Scream Factory pulls out all the stops for Don Mancini’s deadly doll
There are staples of American horror, enduring icons recognizable to everyone who’s ever been exposed to films played over and over again in the month of Halloween (and the rest of the year of course). After Krueger, Voorhees, and Myers, perhaps the most well known is not even a person at all, but the doll Chucky. After the original Child’s Play trilogy (reviewed here), came 4 more ‘Chucky’ -titled films, the last of which (Cult of Chucky) segued into a currently airing TV show. Oh and you can throw in a remake to the pile too. A franchise that arguably has one of the best hit/miss ratios during its run. While his series has embraced the more comedic aspects in recent times, Scream Factory has gone back to the beginning with this remastered release of the original triumvirate of Child’s Play movies.
The “chills come thick and fast” (Los Angeles Times) in this riveting, jolt-a-minute thriller about an innocent-looking doll inhabited by the soul of a serial killer who refuses to die. From the director of Fright Night, Child’s Play comes complete with “excellent special effects” (Leonard Maltin) and a slew of special features that make this 3-disc set your “friend to the end!”
Frankly, if you buy your child a present from a homeless man, you’re asking for trouble. Granted, a possessed, homicidal doll is perhaps the most incredulous outcome you could imagine, but the sentiment remains true. While the synopsis sounds silly, and is occasionally played for laughs with Chucky’s macabre quips (and occasional misogyny), Child’s Play is a dark affair. Later sequels embrace the more slapstick and comedic tone, but the original’s potency is undeniable.
The twisting of a representation of childhood into something far more insidious is a smart one. What’s more unsettling for a child than to think one of their toys may be a killer? Having revealed himself to Andy first, his is the only body that can provide a permanent home to Lee-Ray’s soul. This gives the film a shift in direction from offing people connected to the Barclay family to Chucky putting Andy square in his sights. Fold in the continuing vendetta between the murderous Charles Lee-Ray (Dourif) and the Detective on his tail, and you have a packed and well paced 90 minute runtime.
Tom Holland (Fright Night) keeps the comedy at bay by building a lot of tension into the film, making this red-headed, freckled doll an imposing figure. The practical effects used to bring Chucky to life still still hold up pretty well today. For Brad Dourif, despite only having a few minutes on screen, his demented vocal performance ensures his legacy alongside other horror icons.
Shout! Factory delivers an all new 4K scan of the original camera negative. Depth and detail of image impress. Colors are healthy, blacks are strong, while more delicate tones have a natural presentation. The grain is on the heavier side, which seems to be largely a representation of the source. To be clear, this is a notable step up from the Blu-ray/2K scan that Scream! Factory previously put out. The release includes both a 4K UHD and Blu-ray version of the new remaster, and a ton of extra features, spread over three discs:
Disc 1: 4K-UHD Edition
- Audio Commentary: Director Tom Holland. Rather dry gives a lot of insight into the making of the film
- Audio Commentary: Actors Alex Vincent and Catherine Hicks along with “Chucky” Designer Kevin Yagher.: The audio of Alex Vincent is cut into a separately recorded commentary by star Catherine Hicks and Chucky designer Kevin Yagher. It affects the flow, but the result is still interesting, more like a trip down memory lane than anything else. This is reinforced by the fact that Hicks and Yagher eventually wed after falling for each other during filming. Vincent’s perspective is especially interesting as a child working on a horror movie
- Audio Commentary: Producer David Kirschner and Screenwriter Don Mancini: Perhaps the most informative commentary, offing frank criticism of certain aspects of the film, how some of the more far fetched moments turned out as well as commenting on other technical aspects of the film
- Audio Commentary: Chucky.: Sadly only available for select scenes. It makes for a fragmented but really fun addition.
Disc 2: Blu-ray
- Audio Commentaries: as on the 4K disc
- NEW! Birth of the Good Guy — An Interview with Writer Don Mancini: A fun time spent with Mancini, who shares his thoughts on all aspects of crafting the story, making the film, and other conceptual elements that went unused along the way
- NEW! Friends Till the End — An Interview with Actor Alex Vincent: A pretty deep dive into the actor’s career, covering his oles, auditions, tales from being on set, as well as some Child’s Play specific stories, largely centered around his co-stars
- NEW! Believe Me Now? — An Interview with Actor Chris Sarandon: The actor talks about his approach to the character, experiences on set, and how working with the Chucky doll was
- NEW! Chucky the Great and Terrible — An Interview with Producer David Kirschner: running nearly 30 minutes, this piece gives an overview of Kischne’s career, how he came on board the project, conflict on set, script changes, problems with the film prior to release, and more
- NEW! Windy City Chills — An Interview with Production Manager Robert Latham Brown: Short, but insightful, as it touches on framing this film for entry to the horror genre, the legacy of the film, and some of the tensions on set while filming (yes, again…)
Disc 3: Blu-ray Extra Features
- Making Chucky: Behind the Scenes Special Effects Footage: an hour long look at test footage taken during the design and building of the Chucky doll
- Making Chucky: Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ’Til the End: a 40 minute interview with the special effect artist touching on his career but mostly his involvement with Child’s Play
- Making Chucky: Life Behind the Mask: Being Chucky:an interview with actor Ed Gale, the diminutive actor who played the role of Chucky in certain scenes during the film. It’s a great addition and full of personal anecdotes about the shoot
- Featurette: Evil Comes in Small Packages: Interviews with Don Mancini, David Kirschner, John Lafia, Chris Sarandon, Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent, and Kevin Yagher. It’s a nice overview of the birth of the Chucky story, how the script came together, the doll design and building, editing, and the reception on release
- Featurette: Chucky: Building a Nightmare: features Kevin Yagher in a short but more focused look at the building of the Chucky puppet, including its animatronics
- Featurette: A Monster Convention: features the cast in a Q&A from a convention
- Featurette: Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play
- Featurette: Vintage Featurette
- More Child’s Play: TV Spot, Theatrical Trailer, Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery, Posters and Lobby Cards Photo Gallery
Child’s Play 2
The notorious killer doll with the satanic smile comes back to life in this new chapter depicting the terrifying struggle between young Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) and the demonic doll attempting to possess his soul. Despite being roasted to a crisp in his last escapade, Chucky rises from the ashes after being reconstructed by a toy factory to dispel the negative publicity surrounding the doll. Back in one piece, Chucky tracks his prey to a foster home where the chase begins again in this fiendishly clever sequel to the enormously popular original.
There’s a palpable sense that Don Mancini was emboldened by the success of the first Child’s Play, taking the original premise, and ramping it up a few notches for the sequel. Gleeful and potent horror combine with a huge amount of fun. Chucky is back in one piece and looking to hunt down his previous target Andy (Alex Vincent), and claim the body he feels is key to his return to being a real life boy!
The opening titles nod to a reverence for this deadly doll, and even add to his iconic status. The film doesn’t stop there, with director Jon Lafia ably handling a film that draws from its origins, but works in plenty of fresh ideas and moments, as Chucky becomes a relentless force. The returning cast is built out with some great additions, but this is first and foremost the Chucky show, thanks to Dourif tearing up every line of dialogue with unfettered glee. There’s a notable step up in terms of special effects, most notably the Yagher’s animatronics, and creativity too. From top to bottom, everyone brings their game, knowing to top the original, you have to go big or go home. It’s easy to see why many fans consider Child’s Play 2 to be the best outing in the franchise.
Like the first disc, this 4K presentation is impressive, even when compared to the included Blu-ay version of the film. Superior, in terms of detail, depth of image, overall clarity, with strong rendering of colors, blacks, and a delicately maintained grain. Again, Shout! package the release with a wealth of extras:
Disc 1: 4K-UHD Edition
- Audio Commentary with director John Lafia: Nicely packed with information about the production, and intentions about how the sequel would work to draw from and build on the original
Disc 2: Blu-ray
- Audio Commentary with director John Lafia: As above
- NEW Puppet Master — an interview with writer Don Mancini: Great interview, as Mancini reflects on the reception of the original, how the sequel came about, some of the conflict among the cast, and how it was received
- NEW The Family Expands — an interview with producer David Kirschner: Discusses some of the messie aspects of getting the film made, from issues with Universal, to logistical problems, and also the tensions on set
- NEW Under Pressure — an interview with actor Alex Vincent: The actor discusses the difference in his ole, and greater prominence, in this sequel. He also shares stories about his other career experiences, particularly those post-Child’s Play
- NEW In Kyle We Trust — an interview with actress Christine Elise: Elise talks about this being he ‘breakout’ role, how she locked down the pat, and shares some tales from the set
- NEW School’s Out — an interview with actress Beth Grant: The actor reflects on the story, preparation for her role, her final scene in the film, a cameo she setup, and more
- NEW The Second Dance — an interview with executive producer Robert Latham Brown: A shot segment where Brown chats about some of the practical effects, approaches to shooting, and the films legacy
- Theatrical Trailer, TV Spot, and Additional scenes from the broadcast version
CHILD’S PLAY 3
Eight years after seemingly destroying the killer doll, Andy Barclay (now played by Justin Whalin), turns 16 and is placed in a military school. Meanwhile, the greedy president of Play Pals Toy Company decides to resurrect the popular Good Guys doll line, confident that the bad publicity is forgotten. As the assembly line recreates the first doll from a mass of melted plastic, the spirit of Chucky returns to renew his quest and seek revenge on Andy. Once again, it’s up to Andy to stop the unrelenting killer in this fast-paced and frightening thriller.
8 years have passed since the events of Child’s Play 2, and as you might expect, Andy has not really grown up to be a well adjusted teenager. After bouncing around in foster care, he has ended up in a military academy. Meanwhile, a toy company has restarted production on the doll line that spawned the vessel for the murderous Charles Lee Ray. Beyond that, they’re recycling old parts, and this thriftiness sets the scene for the resurrection of Chucky.
The plot loops back nicely to the first film, as Andy is no longer the target, but instead a seasoned veteran, who looks to protect young Tyler. There’s plenty of mileage gotten, in terms of tension, reminding us of past lore, and delivering entertainment, though exploring how Andy’s experiences are crucial to safeguarding this new target of Chucky. Child’s Play 3 does a really good job of harkening back to the previous film, channeling the moments and trauma that shaped Andy, delivering some potent and affecting moments. In addition we get some great kills (seriously, some of the best in the franchise), and some standout set pieces, most notably the haunted house climax. An edge remains, but 3 is when you really start to feel the franchise start to more fully embrace the comedy and slapstick aspects, which are entertaining, balanced by the darker elements, but their escalation in the ensuing Chucky films, did polarize some of the fan base.
Again, the 4K-UHD represents a nice step up from the Blu-ray, and indeed previous releases. But it is undoubtedly the least impressive of the there restorations. While colo and contrast is strong, and details are overall good, some of the interior, dake sequences lack some depth, and there is similarly a variance to the gain in these scenes. Extra features are still notable in their number and quality:
Disc 1: 4K-UHD Edition
- NEW Audio Commentary by director Jack Bender: More focused on his approach to the film, as well as replete with discussions of his career, notably his work on some major TV shows
- Audio Commentary by producer Robert Latham Brown: More of an overview of the film as it nestles into the ongoing franchise, behind the scenes details, efforts connecting this to Child’s Play 2, and his work behind the camera
Disc 2: Blu-ray
- NEW Audio Commentary by director Jack Bender: as above
- Audio Commentary by producer Robert Latham Brown: as above
- NEW Ride the Frightening — an interview with writer Don Mancini: A really frank interview with the creator of the franchise, castigating the script, discussing the negative reactions to the film, and all manner of issues with the performances, release dates, direction, and more
- NEW War Games — an interview with actress Perrey Reeves: The actor talks about auditioning and getting the ole, the inspirations taken from The Terminator‘s Sarah Connor, tales from the shoot, and the lasting impact of the franchise
- NEW Chucky Goes East — an interview with executive producer David Kirschner: Short, but covers a lot of ground, as Kirschner reflects on the Chucky franchise until now, the future, and some specifics about Child’s Play 3, notably the casting and hiring choices
- NEW Carnivals and Campouts — an interview with producer Robert Latham Brown: Covers similar fare to the previous featurette
- NEW Midway Centurions — an interview with actor Michael Chieffo: Chieffo talks about his part, his familial ties to the franchise, and why its so effective as a horror series
- NEW Shear Terror — an interview with makeup artist Craig Reardon: After nearly woking on the fist film, eadon finally got on board, and shares some info on the gnaly death scenes he helped put together
- NEW Unholy Mountain — an interview with production designer Richard Sawyer: A dive into design, including some aspects of the Chucky toy work
- Theatrical Trailer, TV Spot, Additional scenes from the broadcast version