THE DOLL THAT NEVER DIES
Movie Review – Child’s Play
Review by Ray Schillaci
Chucky is back, rebooted, refitted for today’s generation. Gone is Brad Dourif’s wonderfully sinister voice, potentially leaving behind half the dark laughs, and with violence kicked up a bloody notch. Is this a good thing? Yes and no, depending on the generation viewing it. That’s why I had to have a restless sleep on this one before I put my thoughts out to all of you.
Understand this, going in, I was not expecting much since several reboots and sequels of horror faves have fallen flat in the past (i.e. Pet Semetary). And, the original Child’s Play franchise had eventually become as popular as the Freddy Krueger franchise, a large part due to their dark humor. There was also the question of who could possibly top actor Brad Dourif’s recognizable evil take that many of us have taken such joy in.
This Child’s Play skillfully maintains the dark humor and feels fresh for new fans, at least through the first (human) kill. But, after that it feels a little mean spirited (for this critic). People die or are hurt that we don’t necessarily want to see die or hurt and in the most gruesome way. At first, I thought maybe it was me. Perhaps my taste in horror had changed. But, anyone gauging the audience reaction in my screening could tell that this film was fun welcoming a new Chucky with a very creepy design.
Props has to be given to writer Tyler Burton Smith for coming up with a near ingenious new beginning for why one particular “Buddi” goes bad. And, director Lars Klevberg stages it with some gallows humor as mayhem begins during the doll’s mass production in Vietnam. A disgruntled worker eliminates the protocols on one particular state-of-the-art new Buddi that also connects all your electronics via Bluetooth/WiFi. The scene is funny in itself and soon provides the first hapless victim. This, in turn provides so many more ways that Chucky can cause havoc, and he does…more than ever before. But, eventually, the mean spiritedness seemed to wear on a good part of the audience as well. They were not as receptive halfway through the film.
All the players do elevate this new take with Mark Hamill not attempting to top Brad Dourif as Chucky, but making him creepier. Kudos to Hamill, the man who brought justice to The Joker since the beginning of Batman: The Animated Series back in’92. His Chucky delivers a slow burn, and creates a more threatening presence. Aubrey Plaza as Andy’s struggling single mother plays it perfect, and brings more spunk to the role. Gabriel Bateman as Andy Barclay, the misunderstood kid who ends up with a defected Good Guys doll, works well with not only Chucky, but with his new friends as well, with very funny results.
Looking back, this might have been made for the millennials that have a different appreciation for mean spirited horror. We were given the clues within the film when The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is being viewed by Andy and his friends, and they’re laughing at the goriest and most vicious scenes of that movie for that era. So, for the less discernible horror fan, this Child’s Play probably fires with a fury on all cylinders. Not only does it capture the spirit of the beloved Chucky, but it also echoes such favorites as Goonies, The Monster Squad, and Stranger Things. It just so happens to do it with a nasty and very bloody Hitchcock flair. And, if successful, it will probably continue on its vicious rampage laughing all the way to the bank.
Directed by: Lars Klevberg
Release Date: June 21, 2019
Run Time: 90 Minutes
Distributor: United Artists