Horror Roundtable: Child’s Play (Scream Factory Blu-ray)
One of the best things about the horror genre is its sense of community; whether its on the Internet or at conventions, horror tends to bring people together, even if it’s to watch a person get slaughtered in increasingly horrific ways. The other good thing about horror is that it’s one of the most subjective forms of cinema, with incredibly varied styles – meaning anyone can like a film, even if it’s not “good” by conventional standards.
To foster this sense of community, my good friend Ryne Barber – from The Moon is a Dead World – and I have come together to form a Horror Roundtable, where we both cover a recently released film in shorter review form, alternating the posts on both of our sites. Here, we offer up our own opinions, allowing the reader two different views on one film. In future, we hope to incorporate more of the best writers from the horror blogosphere in these roundtables – if you’d like to join, please leave a comment here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org/cultsploitation.com. Thanks, and enjoy.
Scream Factory’s release of the 1988 horror film Child’s Playdrops on October 18. Here’s a roundup of what both sites had to say.
In 1988, director Tom Holland and writers Don Mancini and John Lafia ushered in the start of a killer franchise without realizing how popular it would eventually become. Child‘s Play wasn’t the first horror film to feature killer playthings, but it definitely helped to make that idea popular and scary again; learning from his previous horror comedy Fright Night, Holland infused both scares and laughs into a film that took childhood joy and turned it on its head. Child’s Play, not afraid to challenge horror norms or taboos about putting children in danger, established more than anything an iconic villain with the Good Guy doll Chucky (Brad Dourif), who has ultimately become more recognizable than the franchise’s titles.
While Child’s Play‘s sequels have gotten incrementally hokier, the original film is truly a solid mix of genres. Holland’s direction moves at a fast clip as the audience meets its main characters Andy (Alex Vincent) and his mom Karen (Catherine Hicks) directly before they welcome the infamous Chucky doll into their house, but Child’s Playmoves so quickly that there’s not much time for introductions before the first murder takes place. For this film, ditching backstory for forward movement is necessary; there’s no need to get into Karen’s single motherhood, or Andy’s obsession with the Good Guys television show, and Holland rightly eschews that exposition to ensure that the viewer gets as much time with Andy and Chucky as possible.
Likewise, Child’s Play doesn’t bother to explain Charles Lee Ray’s ability to transmogrify into a doll besides a quick reference about a witch doctor, either. The film’s mysticism comes from that lack of knowledge, and half of the film still forces the viewer to question whether it could be Andy committing murder. Later, Holland shifts away from first-person viewpoints to explicitly show Chucky moving of his own volition to show off the impressive robotic effects and skillful editing featuring stuntman Ed Gale standing in for the doll, but the first moments of the film effectively play with the viewer’s expectations; the title, after all, could indicate murder as Andy’s child’s play too.
The most impressive thing about Child’s Play, though, is its simplicity and leanness, with Holland managing to cram a lot of subplots – like Mike Norris’ (Chris Sarandon) dual investigations, the relationship between Charles Lee Ray and Eddie Caputo, and Karen’s occupational troubles – into a quick sub-90 minute film. That’s not to mention the number of surprising Friday the 13th-esque moments where Chucky comes back from near destruction, scares that will likely still chill audiences today (that burnt Chucky head is still pretty terrifying).
There have been many imitators, but Child’s Playis still the best of the franchise. That’s largely thanks to Holland and Mancini, who are able to refrain from going too over-the-top with the film’s comedy. This version of Chucky, who still maintains his human vulgarity, manages to spook and entertain at the same time, and that’s one of the best compliments one can pay to Child’s Play. It’s not every day a director can follow up one of his most beloved films (Fright Night) with one that hits nearly the same mark, but Holland did so with Child’s Play.
This Scream Factory collector’s edition Blu-Ray is loaded with special features and a great transfer to boot. The2K scan looks great, and the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track sounds very good. If you’re looking for audio commentaries, this one has it in spades – four commentary tracks, with three carried over from a previous release and one new one featuring Tom Holland. They’re all great quality, though the Chucky commentary on select scenes may not interest that many people with its somewhat boring banter.
The second disc holds the bulk of the extras, including two new forty-minute interviews with special effects artist Howard Berger (delightfully happy to talk about his work) and Chucky stuntman Ed Gale (super sweet guy, very humble and happy to be a part of the series) and a new hour-long behind-the-scenes reel (not vital viewing, but interesting). The rest of the featurettes are from an older release, but still worth watching and thankfully included by Scream Factory. Also, I’ve got to say that I love how Scream Factory has structured the special features menu for this release. Finally, the reversible cover artwork is fantastic (I prefer the new one!).
Summing up this release, this is definitely worth your hard-earned money, with a great number of special features and pristine picture quality. Pick this one up!
From the Mind of Tatlock
Child’s Play is an odd film when you think about it. Who exactly was it made for? It certainly can’t be for the kids, due to the vulgar language from Chucky, so unless you are sneaking a peek at the film or if you were like me and watched them at a young age anyway, the film must be for adults. Right? I don’t know, because wouldn’t you think most adults wouldn’t even think twice about giving the film a chance when they heard the plot? A story about a child’s doll coming to life and killing people? Most people would roll their eyes and scoff at the idea of seeing it.
However, that’s today’s mentality and not 1988 when the film came out. People must have been more forgiving back then and thank god for that or else this film may not have received the appreciation it gets today. Said appreciation comes today in the form of a fantastic 2-disc Blu-ray from Scream Factory. Packed with special features, both new and old. The Blu is definitely something you’ll want to add to your collection.
Child’s Play has a goofy, cheesy premise. Serial Killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) is on the doorsteps of death thanks to a gunshot from Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon, Fright Night). Thankfully for Charles, he knows a little bit of voodoo magic and transfers his soul into a Good Guy doll. Said Good Guy doll ends up in the hands of six-year-old Andy for his birthday gift.
It doesn’t take long for Chucky to start coming to life and getting revenge on the people that did him wrong. Andy insists the doll is alive, but no one believes him until his Mother (Catherine Hicks) finds out the terrifying truth in a scene that is memorable for so many reasons. Now the chase is on to catch Chucky and save Andy’s life.
Yeah, cheesy and goofy is definitely what Child’s Play is, but gosh darn it, the damn thing just works. It most certainly is because of all the hard work in front of and behind the scenes that make Child’s Play a classic (director Tom Holland of Fright Night fame is certainly is a nice man to have direct things). There is no shitty CGI to worry about, instead, we have amazing practical effects from several well-known effects people (Kevin Yagher and Howard Berger are two that spring to mind).
The acting is a hell of a lot better than it has any right to be, especially when you have a kid being one of the main characters. Alex Vincent does a wonderful job as the adorable Andy. Most of the time kid actors come across as super annoying, but this time, it works (even counting the cringeworthy line “this is the end…”). Of course, the highlight is the voice work of Brad Dourif in the role of Chucky. He is mean, psychotic and oh so hilarious. He really does make the movie.
Child’s Play ended up working for some many reasons and it goes to show that any premise, be it silly or not, can work as long as the right people are behind the camera.
If you happened to be one of those horror fans that made the movie a success or one of those kids that sneaked a peek and ended up being terrified of your favourite doll, Scream Factory has the Blu-ray that rightly deserves to be in your bloody hands. The video/audio is excellent. The film grain is even and never overabundant and the audio’s 5.1 selection uses your surround sound properly. This is a great looking Blu.
As for features, we have some new and some old. The new lands on a feature commentary with Tom Holland, an hour of older behind the scenes footage, a 40-minute interview with Howard Berger and another 40 minutes with Ed Gale. Everything else that you will find on the disc came provided with other releases before. However, that certainly isn’t a minus, as having everything on two discs allows you to dump your old releases and keep this one. Smart thinking Scream Factory.
Looks like both Ryne and I had a lot to say about Child’s Play, which makes sense, as the movie is a bonafide horror classic. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray of Child’s Play is a definite purchase!
NEW 2K scan of the interpositive
NEW Audio Commentary with director Tom Holland
Audio Commentary with Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks and “Chucky” designer Kevin Yagher
Audio Commentary with Producer David Kirschner and Screenwriter Don Mancini
Select Scene Chucky Commentaries
NEW Behind-the-Scenes Special Effects footage from Howard Berger (60 minutes)
NEW Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ‘Til The End – interview with special effect artist Howard Berger (40 minutes)
NEW Life Behind the Mask: Being Chucky – an interview with actor Ed Gale (40 minutes)
Evil Comes in Small Packages featuring interviews with Don Mancini, David Kirschner, John Lafia, Chris Sarandon, Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent, Kevin Yagher (24 minutes)
Chucky: Building a Nightmare featuring Kevin Yagher (10 minutes)
A Monster Convention featuring Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent and Chris Sarandon (5 minutes)
Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play Vintage Featurette (6 minutes)