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Due to a mix-up, this Child’s Play: Collector’s Edition  Blu-ray (and other Scream Factory Blu-rays) arrived after release. Because of this and because I’m sure most of us have made up our minds on this particular movie, the Feature section will be extra short in order to focus on the new disc’s A/V and extras. Thank you for understanding.

Feature


Little Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) only wants one thing for his birthday this year – a talking Good Guy doll. Unfortunately, the one his mother (Catherine Hicks) purchases from a hobo contains the soul of serial killer, Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif). Mayhem ensues.

 Child's Play: Collector's Edition
Tom Holland’s Child’s Play, based on a screenplay by Don Mancini (who would go on to write and even direct the other movies in the ongoing franchise) works, because the filmmakers take the content so seriously, no matter how silly it may be. Later movies would focus on the flashy camp appeal of its killer doll concept, but the original is more interested in exploiting ingrained childhood fears with a straight face. This isn’t to say Holland doesn’t embrace some of the more ostentatious aspects of the story (I mean, this is a movie where Brad Dourif does a voodoo ceremony in a lightning storm…); he’s just clever enough to know his audience and restrains the ludicrous components with comparatively rational genre tropes. In the grand scheme, Child’s Play is a semi-comedic horror movie, but, in smaller components it is also a potboiler about a disheveled police detective coming to terms with supernatural circumstances and a fairly typical domestic drama about a single mother trying to make ends meet. Holland’s efforts to balance these disparate tones sets this movie well ahead of its two direct sequels (it’s hardly fair to compare it to Mancini’s satirical follow-ups). In addition to his accomplishments, the calibre of the cast and the Chucky doll special effects (which were just barely improved upon in subsequent movies) all help sell the sincerity of what could’ve been a very dopey franchise kickstarter.

 Child's Play: Collector's Edition

Video


Despite being a consistent home video hit, MGM chose to only release Child’s Play on barebones, 1.33:1 cropped R1 DVD for a very long time. They finally released an anamorphic version in 2008, only a couple of years before the 2010 Blu-ray debut, also from MGM. Since that Blu-ray (and the SE DVD before it) had a decent array of extras, Scream Factory had to do something to make this Collector’s Edition a worthwhile upgrade. They’ve accomplished this by going back to the original interpositive for a new 2K scan. I don’t have a copy of the original disc on hand to make a direct comparison, like I did with Scream’s Carrie and The Thing Collector’s Editions, so I’m basing any assumptions about the MGM release on images from other online reviews.

The 2K scan leads to sharper details, especially in wide-angle shots. Textures are improved all around, including the film grain, which was flattened on the fuzzier MGM image. Some of the grain is snowy, but there aren’t any obvious compression or telecine issues (though there’s perhaps a tinge of edge enhancement). The starkest differences (besides there being a smidge more info on the sides of the MGM transfer’s frame, even though they’re both matted to 1.85:1) are its grading and contrast changes. The remastered image has more dynamic range, meaning that dark scenes are darker, light scenes are lighter, and elements are better separated. This can lead to soupy night sequences, though, especially during the early part of the movie. Scream Factory’s new colour-timing is cooler and more subdued, which helps to correct the old scan’s brown tint, but leaves some of the oranges (specifically fire) underwhelming. However, I would say that the new palette has the advantage in terms of subtle colour differences, even if the overall effect is a little less punchy.

 Child's Play: Collector's Edition

Audio


Scream Factory has included the original stereo soundtrack and the DVD’s 5.1 remix, both in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio sound. As per usual, I recommend the stereo track for the sake of authenticity, but don’t believe that the remix is particularly distracting, either. Dialogue is clean on both tracks and the sound effects match, leaving a choice between the more consistent volume levels of the original stereo or the more discrete separation of aural elements that the central speaker offers the 5.1 track. The remix doesn’t really have much of an advantage in terms of the most intricate movement of sound (i.e. the scenes where Chucky scurries around his victims), but shines during the loudest supernatural events, where the surround tracks swirl and the bass is boosted. Joe Renzetti’s music also benefits a bit from the LFE support, though the stereo components are basically the same. Child’s Play is definitely one of Renzetti’s better scores – probably even his best – in large part because he seems to have had a bigger production budget than he did on something like Dead & Buried (1981) or the Basket Case sequels (1990 and 1991).

 Child's Play: Collector's Edition

Extras


Disc One:
  • Commentary with director Tom Holland – For whatever reason, Holland didn’t record a commentary for any other release, so this Scream Factory exclusive track is one of this disc’s more exciting additions. The commentary is moderated by Nathaniel Thompson of MondoDigital.com, who does a great job interviewing the director while also keeping the discussion relatively screen-specific. There are some slow spots, where neither contributor speaks, but these don’t last too long.
  • Commentary with actors Alex Vincent (Andy) & Catherine Hicks (Karen/Mom) and Chucky designer Kevin Yagher – The first ‘legacy’ track features Hicks and Yagher (who are married) mixed with Vincent, who was recorded separately. Vincent’s contribution is stronger and more fact-filled.
  • Commentary with producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Don Mancini – The second legacy track is dominated by Mancini, who is the expert on an entire franchise.
  • Commentary with Chucky – Dourif dons his Chucky voice for a few select sequences.


 Child's Play: Collector's Edition
Disc Two:
    Behind-the-scenes special effects footage (60:08, HD) – The first of Scream Factory’s new extras is a raw (really, really raw) reel of footage from special effects superstar Howard Berger’s personal stash.
  • Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ‘Til The End (40:53, HD) – The footage is followed by a new interview with Berger, who discusses his early career, other members of the Child’s Play effects team, the technical challenges, and rehearsing/filming with the Chucky puppet.
  • Life Behind the Mask: Being Chucky (40:02, HD) – The last Scream Factory exclusive is a new interview with actor Ed Gale, who plays Chucky during wide shots where the doll needs to run. He talks about being hired, working with the cast & crew, taking mime lessons, and which parts of which scenes he appeared in.
  • Evil Comes in Small Packages (24:49, SD) – MGM’s original retrospective featurette includes interviews with Mancini, Kirschner, Chucky designer Kevin Yagher, co-writer John Lafia, and actors Dourif, Hicks, Vincent, and Chris Sarandon. It’s a bit on the short side, but still info-packed.
  • Chucky: Building a Nightmare (10:05, SD) – Further discussion with Yagher, the cast/crew, and contemporary/friends (like Tom Savini) concerning the special effects.
  • A Monster Convention (5:26, SD) – Fan Q&A at Monster Mania 2007 with Hicks, Vincent, and Sarandon.
  • Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child's Play vintage EPK (6:15, SD)
  • Another vintage featurette (4:54, SD)
  • Trailer and TV spots
  • Behind-the-scenes photos and poster/lobby card galleries


 Child's Play: Collector's Edition

Overall


Child’s Play isn’t a personal favourite, but it is so neatly put together (it’s probably director Tom Holland’s second best movie, behind Psycho II, 1983), well acted, and tonally interesting film that I always enjoy revisiting it every few years. Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition is a decent, though not substantial upgrade over the MGM Blu-ray. It offers a superior transfer, slightly better audio options, and a handful of exclusive extras, including an hour of raw, behind-the-scenes footage and a new director’s commentary. The bottom line is that fans of the Child’s Play series will definitely want to double-dip (or triple-dip, if they bought the full series collection Blu-rays), while casual fans might not care about the differences.

 Child's Play: Collector's Edition
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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