October 10, 2009

Childs Play, and Wrong Turns one and two Blu-ray slice.jpg

Universal has already issued their horror releases for Halloween, and I’ve already reviewed them, so I’m reviewing half of the 20th Century Fox releases for Halloween. Child’s Play, and Wrong Turns one and two. At least two of these movies are pretty good. My reviews after the jump.

Childs Play Blu-ray.jpgTom Holland is easy to underrate as he fell off the map. But with this and Fright Night, he’s definitely one of the masters of 1980’s horror. Alas, his follow ups were not as promising or entertaining. But Child’s Play works because it’s a Twilight Zone episode brought to life. There’s not a lot of fucking around, and it sells that the dolls is animated, which is the feat with a show like this. Catherine Hicks stars as Karen Barclay, whose son Andy (Alex Vincent) is a huge fan of Good Guys, a TV show with dolls that talk (the supplements don’t suggest the combination of the talking Teddy Ruxpin, and the Cabbage Patch Dolls, but that seems to be the toy, whereas there was a Twilight Zone with a similar premise. To horror and Science fiction, shows like that and Outer Limits have to be like The Simpsons is to South Park). But the doll Karen gets for her son is possessed by the spirit of bad guy Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif).

At first Charles pushes a woman out a window, and Andy is put in a situation where the adults believe that maybe Andy’s gone psycho, but the film gets that out of the way like two horny people kissing. Soon enough the cop on the case, Frank Norris (Chris Sarandon), is being attacked by Chucky, and the threat of a killer doll is made tangible.

The premise is simple “demonic killer toy,” and the filmmaker delivers on the premise. It was shot in Chicago, which gives the film an interesting look, albeit a slightly cheap one. The exteriors at least feel like a city, and not a Canadian one, but there’s always been something a bit ugly about the movie. It’s dirty looking even in a pristine new 1080p transfer. But the main thing is that the film has the smarts to be 87 minutes long. A film like this works because it doesn’t dawdle, doesn’t let you see the strings (such as it were), and this is a solid piece of work all the way around.

20th Century Fox’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in both 5.1 DTS-HD and in the original 2.0 Stereo surround mix. The picture quality is good, but as I said the film itself is ugly, while the DTS track is active, and useful for a film like this if you like being startled. Or, that is to say, there’s a couple surround effects that work well in that regard.  The film comes with a commentary by Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks and “Chucky” Designer Kevin Yagher, and a second track by producer David Kirschner and screenwriter Dan Mancini. These people have a great affection for the movie, and are engaging throughout. There’s also a jokey “Chucky” commentary track by Brad Dourif for the Chucky scenes (26 min.). The commentators are gathered (along with Chris Sarandon) for a making of called “Evil Comes in Small Packages (25 min.) that goes into the development and the making of the film. “Chucky: Building a Nightmare” (10 min.) gives Yagher his due for how Chucky evolved as an effect and as a prop. There’s footage from a con at “A Monster Convention” where Vincent, Saradon and Hicks show up (5 min.), and a vintage featurette (6 min.). Also included is a photo gallery and the theatrical trailer. There’s also a number of jokey CGI Chucky Easter eggs, where Chucky says something silly (I found three). Also included the special edition DVD with all of the same content, only in standard def.

Wrong Turn Blu-ray.jpgOn first inspection, 2003’s Wrong Turn might have come across as a rip-off (or homage, if one wants to be polite about it) to classic ’70s horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. Nowadays it might come across as one of the films that inspired the remakes of those films. It’s a less successful retread of the “fear of small town America,” genre that took off in the 70’s, but Wrong Turn owes more to the movies that ripped the classic 70’s horror films off – films like Tourist Trap and The Prey with a taste of the also-derivative Jeepers Creepers thrown in for good measure. Wrong Turn, the first film, plays like the films that ripped off the films that have now been remade and sequelized. And now the Wrong Turn sequels are more interesting than the sequels to remakes. I’m confused.

The first film follows Chris Flynn (Desmond Harrington) as he runs into a traffic jam and thus heads for the back roads, hoping to make it on time to his job interview. But a distraction causes him to rear-end another car filled with nubile young people who were waylaid by a row of barbed wire strewn across the road. As the four primary cast members (Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Jeremy Sisto, and Emmanuelle Chriqui ) go to search for assistance, two of their friends engage in premarital sex, light up a doobie, and find out what the audience knew from the pre-credit sequence: The hills are alive with sounds of inbred cannibals! It doesn’t take long for the band of four to find the home of the mutants (who speak gibberish, but are excellent planners), and then to figure out they should get as far away from the crazed cannibals as fast as they can.

From there, the story follows the “Generic horror film blueprint” to its end – the lower-credited characters die while the remaining cast winds up in a standoff against the mutants. Rob Schmitt  – best known for his indie work on pictures like Crime and Punishment in Suburbia – directs the film with a certain speed, which is for the best as it’s as derivative as it sounds. Because the film delivers the gore and all the tropes of a mutant hillbilly movie, it’s hard to hate it, though, and the gore is the most fascinating element of the movie – horror films are like musicals in that the plot is generally just there to set up the fancy numbers, and in this case those thrills are delivered as one character gets garroted, and another gets an axe through the mouth – allowing the rest of the body to fall off.

Fox presents Wrong Turn widescreen and in DTS-HD 5.1 audio. The transfer and soundtrack are excellent, and – again, boo! Scares are enhanced by the quality of the soundtrack. If that’s your thing. Extras include a sparse commentary by director Schmidt and stars Dushku and Harrington,  and four featurettes: “Fresh Meat: The Wounds of Wrong Turn” (9 min.), which sells the gore, a making of (4 mmin.), Eliza Dushku: Babe in the Woods (4 min.), and a Stan Winston Featurette (5 min.) There’s a collection of three deleted scenes/outtakes (7 min.) and the trailer, Missing from the DVD are poster ideas, or that is to say, not much.

Wrong Turn 2 Blu-ray.jpgWay more entertaining is Joe Lynch’s Wrong Turn 2: Dead End. Though it may be easy to oversell the film, it knows exactly what it is, and keeps making movie-smart decisions. The film opens with teaser section that has a great jump scare, and devolves into a perfect gore moment. Such – and a character wearing a Battle Royale shirt – sets the tone for the film, which stars Henry Rollins, and a bunch of actors who may or may not die (most will).

The premise is that everyone’s in the middle of the wilderness to shoot a reality survival show, and so everyone runs off and does their thing to win it, with some sex, and some of the “game” machinations of those shows, but before too long mutant rednecks get hungry and decide to start with the killing. The premise is exactly what you think it is, but everyone involved manages to make it better than it should be. The film skirts the edge of being a Troma film, whilst still not going to far over the line. Like Pieces, it’s exactly what you think it is.

Fox’s Blu-ray is presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and in English 5.1 DTS-HD in a perfect transfer. This is as good as this film could look or sound. Extras include a fun commentary with director Joe Lynch, and actors Erica Leerhsen and Henry Rollins, and a second track by writers Turi Meyer and Al Septien, these are engaging tracks and everyone seems happy with the film they made. Extras include “More Blood, More Guts: The Making of Wrong Turn 2” (10 min.), “on set with P.Nut.” (2 min.), which offers some behind the scenes footage from the 311 bassist, and the disc is rounded out by the effects-centric “Making Gore look Good”  (12 min.).

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