2019, R, Directed by Lars Klevberg, Orion Pictures, 90 minutes
Upon first hearing that there would be a Child’s Play remake, I must admit, I was not a fan of the idea. Remakes are nothing new in Hollywood, and while they’re usually hit or miss, this one struck close to home. Child’s Play is responsible for me being the devoted horror fan I am today. When I was 5 years old, I was absolutely terrified of Chucky, after seeing the cover of Child’s Play 2 on the shelf in Blockbuster, as well as catching bits of pieces of it on TV (which I probably shouldn’t have been watching anyway!).
It also didn’t help that I had a My Buddy doll, that I genuinely believed might come to life and kill me in my sleep. But as I got older, that fear of Chucky turned into a fascination. As a young teen, I watched all 5 films (they had only made up to Seed at that point), and my love of horror was born! So forgive me if I seem a bit too harsh on this remake. It’s just that Child’s Play holds a very special place in my heart. But like all films, this new entry deserves to be judged on its own merits, so let’s take a look!
Sci-Fi vs. Horror
The film opens with a commercial of the CEO of Kaslan Industries introducing the new Buddi doll. It’s an artificially intelligent companion that can learn, and even syncs up with all other Kaslan home products (TVs, thermostats, cars, phones, etc.). Right away, we get to hear Mark Hamill’s iconic voice as the Buddi doll, and it doesn’t disappoint. The film has some major flaws, but casting Hamill as Chucky was definitely not one of them.
We are then introduced to the Barclay family, Andy (Gabriel Bateman) and his mom Karen (Aubrey Plaza). Unlike the original, Andy is a bit older, and more tech savvy here, which goes with the whole futuristic theme. Aubrey Plaza demonstrates that there’s still a great deal of April from Parks and Recreation in her, as she’s very sarcastic and seemingly immature for a mother of a ten-year-old. But when you think about it, it makes sense, given that she’s a struggling single mother who likely had Andy was she was a teenager (she even makes a joke about it).
After Karen gets the Buddi doll for Andy’s birthday, Chucky begins to learn at an incredibly fast rate, and wants nothing more than to be Andy’s friend. Initially, we almost feel sorry for him, as he’s quite clingy and when he starts to commit evil acts, he only does so because he loves Andy and thinks he’s doing what’s best for him.
In the original film, Chucky was possessed by a serial killer, and thus was evil from the very beginning. But here, it’s interesting to watch Chucky start as friendly and clingy, but turn deadly as he doesn’t know how process how he’s feeling. But it begs the question, why did this need to be a Child’s Play remake then? Would it not have worked better as an episode of Black Mirror or its own unique Sci-Fi film?
There are some huge implications here for both technology and humanity, as Kaslan Industries essentially owns and produces everything, while also creating true artificial intelligence. But the film never really explores these groundbreaking ideas. This, along with some pretty gaping plot and pacing issues drag the film down from its enormous potential.
For instance, once Chucky begins killing, Andy and his friends try to keep it a secret, because they fear that no one will believe them. Except that Chucky has a built in camera which feeds directly to Andy’s phone. Simply showing that to the police would have instantly solved everything and cut the film’s runtime in half.
To be fair however, one opportunity the film takes full advantage of is Chucky’s ability to tap into other Kaslan machines and control them remotely. The idea of a killer doll is creepy, but in a fight, it’s not that difficult to overpower a doll. However, Chucky becomes a much greater threat as he manipulates cameras and TVs, controls drones and security systems, and even activates other Buddi dolls and acts through them.
Overall, Child’s Play has humor, and some great gore that won’t disappoint horror fans. It’s a shame that it doesn’t explore its own themes and ideas deeper, and as previously mentioned, why did this need to be a remake of Child’s Play? They could have done the same plot, but gone full Sci-Fi, like Black Mirror or Small Soldiers.
But again, I’ll admit that the original is sacred to me, so I’m probably more protective of it than most. At least fans like myself can rejoice as Don Mancini and Brad Dourif will be continuing the story from Cult of Chucky in an upcoming series. Until then, we’ll have to rely on this remake to be our friend to the end!