Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer | 1988 | 87 mins | Rated R

Chucky’s in high definition!

Young Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) wants nothing more for his sixth birthday then for his mom Karen (Catherine Hicks) to buy him a large-sized, talking “Good Guy” doll. But widowed working mom Karen didn’t have enough advanced notice of Andy’s birthday wish to save the 100 dollars needed for a new store-bought doll. Tipped off by her friend Maggie (Dinah Manoff) to a homeless guy whose selling a used “Good Guy” doll out behind the department store where she works, Karen is able to buy her son the toy he covets. Unbeknownst to her, Karen sets in motion a blizzard of demonic horror and violence.

Child's PlayAndy’s doll isn’t just any doll. Who’s revealed himself as Chucky via the talking feature of the doll, he’s the transferred spirit of serial “Lake Shore Strangler” Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), who, after being mortally wounded by Chicago police Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) in a toy store, utilizes his voodoo training to transfer his soul into the nearest form available: a large “Good Guy” doll. Now home with Andy, Chucky/Charles immediately leaves an impression by killing babysitter Maggie. The crime scene evidence points to Andy’s involvement in the crime – at least that’s what Detective Norris believes – but it takes another murder (this time, Charles Lee’s former accomplice-in-crime upon whom Charles swore vengeance) before Andy is taken from Karen and locked-up for psychiatric evaluation. With Andy out of the way, Chucky is now free to murder his enemies, until he learns that he needs Andy far more than he originally thought.

Child’s Play was originally released when I was fifteen years old. I have no qualms about saying that the film scared me to death the first time I saw it. I remember, at the time I had a rather large collection of stuffed animals I had collected through the years. For weeks after seeing Child’s Play, I had nightmares that one of them was going to come alive and murder me or members of my family.

Now, watching Child’s Play some twenty years later, those nightmares are gone. Instead, I can appreciate Child’s Play for the remarkably well put together horror film that it is. Writers Tom Holland (also the director), Don Mancini and John Lafia added a level of satire to the film that brought Child’s play up a notch from other slasher flicks of the day. The ‘Good Guy’ brand is everywhere in Child’s Play, from an animated kids’ show on TV through to Andy’s “Good Guy PJ sneakers” whatever they may be. In other words, Chucky is the embodiment of the evil of these marketing phenomena – and, of course, the film was released at the height of ‘Cabbage Patch’ hysteria wherein ordinary housewives were fighting it out in toy store aisles across the country in order to get their hands on these much coveted dolls. So, the doll idea was genius and it can also be looked at as a statement about what mass marketing can do to our heads.

There’s no denying that once Chucky “comes alive,” and unleashes a filthy torrent of vulgarities at Karen, his face suddenly transformed into a hideous, grotesque mask, that a new movie star is born. The puppetry work is excellent. However, I can’t imagine the film working as well as it does without the voice work of Brad Dourif. Growling in a demonic wail of hatred, Dourif pulls off the tough task of making Chucky both scary and humorous in his line readings. Dourif deserves much of the credit for turning Chucky into a horror film icon.

While the MPEG-4 video codec and the 1080p resolution make some of the brighter colors pop (particularly the frequently used reds), overall, the image doesn’t represent a drastic improvement over last year’s 20th anniversary DVD release. There are occasional moments of noticeable film grain, but since Child’s Play is such a dark film to begin with, it doesn’t really give things a film like appearance. As far as I could tell, detail was no more impressive in high definition, than it had been in the syandard release.

Child’s Play features a solid 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. It does a good job of highlighting the spooky noises and sudden jolts that provide the film. However, you will find the sound is largely contained to the front speakers, only occasionally utilizing the full soundfield. That said, the film still sounds as suspenseful as ever; the dialogue is clear and the scares are still first-rate.

There are a good amount of Special features included, all of which have been carried over from last year’s standard definition release, All presented in 480i :

• Two Commentaries – One with Alex Vincent, and Catherine Hicks and her husband Kevin Yagher. The other, screenwriter Don Mancini and producer David Kirschner.
• Evil Comes in Small Packages (25:22) – features three separate interview segments (The Birth of Chucky, Creating the Horror, and Unleashed) with cast and crew of the film that covers the production and release of Child’s Play.
• Chucky: Building a Nightmare (9:52) – Gives a detailed look at the construction of the Chucky animatronics.
• A Monster Convention (5:24) – a small snippet of a taping at Monster Mania 2007, where the cast reunited for questions from die-hard fans.
• Introducing Chucky – The Making of Child’s Play (6:07) – From 1988, this fraturette gives a general overview of the film.
• The original theatrical trailer – features the voice of deceased Don LaFontaine.
• Photo Gallery

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