Friday 8 December 2023

The Chucky Collection (1988 - 2022)


Arrow Films are releasing the entire cinematic saga of Chucky as played by Brad Dourif. That's by way of a qualifier, because you won't find Lars Klevberg's 2019 remake in here, nor will you find the TV series that kicked off in 2021 and so far has run to three seasons. But apart from those, it's all here. 

Before we dig in, a word about rights issues. The rights to Tom Holland's original CHILD'S PLAY has a different owner to the next six films in the series. This is also the case with the documentary LIVING WITH CHUCKY which takes up the eighth disc in this eight disc set. Both of those films have only been made available to Arrow on Blu-ray. Consequently, while Arrow have gone the extra mile to give us top notch UHD transfers of the films that they could, this collection is being released in two different versions - one is all Blu-ray, the other with CHILD'S PLAY 2,3 BRIDE OF CHUCKY, SEED OF CHUCKY, CURSE OF CHUCKY all in UHD but with the other two films included on Blu-ray.

Right, that's the boring (but worth spelling out bit) sorted. Let's take a look at the films!

Disc One: Child's Play

        Not provided for review, and only available on Blu-ray in both sets. Even though it was a film that helped rock the world of the average 1980s horror fan it was impossible to think at the time that the character of Chucky would become so enduring. Now, in retrospect, perhaps it's not so difficult. A combination of Don Mancini's script, Tom Holland's direction and perhaps above all the design of the Chucky doll (for which producer David Kirschner takes prominent credit in a number of these films but special effects wizard Kevin Yagher must take some of the credit, along with Mancini) combined with Brad Dourif's performance led to the creation of a horror icon. 

        The secret is that when Chucky isn't stabbing, crushing or pushing people out of windows, he looks like an actual child's toy. Contrast that with more recent doll movie characters like ANNABELLE, M3GAN, or even the Chucky of the remake, which are dolls no sane child (or adult) would want in their homes. There's a quote about the greatest feat the devil managed was to get people not to believe in him. CHILD'S PLAY, and it's sequels, works because Chucky is an entirely believable toy. Who's possessed by the soul of a serial killer who swears and kills people and wants to possess the body of a little boy.

Extras are (presumably) archival, with a commentary track from stars Catherine Hicks and Alex Vincent, as well as Kevin Yagher, another from Kirschner & Mancini, four featurettes and an image gallery.

Disc Two: Child's Play 2 (1990)

After being burned to a crisp (almost) in the previous movie Chucky's back in a film that's a slight step down from the first. However, there are three very good reasons to watch Arrow's disc:

1 The UHD transfer is absolutely sparkling and very impressive indeed for a 1990s film.

2 The climax in the toy factory is still cracking. Chucky's 'resurrection' at the same factory at the beginning isn't bad, either.

3 Jenny Agutter. Although admittedly she's rather wasted in this and really should have been the one to accompany Andy to the toy factory at the end. But it's still Jenny Agutter, even if they get her to wear some dreadful sleeping attire.

Extras include an archival commentary from director John Lafia, plus a whole collection of stuff ported over from the 2022 Scream Factory Region A release. These include interviews with screenwriter Don Mancini (13 minutes), stars Alex Vincent (8 minutes), Beth Grant (5 minutes) and Christine Elise (10 minutes), producer David Kirschner (8 minutes) and Robert Latham Brown (4 minutes). There are also 11 minutes of extra scenes taken from an off-air recording from the Sci Fi channel (surely the vault elements for these would be available, but then again perhaps not), 9 minutes of original promotional featurettes, trailers and an image gallery. 

Disc Three: Child's Play 3 (1991)

Eight years after the events of the previous film, Chucky is improbably resurrected (would fans have it any other way?) and sets off in search of Andy Barclay (now played by Justin Whalen) who is now at one of those uniquely American educational establishments known as Military Academies. 

This one's a definite low point of the series, with a script that feels as if it was thrown together grudgingly over a weekend. The result is a film that stumbles along, never builds up a head of steam, and has a fairground climax that comes out of left field. Surprisingly, things would get substantially better as the series went on.

Extras on Arrow's disk include two commentary tracks, one from TV movie veteran director Jack Bender, the other from producer Robert Latham Brown. Most of the other extras have been ported over from the Scream Factory Region A release including brief interviews with Brown (4 minutes), Mancini (13 minutes, who agrees this is probably the worst Chucky film), Kirschner (7 minutes), actors Perrey Reeves (6 minutes) and Michael Chieffo (4 minutes), production designer Richard Sawyer (& minutes) and makeup artist Craig Reardon (8 minutes). There are also five minutes of extra scenes from the TV version, a trailer and an image gallery. 

Disc Four: Bride of Chucky (1998)

Things become far more entertaining with the fourth entry in the series, in which Chucky gets rescued from a crime evidence locker and stitched back together by Charles Lee Ray's girlfriend Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly). However, Chucky and Tiffany end up having an argument, the result of which is Tiffany being electrocuted in the bath. But a little bit of voodoo later and BRIDE OF CHUCKY is born.

There's a definite move towards the comedic with this one, and judging from the previous film it wasn't a moment too soon. There are plenty of sight gags related to popular horror films of the time (you might want to freeze frame on the police evidence room at the start) and the leads are definitely in on the joke.

Extras include a suitably over the top archival introduction from Tilly, and there are two commentary tracks, one from director Ronny Yu and the other, which is one of the must-listen of the set if you've not already heard it (it's archival) is with Tilly, Dourif and Don Mancini. There's also a piece on the locations, a making of, trailer, and scenes from the TV version.

Disc Five: Seed of Chucky (2004)

The comedy and crudeness is upped for the fifth entry in the series, which some believe is the worst but I agree with writer-director Don Mancini (from his extra on CHILD'S PLAY 3) that they're all wrong. SEED OF CHUCKY is the unsung classic of the series, a film that channels John Waters, William Castle, is way ahead of its time about gender identity issues and has a fearless and utterly winning performance from Jennifer Tilly, who gets to play both 'herself' and Tiffany.

And as well as her, is this the most bizarre cast for a horror sequel? Pope of Trash himself John Waters, S Club 7's Hannah Spearrit, Jason (son of Gordon DALEKS INVASION EARTH 2150AD) Flemyng, Billy Boyd as well as, of course Brad Dourif. It's set in Glastobury and Los Angeles but was actually filmed in Romania and yes, if you like John Waters-style humour (Tilly's role could almost have been written for Divine) you'll have a blast with this.

Extras include two commentary tracks, one with Mancini and Tilly,  the other with Mancini and FX wiz Tony Gardner. There are also interviews with Gardner (19 minutes), John Waters (6 minutes), and Chucky himself (2 minutes) as well as a 'Family Slide Show' (3 minutes), storyboard to film sequences (14 minutes) and an archival making of (19 minutes). If you don't watch anything else Jennifer Tilly In Romania is a two minute must-see that cements her reputation as someone with a great sense of humour. There are also trailers, an image gallery, and a deleted scene with commentary. 

Disc Six: Curse of Chucky (2013)

The longest period between Chucky films also resulted in one of the best. In fact one could go so far as to say CURSE OF CHUCKY is the best in the franchise since the first film. 

In a creepy old house in the middle of nowhere lives wheelchair-bound Nica (Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad) with her mother. A large box mysteriously arrives in the mail and, to no-one’s surprise except those on the screen, is revealed to contain Chucky (voiced once again by Brad Dourif). Chucky kills mum, who is found dead from a presumed self-inflicted stab wound. In the wake of her mother’s death, Nica’s sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti) arrives with her husband, daughter, live-in nanny and a priest, all of whom are going to come in handy to up the ensuing body count. 

It’s obvious writer-director Don Mancini still loves his creation, and this love comes through with this thoroughly enjoyable old school horror romp. Brad Dourif is excellent as always and the real revelation here is his daughter Fiona who does an excellent job of making Nica a three-dimensional character that you’ll be rooting for by the end.

Extras include a commentary track with Mancini, Fiona Dourif and Tony Gardner, interviews with Alex Vincent and Danielle Bisutti, three making of featurettes, deleted scenes, storyboard comparisons and a brief gag reel.

Disc Seven: Cult of Chucky (2017)

The final Mancini feature before he and his creation moved to television. This time Chucky's in an asylum, where he has followed Mica (Fiona Dourif) who is now incarcerated having been found guilty of the murders in 2013's CURSE OF CHUCKY. But is it really him? Because surely that's the remnant of his talking head that Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) has in a safe? Who is delivering all the other Good Guy dolls to the asylum? And more importantly, who is responsible for the spate of new murders? Don Mancini's latest Chucky sequel isn't perfect, and it isn't as riotously entertaining as CURSE, but there's some good stuff in here, and a climax that's absolutely worth waiting for as everything goes quite nuts. Not at all bad for what is essentially CHILD'S PLAY VII, especially as they've had the sense to let Jennifer Tilly out of her box again. 

Don Mancini & Tony Gardner provide the commentary this time, with Gardner also profiled in a featurette, and his daughter Kyra provides another in which she talks about working with her father. There's an interview with Alex Vincent (and a piece on his recording studio), two short making of featurettes, deleted scenes, trailers, and an image gallery.

Disc Eight: Living With Chucky (2022)

Not provided for review, and not in UHD in either set, this is Kyra Gardner's documentary on the CHILD'S PLAY franchise, very much concentrating (unsurprisingly) on the work contributed by her father Tony, but there are also interviews with other cast and crew, including Brad and Fiona Dourif. Extras include a commentary track from Kyra Gardner, plus three featurettes - candid conversations, favourite death scenes and strange families.

The Chucky Collection is out in an eight disc Blu-ray or six disc UHD and two disc Blu-ray set on Monday 18th December 2023

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