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Sunday, October 11, 2009

CHILD'S PLAY (Blu-Ray) -- DVD review by porfle

(Blu-Ray comments by Ian Friedman)

The last time I saw CHILD'S PLAY (1988) was right after its original VHS release, and I wasn't very impressed at the time. But watching it again for the first time in over twenty years, I'm now of the opinion that this movie is a real hoot.

For those of you who are unaware of the premise, here's the short version: a psycho killer named Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), at the moment of his death, uses black magic to transfer his soul into a "Good Guy" doll--similar to the old "My Buddy" dolls for boys--which is then purchased by Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) to give to her little boy Andy (Alex Vincent) for his sixth birthday. The doll, "Chucky", comes to life, kills Andy's babysitter Maggie (Dinah Manoff), goes after a former accomplice who double-crossed him (Neil Guintoli), and then sets his sights on Detective Norris (Chris Sarandon), the cop who killed him and is now investigating Maggie's death. Worst of all, Chucky has discovered that he has the power to transfer his soul into the body of Karen's son Andy, who becomes the killer doll's final target.

Director Tom Holland, who gave us that other modern classic FRIGHT NIGHT (also with Chris Sarandon), doesn't dwell much on violence or gore and gives us just a few cursory nods to the horror genre. Instead, much of CHILD'S PLAY is directed like a tense, 80s-style cop movie with a revenge-crazed killer on the loose who just happens to be an animated doll. Some of the suspense sequences, such as Maggie's murder, remind me of something out of an old Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson flick. And one scene in which Chucky attacks Detective Norris in his car is pure action-movie stuff, with the out-of-control speeding car crashing through barriers and throwing off sparks as it scrapes against walls.

Chucky himself, as voiced with evil relish by Brad Dourif, is an awesome character. All manner of animatronics, puppets, midgets in suits, and camera tricks are used to convince us that the malevolent doll is alive. Nowadays, of course, they'd just take all the fun out of it by doing the whole thing up with CGI, like George Lucas eventually did with Yoda. Yawn.

The edge-of-your-seat finale takes place in the Barclay apartment, as Chucky goes after Andy with the intent of stealing his body while Karen and Norris try to stop him. This is a harrowing sequence that had me giddy with suspense even as I was groaning at some of the hokier elements (the gun's jammed?) that Holland shamelessly tosses into the mix. At one point, when it looks like the end for Chucky, the little boy gets to deliver an Arnold Schwarzenegger-sized zinger that almost had me howling with laughter. The kid pretty much nails the line, too.

My only complaint is the same one that I recall having back in '88--the ending is one of those "he's dead...he's not dead" things that they used to drive into the ground back in those days. But the whole thing is just so much fun that I didn't really care. Plus, Holland manages to maintain interest during this scene even when he's teetering over the top.

Catherine Hicks gives a really intense performance as Karen, and I just have to say that I find her really likable for some reason. As Detective Norris, Chris Sarandon is his usual cool self, and Alex Vincent does a great job as the cute little kid, Andy, mainly because he is a cute little kid. Neil Guintoli (MEMPHIS BELLE) doesn't get to do much, but his character has some nice hair for a change. Dinah Manoff as Maggie is cute and funny as usual.


The new 2-disc BD/DVD combo from 20th-Century Fox/MGM Home Entertainment is 1.85:1 widescreen with English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.9 audio plus Spanish 5.1 and French 2.0. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and French. The image looks great for what was a low-budget horror film, with vivid and properly balanced colors. You can even seen the wires used to make a character fly back during one explosion. There is no sign of any digital encoding errors. The detail displayed by the film is also excellent.

All these years I thought I didn't like CHILD'S PLAY, when all I really needed to do was to get reacquainted with it. Now that it's a couple of decades old and I've begun to feel nostalgic for that era in filmmaking, it has a whole new appeal for me. Besides, it's just a really fun movie.

Buy it at Amazon.com
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