So after over 30 years, 7 installments and countless victims who just couldn’t except a doll could murder their ass into the next life, the Child’s Play series is joining it’s other 80’s horror peers and getting a brand new and shiny remake; which is odd considering that the original string of movies are still going fairly strong with the last movie only being released as recent as 2017… But never mind about that (Hollywood blatantly doesn’t), because whether you want it or not, here it comes, with all the bells and whistles you’d expect for killer doll movie made in 2019, complete with a brand new origin for it’s knife wielding plaything.
Troubled pre-teen Andy Barclay is struggling with moving to a new neighbourhood and seems to have no interest in fitting in or making friends while Karen, his mother, is working double shifts to desperately make ends meet, so in an attempt to cheer her son up, Karen snags up a defective Buddi doll from her store and gives it him as an ironic gift.
The Buddi doll, in case you were wondering, is the latest craze sweeping the nation, an ugly-ass, puffy faced, action figure that can link up with any other electronic product to control your home (a ginger Alexa, if you will), but this being a horror film this particular doll has been set to evil in an act of defiance by an overworked, suicidal, factory worker in Vietnam (no, really) and shit’s about to get nasty. The doll – bestowed with the name Chucky – with it’s safety protocols turned off bonds with Andy and with it’s malfunctioning AI struggles to understand the contradictory nature of a human 12 year old and vows to make him happy, no matter what. Thus ensues a story of murder and rampant techno-fear that shoots for a full on sarcastic kind of camp and nails it surprisingly well.
In fact, the tone is more reminiscent of fellow silly redux, Piranha 3D another redo that splashes the screen with bright colours, aggressive gore and more than it’s fair share of knowing silliness, wrapping everything up in a big showy scene of violent chaos – in this case the midnight opening of a superstore selling the upgraded Buddi 2. Throwing in other references to other such movies as Gremlins, Terminator and a big ol’ hunk of stranger things, bizarrely the new film feels less like a Child’s Play movie and more like a horror version of E.T (Andy even wears a red hoodie for most of the film like the child star of that film).
Of course the film is only going to truly work if fans are going to accept their favourite diminutive plastic serial slasher is reconfigured as a deranged Alexa with freckles, ginger hair and a bodycount that make toy safety guidelines look a little ineffectual and it’s here I’m a little torn.
Despite trying to go in as impartial as I could, I’m still too connected to the voodoo powered serial killer to entirely embrace this version of Chucky I’ve been given, which actually is a shame as Chucky 2.0 is actually somewhat of a more interesting proposition, who actually elicits empathy thanks to his plight of struggling to understand human behavior. He’s only really trying to help (even when feeding a screaming victim into a lawnmower) and when that doesn’t work, reacts like a spiteful – if amoral – toddler. Also compared to the purely stabby stabby M.O. of Chucky’s previous incarnation, this version is borderline omnipotent, using feeds from security cameras to spy on people and controlling other pieces of machinery to smite the people he thinks are standing between Andy and him all the while cooing with the vocal chords of Mark Hamill.
The cast are game, chiefly the rather left-field choices of Aubrey Plaza and Brian Tyree Henry as the two leads, and the script is light on it’s feet despite carrying armfuls of plot holes mostly caused by trying to cram nods and references to the original films where sometimes they just don’t fit.
In fact, strangely enough, NON fans will most likely get more out of this than Chucky devotees who will no doubt stamp their feet in an act of “Hell no, dolly”, as the changes to the character will no doubt rankle. But to the casual viewer this Child’s Play is, pound for pound, a very entertaining, if throwaway, toy story…