Child's Play (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Sep 05, 2022
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Child's Play (4K UHD Review)

Director

Tom Holland

Release Date(s)

1988 (August 16, 2022)

Studio(s)

MGM/UA (Shout!/Scream Factory)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: A

Child's Play (4K UHD)

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Review

It’s difficult to imagine that even in the late 1980s, horror villain sequels and merchandise were still being produced. Chucky as a character had such an interesting backstory and was so well realized that it served producers well in the sequels that followed. It all started in 1988 with the original Child’s Play, the successful first entry in a series that saw numerous changes during its creation, finally hitting screens in November of that year and scaring up audiences. It was also a snapshot of 80s consumerism, particularly “The Cabbage Patch Kids” craze that had swept the country into a fever pitch, as well as providing a perverted slasher version of the “My Buddy” doll.

Six-year-old Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) wants the most popular toy on the market, the “Good Guy” doll, for his birthday. His hard-working, single mother, Karen (Catherine Hicks), is doing her best to get it for him, even buying one from a bum in an alley behind a department store. Just days prior, police detective Mike (Chris Sarandon) chased wounded serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) into the store, where he died soon thereafter. Unknowingly, Karen has purchased a doll that contains the soul of Charles Lee Ray, and as Andy bonds with “Chucky,” the authorities, including Mike, begin to wonder if Andy is the one responsible for the murder of Karen’s close friend and babysitter. Determined to find out the truth, Karen must now choose whether or not to believe Andy’s claims that Chucky is actually alive and the one responsible. Meanwhile, Chucky must soon perform a voodoo ritual on Andy or he’ll be trapped inside the doll forever.

What the original Child’s Play has going for it more than any other films in the series is the reality of the situation and how it relates to real life. We’re engaged by Andy and Karen and we’re concerned when their world is thrown into chaos, as well as the possibility that they may be torn away from each other. As someone who grew up with a working single mother, the film is very personal for me in that regard, as I’m sure it is for many other children coming from divorced families. The other factor is how gritty the film is. It pulls very few punches, even when it comes to Andy’s safety.

With an excellent cast, top-of-the-line puppeteering and make-up effects by the great Kevin Yagher, Child’s Play holds up remarkably well. Some of the attempts at having Chucky portrayed by a small actor in wide shots don’t always work, but the majority of the film is still effective. We see very little of Chucky in the final film, but it’s the truth of the situation that sells the premise.

Child’s Play was shot by cinematographer Bill Butler on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex cameras and spherical lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Scream Factory’s Ultra HD presentation of the film uses a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, which was finished as a 4K Digital Intermediate, and graded for high dynamic range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). The improvements over the previous Blu-ray releases are obvious. While the Scream Factory Blu-ray improved upon the MGM release with less noise reduction, their new UHD release topples them both. Child’s Play has always been a film with a high grain yield, and that’s certainly in play here. However, it’s tightly-knitted with a high encode in the 80-90 Mpbs range, appearing natural and film-like. The HDR, especially the Dolby Vision, strengthens and widens the color palette, allowing for deeper hues of red and blue, as well as more natural flesh tones. It’s a warmer palette compared to previous releases, as the white walls of the apartment, department store, and mental health care facility appear more beige than blue-ish white. There’s almost a golden hue to many shots, as opposed to the stark cold look of previous transfers. Some may find this a little problematical, but I personally didn’t have much of a problem with it. Blacks are deep with good contrast, and the image is stable and clean, leaving very little room for complaint.

Audio is included in English Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), and English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Optional subtitles in English SDH are also included. The new Atmos track is decent, allowing for good spatial activity when called for, enveloping the room with atmospherics and score. However, the rear speakers are not always put to use, and the overheads don’t offer much outside of a few key moments. Imaging is strong and dialogue rests comfortably in the center for the most part. Low end moments are few and far between, most notably during the explosion in the toy store at the beginning, as well as occasional exchanges of gunfire. The 5.1 and 2.0 tracks are similar to each other outside of the extra speaker space, but it’s nice that they’ve been retained for completists’ sake.

Child’s Play on Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case with a Blu-ray of the film in 1080p containing the same new 4K master, and a second Blu-ray comprised of additional extras. The insert features reversible artwork, with artwork by Justin Osbourn on the front and the US theatrical poster artwork on the reverse. Everything is housed in a slipcover featuring the same Justin Osbourn artwork. The following extras are included on each disc:

DISC ONE: FILM (UHD):

  • Audio Commentary with Tom Holland and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Audio Commentary with Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, and Kevin Yagher
  • Audio Commentary with David Kirschner and Don Mancini
  • Select Scene Commentary by Chucky

DISC TWO: FILM (BD):

  • Audio Commentary with Tom Holland and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Audio Commentary with Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, and Kevin Yagher
  • Audio Commentary with David Kirschner and Don Mancini
  • Select Scene Commentary by Chucky
  • Birth of the Good Guy: Don Mancini on Child’s Play (HD – 12:07)
  • Friends Till the End: Alex Vincent on Child’s Play (HD – 15:12)
  • Believe Me Now?: Chris Sarandon on Child’s Play (HD – 10:41)
  • Chucky the Great and Terrible: Producer David Kirschner on Child’s Play (HD – 26:01)
  • Windy City Chills: Production Manager Robert Latham Brown on Child’s Play (HD – 5:33)

DISC THREE: SPECIAL FEATURES (BD)

  • Making Chucky:
    • Behind-the-Scenes Special Effects Footage (Upscaled SD – 60:08)
    • Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ‘Til the End (HD – 40:53)
    • Life Behind the Mask: Being Chucky with Ed Gale (HD – 40:02)
  • Featurettes:
    • Evil Comes in Small Packages (SD – 24:49)
    • Chucky: Building a Nightmare (SD – 10:05)
    • A Monster Convention (SD – 5:26)
    • Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child's Play (SD – 6:15)
    • Vintage Featurette (HD – 4:54)
  • More Child’s Play:
    • TV Spot (Upscaled SD – :17)
    • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:02)
    • Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (HD – 36 in all – 3:09)
    • Posters and Lobby Cards Gallery (HD – 19 in all – 1:45)

This set of bonus materials carries over everything from previous releases, and adds a few new things. Unfortunately, the long-lost deleted scenes have yet to be uncovered, but there’s plenty of material to dig through. The audio commentary with Tom Holland, moderated by Nathaniel Thompson, was originally recorded for Scream Factory’s 2016 Blu-ray release. It’s a lively chat as the two discuss the film while watching it together. In retrospect, seeing some of the newer extras, it’s not one hundred percent clear who is responsible for everything in the final film as Holland says things in the commentary that don’t quite match up to what Don Mancini and David Kirshner talk about elsewhere. Being that Holland was a strong personality on the film (which may be putting it mildly), it’s clear that he was not the most well-liked person on the set for whatever reason. Regardless, Thompson’s chat with him is enjoyable and informative, even if it may not be entirely accurate. The next two commentaries were originally recorded in 2008 for MGM’s Chucky’s 20th Anniversary Edition DVD release. The first features Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks, and Kevin Yagher. Vincent was recorded separately from Hicks and Yagher, but they’re all three screen specific and speak fondly about their memories of making the film. The second features David Kirschner and Don Mancini, who talk about the creation of the film, commenting on many moments as it goes along. And, of course, there’s the select scene commentary by Chucky himself.

Next is a series of new interviews by Reverend Entertainment, most conducted via Zoom/Skype. The first is with Don Mancini, who discusses his background and where he got his ideas for a satirical look at consumerism through a horror lens. He also talks about the changes made by David Kirshner to his original script, some of the deleted scenes, and the final version of the film. Alex Vincent talks about being a child actor, his audition, dealing with the special effects, meeting Brad Dourif, working with Catherine Hicks and Tom Holland, and the legacy of the series. Chris Sarandon discusses being cast and aspects of his character, how tough the shoot was, Tom Holland’s issues with the studio, and the appeal of the film. David Kirshner talks about getting into the film business, getting involved with the original script, inspirations for Chucky and the story, problems he had working with Tom Holland, the first test screening and subsequent edits to the film, and continuing to make films with Don Mancini. Robert Latham Brown talks about coming to the film while it was already in production, working on the set, the score, and the film’s success.

The rest of the extras on the third disc are divided into three categories. Under Making Chucky, there’s an hour’s worth of behind-the-scenes footage shot on the set during the preparation of the special effects for the film. Next are two interviews, one with special effects artist Howard Berger, and the other with actor Ed Gale, both detailing their experiences on the film. Under Featurettes, there’s all of the great bonus materials produced for MGM’s Special Edition DVD release, which includes interviews with Don Mancini, David Kirschner, John Lafia, Chris Sarandon, Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent, and Kevin Yagher. Next is a bit of convention footage from the 2007 Monster Mania Panel featuring Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent, and Chris Sarandon. Introducing Chucky and the Vintage Featurette take a look at the film while it was still in production. Under More Child’s Play, there’s the trailer, a TV spot, and two still galleries containing a total of 55 behind-the-scenes, posters, and lobby cards stills.

Child’s Play debuting on Ultra HD continues to illustrate the desire for more genre films in higher quality with improved presentations and expansive bonus materials, which Scream Factory’s new release definitely delivers on. It’s the most complete package of the film to date, and fans who support UHD won’t want to miss it.

- Tim Salmons

(You can follow Tim on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel here.)

 

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