WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
A contemporary re-imagining of the 1988 horror classic, Child’s Play follows Karen (Aubrey Plaza), a single mother who gifts her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a "Buddi doll," unaware of its more sinister nature.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
When an 80s horror icon gets rebooted, it’s always met with a certain apprehension - what made it work then doesn’t always translate so well in a modern world with cellphones and the internet. However, the resurgence of the genre and with the critical success of films like the latest Halloween, filmmakers have a much better grasp on blending modern society with the classic tropes of horror - and the Child's Play remake is surprisingly one of the good ones.
Based on a plot that actually seems possible and moving away from the original’s supernatural element, Chucky feels like a comedic Black Mirror episode with gruesome 80s gore. It surprisingly delivers a fun, gory mess that uber fans won’t love, but new audiences will appreciate and enjoy.
In this version, a mom gives her son an Alexa-esque doll for his birthday, but there’s something sinister in its programming.
Similar to the many Child's Play sequels, the filmmakers decided to lean into Chucky’s comedic elements, although it’s not nearly as silly as the likes of the Bride and Seed instalments of the franchise. It’s the kind of horror that’s not necessarily very scary, but you will both laugh and wince at the blood, and the kids are more like an urban version of the Stranger Things crew with more agency than the adults.
I was especially impressed with Gabriel Bateman, the young actor that plays a much older Andy with a hearing aid. The kid is a fantastic actor that managed to pull off a wide repertoire of emotional intensity yet retained the fact that he is, in fact, a kid, with very real kid-like reactions to a murderous doll. Aubrey Plaza, as always, nails her role as a tired but loving single mother with a little more edge than the original. While everyone else gives decent performances, Bateman was the one who held it all together as the perfect casting choice.
As for the real star of the show - Chucky - I was not that bowled-over with his new look when I first saw it. It might have had a better impact if they made him just a little cuter and less like the creepy neighbour that breathes too much, but it does eventually grow on you. In the movie, they used a combination of puppetry and CGI to create the psychopath, but honestly, you won’t be able to tell the difference. The element that really makes him a great Chucky is the best voice actor in the business - Mark Hamil. As the go-to guy for the voice of the animated Joker, you’ll hear a bit of The Clown here and there, but Hamil creates something new and frightening with his friendly-but-horrifying take on the doll.
The story is quite simple and concise, with a few hobbles that’s easy to glance over in the bigger picture. Chucky’s motivations are completely different from the original, but it works within its new context, and also lets the movie make valid points about artificial intelligence. Movies about the dangers of technology can be so grandiose about implausible advancements that humanity is nowhere close to creating, but Child's Play simplifies it to an element that is believable and has already kind of been proven to happen (just look up what happened to Microsoft’s chatbot Tay). It boils down to the fact that technology doesn’t have the kind of agency we like to think they have - they are in actuality driven by human nature and tends to amplify our most terrible flaws.
While it’s not a magnum opus of the horror genre, Child's Play is a fun reboot with great performances from both humans and doll. However, without the involvement of the original creator - who you should know unequivocally hates the new direction - fans of the original will not like Chucky’s modernisation. But the hard truth is the franchise has not aged well over the years, and if not for this reboot it would have struggled to find adoration in younger generations who won’t have the nostalgia-goggles of the older fans.