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Child's Play Movie Review

Written by Ryan Holloway

Released by Vertigo Releasing

Childs Play Large

Directed by Lars Klevberg
Written by Tyler Burton Smith
2019, 88 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
In cinemas June, 21st, 2019

Starring:
Aubrey Plaza as Karen Barclay
Mark Hamill as Chucky (voice)
Gabriel Bateman as Andy Barclay
Brian Tyree Henry as Detective Mike Norris
David Lewis as Shane

Review:

Child’s Play, released in 1988, fast became a slasher classic, with Chucky proudly sitting in his toy box next to the other big horror icons, Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers. The franchise has now lasted four decades with the latest from the series coming as recently as 2017 with Cult of Chucky.

With only two years since that last movie it begs the question ‘Does Child’s Play need a reboot?’ Well it doesn’t so much need a reboot as much as it needs a new lease of life. The films have become more and more cartoonish with scares being replaced with increasingly absurd, if not entertaining, moments of madness.

Chucky needed a makeover, so up step the producers of IT to do the job and bring back the fear. Where this remake succeeds, unlike its peers (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street) is that it at least attempts something new and brings back the creepiness that made the original a horror favourite. 

The main premise does remain. Single mother Karen (Plaza) gets her son Andy (Bateman) a Buddi doll for his birthday unaware of its more sinister nature.

Straight away what works here is that if you’re going to remake a horror film, make it relevant to the social climate it’s being released in. Like a cinematic version of Black Mirror, Child’s Play 2019 feeds on our dependency and obsession with technology with the Buddi doll not only acting as a fun toy but also as a smart device that can access your home tech to change the climate controls, order products, control your TV etc.

Childs Play 01 Childs Play 02

The film opens with a Buddi factory and a disgruntled employee switching off all of the safety protocols on one particular doll and packaging it up for shipment. So you see, technology is the new evil, not serial killers, they’re so 80s!

The doll design is close enough to the original that it doesn’t feel jarring, but clumsy enough to be believable as a piece of consumer technology. Fans of the film are clearly being carefully considered, as are new audiences, which make Child’s Play perfectly balanced to be a hit.

The characters are nicely drawn here too, Aubrey Plaza plays a young single mother with her usual perfect levels of sarcasm and dark wit whilst Gabriel Batemen, who impressed in 2016 horror Lights Out, again is very convincing as a kid who is struggling to come to terms with his recent move and feelings of abandonment.

Andy first of all makes friends with their neighbours Detective Mike (Henry) and his mother Doreen who add a nice dose of humour to proceedings.

Childs Play 03 Childs Play 04

Andy, unlike his '80s counterpart, isn’t really impressed with the doll, but as it was a gift from his mother he does his best to get the most out of it and is reasonably amused at the fact that it swears. The doll's abandonment of normal toy parameters also impresses local kids Pugg and Falyn who become friends with Andy and take great joy at Chucky’s willingness to say or do anything they tell it to, as do we. It’s often hilarious.

Chucky also learns a lot of his habits from TV and films so it would be prudent to keep tabs on things it absorbs. But no, they go straight into watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 with it! Fools!

So as you’d expect things get dark when the doll does its best to eradicate things that upset his new best friend without an understanding of the consequences, starting with the cat when it scratches Andy’s hand... yikes. No spoilers!

Alongside Plaza and Bateman in an impressive cast is David Lewis who plays Karen’s boyfriend, Shane, he doesn’t have a lot to do but plays the evil ‘stepdad’ role well, a little too well as his treatment of Andy won’t go down well with the Chuckster.

There are impressive set-pieces and moments of great inventiveness that make the film a real hoot and worthy of its existence, so any remake fears should be put to rest.

Childs Play 05 Childs Play 06

And what of the new voice of our updated Chucky? Mark Hamill was always going to cause a surge of excitement with the announcement of his lending of voice to the iconic doll, especially with his sublime Joker from the animated Batman series, but there was a level of uncertainty, especially as Brad Dourif’s work on the franchise is legendary.

The good news is that Hamill’s voice is subtle enough to not be exhausting and fits well with the doll, especially and unexpectedly in its more emotional moments. He never goes full Joker, which was perhaps one of the fears, but he does a fantastic job.

As Chucky’s deeds escalate and Andy does his best to cover them up, things tighten to an intense third act where no one is willing to believe Andy’s stories of the doll’s devious activities. It therefore starts to feel a tad familiar if you’re a fan of the original but it’s a minor issue in a film that is thoroughly entertaining throughout.

Although bringing Child’s Play up to date works for the most part and making it more culturally relevant makes perfect sense, this main difference is also its weakness. Unlike the 1988 version where the doll was literally taken over by the soul of a killer, here we have a piece of tech that turns evil, a bit like the reverse of the T-800 Model 101 in Terminator 2, and goes on a killing spree, but without the threat coming from an actual killer it means there is less at stake and therefore leads to an unsurprising final act that is fun to watch but without any real drive.

Think, a horror version of Small Soldiers, and this is kind of Child’s Play 2019 in a nutshell, but on this form Chucky is back and there is a lot to play with for any future installments, maybe with a few software updates along the way.

Grades:

Movie: Threeandahalfstars Childs Play Small
Buy Amazon Uk

About The Author
Ryan Holloway
Staff Reviewer
As far back as he can remember Ryan has always had an obsession with films, and horror in particular. 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' and ‘Alien’ were the first films that really stuck in the psyche and rather than scarring his tiny mind and running up a huge therapy bill, those films created a fascination with the dark side of life and art. Brought up by Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers (not literally), horror will always fascinate him no matter how absurd, dark, twisted, barmy or just plain wrong. Horror DNA gives him the opportunity, and excuse, to legitimise his macabre tastes and watch whatever strangeness comes his way.
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