Yes, demonic doll Chucky is still alive and kicking 20 years after the first Child’s Play was released to theaters. Finally MGM has graced the horror loving public with a definitive edition DVD after too long of bare bones editions.
Child’s Play taps into the primal feelings that every youngster faces in their dreams (and nightmares) at some point of their life, the idea that their toys are alive! In Child’s Play, serial killer Charles Lee Ray uses his voodoo interests to transfer his dying soul into a “Good Guy” doll. Unwitting single mom Karen buys the doll (named ‘Chucky’) to give to her son, six-year-old Andy. Pretty soon, Andy’s babysitter is falling out of a window, and Andy himself with Chucky is found at the murder scene of Charles Lee Ray’s partner, who ditched him just before Ray was shot. Of course, no one believes Andy when he says Chucky is talking to him and doing all these nasty deeds, so they send him off to an institution for observation. Yet when Chucky attempts to kill off Andy’s mom and the cop investigating the murders, the adults soon realize this isn’t the imagination of a troubled kid but that there is in fact a murderous doll on the loose and he’s looking to transfer his soul into Andy himself!
Child’s Play hit all the right beats on its initial release in 1988. In a time when creepy “My Buddy” dolls were sought after by kids, and talking “Teddy Ruxpin” bears were the latest in toy tech, little murderous Chucky gave decent frights to a new generation of horror fans raised on a steady diet of Talking Tina reruns on The Twilight Zone (influences acknowledged on this new DVD). Even today, it still holds up well with a nice mix of shock and dark humor and its understandable how this film spawned a handful of sequels. There are some really well done shots and great pacing, as well as memorable characters and a monstrous (then-new) icon that takes the film above 80’s schlock.
Until now though, Child’s Play had seen the most basic of editions on DVD, and full-screen at that. Fortunately, with the release of this “Chucky’s 20th Birthday Edition”, the film finally gets a widescreen release with lots of cool extras.
The print is nice and clean, if not a little soft in places which seems to be due to the lighting used in some sequences. There are two separate audio commentaries to choose from for viewing with the film, plus a third scene specific commentary. The first commentary features Alex Vincent, who played Andy; Katherine Hicks, who played Andy’s mom Karen; and “Chucky” designer Kevin Yagher. I thought it was a bit odd to have two of the actors comment along with a crew member, even as one as important as Yagher, especially since the second commentary is by producer David Kirshner and screenwriter Don Mancini. Odd that is, until you realize Hicks and Yagher are actually married and this is the film they met on ands started their relationship! Their anecdotes really complement each other regarding the aspects of working on this film. Alex Vincent’s commentary was taped separately, but it is spliced in well with the Hicks/Yagher portion. He doesn’t have anywhere as much to add, but considering he was six at the time of acting in this film, his memories and commentary still add a lot.
The aforementioned commentary by producer David Kirshner and screenwriter Don Mancini focuses more on specific developmental aspects of the film and series as well as technical and location facts regarding the film, while also offering some intriguing hints to production troubles, necessary editing, and ego-clashing. It’s obvious these two have a well-developed relationship so the banter flows along nicely, if not off-tangent at times.
The scene-specific commentary is just plain fun, as Chucky himself comments through a few scenes with such reminiscences as “Ah, my first kill!”
There are several short documentaries and featurettes new to this DVD. The Evil Comes in Small Packages featurette was my personal favorite. Told in three parts (The Birth of Chucky, Creating the Horror, Unleashed), there is a lot to learn here about the development and impact of the film. Just about every major player from the film discusses their part in it. It’s stellar to see the cast and crew show real pride in a film many might dismiss.
Special effects fans will dig on the Chucky: Building a Nightmare featurette, which highlights just how much technically went into creating this murderous doll. One learns about the amount of puppets, robotics, and even live-action people it took to bring Chucky to life.
A couple of other decent extras include a vintage featurette from when the film was initially released, and then some short footage and interview questions of the cast as they were reunited at a fan convention. Also included are a still photo gallery and the original theatrical trailer.
To be honest, I hadn’t bothered watching this film since the heyday of VHS rentals. This spectacular new DVD edition is the way to go to enjoy the film as it was meant to be seen, as well as appreciate it from a production aspect and see why Chucky is still terrorizing us 20 years later!