Combustible Celluloid
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With: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Dinah Manoff, Tommy Swerdlow, Jack Colvin, Neil Giuntoli, Juan Ram�rez, Alan Wilder, Richard Baird, Raymond Oliver, Aaron Osborne, Tyler Hard, Ted Liss, Roslyn Alexander
Written by: Tom Holland, John Lafia, Don Mancini, based on a story by Don Mancini
Directed by: Tom Holland
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 87
Date: 11/09/1988

Child's Play (1988)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Chucky Star

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Putting a child in danger for the sake of a horror movie is always a dubious idea, but Child's Play is insidiously effective. Watching the new 20th anniversary DVD, I found myself gripping the couch and talking back to the TV. Catherine Hicks (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) stars as Karen Barclay, a hard-working single mom who wants to get her son Andy (Alex Vincent, then about 6 or 7) his favorite doll for his birthday. She compromises and buys one from a back alley. Unbeknownst to her, however, mad killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) transferred his spirit/soul into this particular dol just before dying in an explosion. Chris Sarandon (The Princess Bride) plays the homicide cop who chased Ray and saw him die, and is now investigating a mysterious death in Karen's apartment. Andy's babysitter has crashed through the upper-story window, and the only clue is tiny footprints in the kitchen. Of course, the evil "Chucky" became a cinema sensation and everyone knows the secret of the creepy doll, but director Tom Holland (Fright Night) nonetheless does a fantastic job of building suspense, keeping the big reveal at bay until the moment really counts. And it's a good one! The visual effects are still pretty solid after all this time, using a combination of puppets and a little person in costume. In fact, the entire package, including the acting, is top-notch. The great, rat-faced character actor Dourif only appears onscreen for a brief time, and then only gets to speak during the climax, but he's a major part of the film's success. He would go on to reprise Chucky in four sequels to date. Only Ronny Yu's Bride of Chucky (1998) is worth mentioning, however; it's an entirely different film, more of a black comedy with sexual overtones. The inevitable remake (sigh) is planned. (See also Joe Bob Brigg's drive-in review.)

DVD Details: MGM released this deluxe 20th "birthday" DVD with lots of extras, including two commentary tracks, plus a "Chucky" commentary (certain scenes only). Then we get tons of new "making-of" featurettes, and footage from a recent convention. The movie looks terrific, with several optional language and subtitle tracks. And it's ridiculously cheap ($15).

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