Chucky's return has him back to his usual naughtiness of wanting to possess the body a child, which in this case is Nica's little niece Alice (Summer H. Howell). She's at the house for grandma's funeral with her overbearing mom Barb (Danielle Bisutti), her dad (Brennan Elliott) and her live-in nanny Jill (Maitland McConnell). As our devilish plastic hero begins dispatching this unlikeable lot, which doesn't include Nica or Alice, Mancini nicely paces the killing spree with a patient, scary malice, having the doll run from out the shadows, the pitter-patter of his feet scurrying across the wood floor with hair-raising echoes. This latest chapter may have been relegated to a direct-to-video release, but 'Curse' marks Chucky's gleeful return to the macabre and twisted. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video brings 'Chucky: The Complete Collection' to Blu-ray in an attractive, shiny six-disc box. Inside, we find a gatefold cardboard box with three, clear-plastic panels, each holding two discs, one comfortably sitting on top of another. Each film along with relevant bonus materials are contained on six, separate Region Free, BD50s discs. At startup, 'Child's Play' and 'Curse of Chucky' commence with a couple skippable previews. Afterwards, disc one changes to an animated menu while disc six shows a static menu screen. The other discs go straight into the movie with options available in the pop-up menu.
This 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer (1.85:1) is identical to the 2009 release from MGM, showing 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 decent sharp, and facial complexions appear 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. (Video Rating: 3/5)
Child's Play 2
Going into the second installment, things start to improve as this AVC-encoded transfer looks slightly sharper and in better condition. We still have the occasional soft scene, but for a majority of the runtime, the 1.85:1 image shows strong detailing in buildings, the interior of the foster home and inside the Good Guys assembly line. Close-ups are quite revealing, background information is plainly visible, and clothes display great textural clarity. The color palette is bold with richly-saturated primaries throughout, and black levels are true with good delineation of objects within the darkest shadows. The video also appears to have been brighten somewhat, as contrast runs a tad on the hot side, creating some mild ringing in daylight exteriors and blooming the highlights. Awash with a thin layer of grain, however, the presentation is otherwise satisfying. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)
Child's Play 3
Breaking from the ranks, the third installment in the franchise invades with a 1080p/VC-1 encode that largely looks attractive with a welcomed, thin layer of natural film grain throughout. Definition and clarity are an improvement over previous home video releases, revealing strong details in clothing, architecture, the surrounding foliage and the faces of actors. Black levels are accurate for the most part with adequate delineation in the shadows, and colors are nicely rendered but fall a bit on the flat side. The movie really shows its age with a few sequences of average resolution and some softness. The 1.85:1 image also displays signs of very mild artificial sharpening and comes with slight aliasing in the finer lines. And finally, contrast runs a tad on the hot side, exposing a bit of noise in the whites, clipping the highlights and creating some noticeable ringing around the edges of various objects. (Video Rating: 3/5)
Bride of Chucky
The 'Bride' walks down the aisle with another VC-1 encode that has its positives along with several noticeable negatives. Dressed to kill, the video is for the most part fairly detailed and defined, but it's pretty apparent the 1.85:1 image has also been artificially sharpened. The movie's enjoyment is not completely ruined with thick, distracting halos, but the digital manipulation is bad enough to cause some annoying ringing around the edges and make much of the picture look unnatural. Contrast has also been slightly boosted, making several of the highlights bloom and expose some mild mosquito noise. And finally, some minor aliasing can also be seen on the finer lines of objects. On the plus side, black levels are deep and true while colors are rendered boldly and accurately. (Video Rating: 3/5)
Seed of Chucky
It appears as if Universal actually took the time to visit whatever HD master they used for the first high-def release of this fifth entry and made a new 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode for the movie's Blu-ray debut. Of course, there's really no significant difference between the presentations, so to all intents and purposes, they're identical. Fine object and textural details are very well-defined with discrete, sharp lines in the hair and clothing of all three dolls. Healthy facial complexions in the human cast reveal every pore, wrinkle and blemish during close-ups, and the color palette is vibrant and highly animated. Black levels are richly rendered with dark, penetrating shadows, and contrast is comfortably bright. Only gripe worth noting is about a minute in the final moments with serious artificial sharpening and ugly halos, but aside from that, the transfer looks great. (Video Rating: 4/5)
Curse of Chucky
The sixth installment in the Chucky series debuts to Blu-ray with an excellent AVC-encoded transfer. Shot with the use of HD cameras, the video unfortunately comes with that sterile, digital and very unfilm-like quality which lacks character and doesn't feel very organic. Nonetheless, the 1.78:1 image is highly detailed, exposing every nook and cranny of the beautiful Victorian house and showing clean, distinct lines in background information. We can make out every pore and wrinkle on the cast, and each stitch on the clothing and face of Chucky is very well-defined.
Black levels are true and accurate with strong shadow delineation throughout, and contrast is spot-on with crisp, bright whites. However, there is a smidge of banding in the darker portions, which may not be blatant to most viewers but is there nonetheless. The color palette is accurate and bold, but being a movie that mostly takes place indoors at night, they are also somewhat limited. In either case, 'Curse' arrives with a great high-def presentation, in spite of its rather unattractive digital appearance. (Video Rating: 4/5)
The first movie also arrives with an identical DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that exhibits some surprisingly good 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, this is a strong lossless presentation for a twenty-year-old mix. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
Child's Play 2
In the audio department, Universal has opted for a DTS-HD stereo soundtrack for the sequel, which is commendable since it's true to the original design. Imaging feels broad and welcoming with excellent separation between the channels and surprisingly good clarity of background activity. You can plainly hear the smallest, arbitrary piece of action in the distance discretely and moving across the screen convincingly. The mid-range is never really pushed into the upper levels, but the soundstage maintains outstanding clarity during the many action sequences. Low bass is not exactly a showstopper or standout, but it adds the appropriate weight to the music and action, especially in the final moments inside the Good Guys factory, making this a great lossless mix for a cheesy follow-up to a horror flick about a killer doll. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
Child's Play 3
Chucky declares war on Blu-ray with a very amusing DTS-HD stereo track, displaying lots of detailed activity in the background and creating a nice, wide soundstage. Movement between channels is smooth and fluid while vocals maintain intelligible clarity in the center. The musical score of John D'Andrea and Cory Lerios, of course, benefit the most from the jump into high-rez audio, exhibiting excellent orchestration and fidelity. The mid-range is not particularly extensive or pushed very far, but discrete effects during the louder action sequences are distinct and clear. Low bass is somewhat wanting in certain scenes, but it's adequate enough to do the job and provide presence to the lossless mix. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)
Bride of Chucky
On the audio front, things improve slightly from the somewhat disappointing picture quality, but this DTS-HD MA soundtrack still lacks a bit of punch and oomph, especially in the low-end department. That's not to say the bass is missing; rather, it seems reserved for the bigger action set pieces while the rest of the movie lacks presence, even in the music of Graeme Revell. The mid-range exhibits a similar issue with dynamics and acoustics that largely feel limited and heavily restrained in the higher frequencies. Imaging remains wide with several convincing off-screen effects that fill the soundstage, yet it doesn't feel engaging or welcoming. Channel separation is still well-balanced, and dialogue reproduction is well-prioritized and intelligible in the center. Discrete effects in the surround speakers are generally sporadic and incredibly subtle, almost to the point of being inaudible, so there's nary a moment of envelopment. Revell's score and the couple song selections do better at expanding the soundfield and filling the room, but ultimately, the high-def track feels lifeless and lacking in several areas. (Audio Rating: 3/5)
Seed of Chucky
As in the video, part five makes the jump to the other format with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that really entertains, but the difference to its Dolby TrueHD counterpart remains negligible at best. In fact, they're pretty much identical, providing a good variety of discrete activity in the rears that generate an often satisfying and immersive soundfield. Although Pino Donaggio's score makes the best use of the surrounds, atmospherics like thunder adds some ambience. Imaging in the fronts is also broad and engaging with well-balanced channel separation and convincing off-screen effects. The mid-range is quite sharp and detailed while the low-end packs a pleasing punch and palpable oomph to a few action sequences. With excellent, precise dialogue reproduction in the center, the lossless mix makes a great listen with plenty of fun. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
Curse of Chucky
The sixth installment in the Chucky franchise jinxes Blu-ray with a highly entertaining and surprisingly good DTS-HD MA track. Although this is really more of a front-heavy presentation, the design does allow for several great moments of discrete effects in the surrounds. It's not always consistent, but the crashing of thunder and the sounds of pouring rain in the distance fill the room on various occasions, generating an amusingly dark and creepy atmosphere. Other times, the pitter-patter of Chucky running across the floor is distinctly heard moving from one side of the room to the other with flawless panning.
The music of Joseph LoDuca bleeds into the rears and satisfyingly envelops the listener while also broadening the fronts with an engaging and welcoming soundstage. Dynamics and acoustics never really extend in the upper ranges, but the lossless mix maintains good clarity and is fairly detailed. Low bass delivers some powerful impact and weight to various action sequences. Separation between channels is well-balanced with plenty of fidelity and warmth while vocals are precise and intelligible in the center. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
Supplements from previous home video releases are ported over for this Blu-ray collection.
Child's Play 2
Child's Play 3
Bride of Chucky
Seed of Chucky
Curse of Chucky
Twenty-five years later, the 'Child's Play' franchise remains a fun assortment of late-night flicks for an entertaining Saturday night. The original installment to the popular franchise, which also introduced Chucky to the world of horror cinema, was an unexpected surprise to the genre, successful enough to spawn five sequels and turning a maniacal doll possessed by the soul of a demented serial killer into popular horror icon. The Blu-ray collection features a strong picture quality in all six movies with slightly better audio presentations. Supplements are nothing new, but it's a nice assortment of featurettes worth spending some time on. The overall package is a welcome improvement to previous editions, and devoted Chucky fans will be more than satisfied with this set. Recommended.