Friday, June 21, 2019

Child's Play (2019) - Review

How in the world is this the eighth Chucky film in existence? Starting over three decades ago now with the original Child’s Play in 1988, the chronicles of the creepy, possessed doll with a knack for stabbing hapless humans have continued largely due to the work of creator Don Mancini. Yet his name is nowhere to be found in the creation of this modern adaptation, a film that breaks from endless sequels to actually try and present new ideas.

After moving to a new city, young Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman) receives a special present from his mother (Aubrey Plaza) — a seemingly innocent Buddi doll (Mark Hamill) that becomes his best friend. When the doll suddenly takes on a life of its own, Andy unites with other neighborhood children to stop the sinister toy from wreaking bloody havoc.

The biggest praise one can give Child’s Play is that it doesn’t rely entirely on remaking the original shot for shot. It uses the Chucky name, the look, and a general baseline setting for the horror that takes place, but its technological upgrade provides an opportunity to speak on violence in the 21st century. Gone is the voodoo possession from a deceased serial killer named Charles Lee Ray, replaced with a faulty smart device that learns from its surroundings, including his violent ways.

Unfortunately that’s where this good idea stops, lacking a dive in to the deep end that could’ve elevated it beyond the slasher it becomes. Thankfully, it is still the right amount of brutal, campy, and dark comedy to be a lot of fun, and Mark Hamill is an excellent choice to be the new voice of Chucky. His cast members, particularly Aubrey Plaza and Brian Tyree Henry, are just kind of there, wasted potential or generally just there to endure the terror of a two foot killer toy.

Where this remake feels lacking is in the personality department. Yes, the tech upgrade provides for an interesting take on the concept, but it also removes the personality of the Chucky everyone knows. An Alexa that can move about the room and control various other pieces of technology can provide for good horror moments, even if almost makes some of the killing too easy, but it needed something more, and it doesn’t really get close.

Child’s Play is the rare remake that doesn’t completely retread the beats of the original. There are some legitimately good ideas represented here, even if that feel very surface level, and even if they eventually give way to loads of slasher cliches. But it checks the dark humor and gory boxes that are enough to call this classifiably bad film, at least an enjoying time at the theater, which in the summer of 2019, is a rare thing.

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