Criterion’s April titles include Coppola’s Rumble Fish and Wim Wenders’ Buena Vista Social Club https://t.co/1PmfiylRaB
Release Date(s)1988 (September 15, 2009)
Studio(s)MGM/United Artists (20th Century Fox)
In the rogues’ gallery of 80s movie maniacs, Chucky is something of an anomaly. To date, he’s only appeared in six movies, which by horror standards is a model of restraint. Despite their consistently low budgets, none of them (until 2013’s Curse of Chucky) have gone direct to video (not even Pinhead can make that claim). The franchise has endured by embracing the inherent absurdity of its premise: a doll possessed by the spirit of a serial killer. But while Chucky never seems to get the respect enjoyed by Jason, Freddy or Michael, the original is still fondly remembered by those who first stumbled upon it as a child.
While Child’s Play is a bit less jokey than the series would eventually become, the tone for the series is still established early on. Little Andy (Alex Vincent) receives a Good Guy doll for his birthday, unaware that it holds the spirit of serial killer Charles Lee Ray (franchise MVP Brad Dourif, appearing on screen for one of the only times in the series). When his babysitter plunges out the window, Andy tries to explain that Chucky is alive. But for some weird reason, both his mom (Catherine Hicks) and the investigating cop (Chris Sarandon) think he’s crazy.
Child’s Play isn’t a particularly distinguished movie but it is an effective one. Virtually all kids can relate to the fear of a doll that comes to murderous life. Remember the Talky Tina episode of The Twilight Zone or the killer clown from Poltergeist? Sure you do. Besides the vocal work of Dourif, what makes Child’s Play work is the doll itself created by Kevin Yagher. Chucky is a fantastic creation and the fact that he’s so hideously ugly makes perfect sense to those of us who remember those deformed Cabbage Patch Kids back in the 80s. Tom Holland’s direction seamlessly blends Yagher’s puppet with long shots of little person Ed Gale as Chucky. The illusion works surprisingly well, even without the crutch of CGI to back it up.
Child’s Play makes its high-definition debut with a transfer that looks pretty darn good. It’s bright and fairly detailed, although if you already have the 20th Anniversary DVD, it’s not such a world of difference that you need to rush out and pick this up. The audio isn’t quite as impressive. The music and effects sound terrific but dialogue levels are weirdly inconsistent.
The disc is packed with extras, including two audio commentaries (one by Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks and Kevin Yagher, the other by producer David Kirschner and writer Don Mancini). You also get a few scenes with commentary by Chucky himself (Brad Dourif in character) and these are about as silly as you’d expect. Evil Comes in Small Packages is a compelling three-part documentary on the making of the film, although it’s disappointing that director Tom Holland doesn’t contribute any new interview material. Yagher’s work is spotlighted in the featurette Chucky: Building a Nightmare and also plays a pivotal role in the vintage featurette Introducing Chucky. A Monster Convention offers a few Qs and As from a reunion panel featuring Vincent, Hicks and Sarandon at the 2007 Monster Mania convention. You also get the original trailer, a photo gallery and a few Easter eggs. All of these extras are from the 20th anniversary DVD, which is also thrown in for good measure. Unlike Misery, however, the extras appear on both the Blu-ray and the DVD. This being the case, I’m not entirely sure what use the DVD is but it’s here if you need it.
The Chucky movies have had their ups and downs but I’ve always found them to be consistently entertaining. Child’s Play 3 is the only entry I have absolutely no use for. The original should absolutely be a part of every horror fan’s video library and the 20th Anniversary DVD already might be in yours. If it is, I’d suggest giving the Blu-ray a pass. You already have all the extras and the technical upgrade isn’t really worth it. If not, get out there and set up a playdate with Chucky.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke