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Child's Play (1988) Print E-mail
Monday, 28 September 2009
ImageMGM is getting horror fans ready for Halloween with their recent batch of Blu-ray releases.  Aside from the nearly atrocious “Wrong Turn” collection, MGM has released some terrific fear-inducing films.  “Child’s Play” is one of the most original horror films of its time and holds up decently after 21 years.  The most remembered horror films seem to be slashers where all it is, is blood and guts.  “Child’s Play” puts forth real fear, a fear of toys.

The film stars Catherine Hicks, best known as the mom on “7th Heaven,” as Karen.  She is a single mother of a little boy who longs for a Good Guy doll for his birthday.  When she fails to get one at the store she resorts to a man on the streets for the doll.  Little does she know, but the doll is possessed.

When the spirit of a serial killer is magically transported into one of the Good Guy dolls, the doll comes alive.  Like many lonely kids, Karen’s son, Andy finds a friend in Chucky, the dolly.  However, when Andy realizes that Chucky is committing violent acts, he swears to his mom that it is Chucky that is committing these crimes.  Like always, the mother and the police simply laugh at the matter.  Andy is targeted as the executor of these crimes, including the death of her mom’s best friend.

Karen eventually finds out the true nature of Chucky when she is left home alone with the doll.  Meanwhile, Andy is committed to a mental institution.  Chucky is after Andy in order to possess human form once again.  Chris Sarandon plays the detective that is more into a romance with Karen than actually discovering the truth about the crimes.

It is easy to see that the plot of “Child’s Play” is nothing spectacular.  In fact, it is down right laughable.  However, this aspect of the film is overshadowed by the terrific and frightening movements of the doll.  Yes, sure the doll is mainly animatronics, but occasionally the movements are done by little children.  There are several instances in which the shots of the doll climbing and scurrying about catch you off guard and actually frighten you.  Horror is not created by gruesomeness.  It is created by bringing a concept to life on the screen; a concept that is frightening to envision.  I don’t know about you, but the idea that my favorite toy has been possessed by a serial killer and is out to kill me to take my body is rather creepy.

The acting is mainly cheesy, but the voice of Chucky by Brad Dourif.  One of the most memorable lines of the film is “Chucky’s back.”  It haunts you, especially as a kid.  So, be forewarned, showing this film to your pre-teen kid is bound to keep them awake at nights for quite some time.
“Child’s Play” was previously released on the HD DVD format.  This Blu-ray transfer is largely the same, however it is has received a boost in the video bitrate.  The source print is in decent shape for its age.  There is hardly a scratch on the print.  Still, the transfer is only really as good as the source.  Film grain is prominent throughout the film.  There does not appear to by much digital noise reduction.  Shadow delineation is also a problem.  All the dark shots are full of grain and lack any revealing detail.  There is some minor crushing in the blacks.  Overall, though, black levels are good.  Contrast is strong, but not very revealing.  Details are better that I would have expected.  Textures are largely swallowed by the grain.  Colors are natural as are fleshtones.  This is an accurate representation of the original source and it is leaps and bounds better than the original standard definition DVD presentation.  This is about as good as it is going to get folks.

The original audio for this film was mixed in stereo.  MGM has presented us with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.  As this is a remix of the original audio stems, it can never be as good as the original intent of the sound designers.  That being said, the 5.1 mix is actually quite pleasing and does beat the original Dolby stereo mix, especially in this day and age of surround mixes.  The scurrying footsteps of Chucky can easily be heard racing across the rear channels.  However, directionality and panning and is a bit stocky as the original mixed stems were used to create this 5.1 track.  Dialogue is always clear.  However, dialogue suffers from the cracky nature of 1980s production audio.  The overall frequency response of the audio track is not the best, but accurate to the original source material.  The dynamic range is better than would be expected.  Being a remix, the LFE channel gets prominence in the track.  The bass is a bit muddy due to the grouped audio feed that occupies the LFE channel.  The original Dolby stereo mix is also present on the Blu-ray disc.  Normally I recommend viewing the film with the original audio mix, but in this case the surround mix is actually very pleasing.

The Blu-ray contains the same bonus materials that were present on the DVD and the HD DVD.  All the features remain in standard definition.  First up, there are three audio commentaries.  The first commentary is with the voice of Chucky, Brad Dourif.  This is a scene specific audio commentary.  The second commentary is with Alex Vincent and Catherine Hicks as well as Chucky’s creator, Kevin Yagher.  This is a very light commentary.  The last commentary is with producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Don Mancini.  This ia very technical commentary.

“Evil Comes in Small Packages” contains three featurettes: “The Birth of Chucky,” “Creating the Horror” and “Unleashed.”  These featurettes are typical of a behind-the-scenes feature and also contain interviews.  “Chucky: Building a Nightmare” examines how the movements of Chucky were created.  “A Monster Convention” is footage of the 2007 Monster Mania panel.  “Introducing Chucky: The Making of ‘Child’s Play’” is the original making-of featurette.  Lastly, the Blu-ray disc contains a photo gallery and theatrical trailer.

The package also contains a standard DVD version of the film.  This is not a Digital Copy disc but an actual playable standard DVD.  The DVD contains all the same bonus materials as the Blu-ray disc.

“Child’s Play” is not the greatest film in world, but it is an important piece of horror cinema history.  Its impact on future horror films is undeniable.  The video quality about as good as this film is going to get.  Likewise, the audio quality is a very powerful surround sound remix.  If you can stomach the genre, then I recommend this Blu-ray disc.

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