If Blumhouse’s 2018 release of Halloween taught us anything, rebooting a beloved ’80s horror gem can be some risky business often leading to incredibly polarized responses. Whereas the latest Halloween installment built a level of hype appealing to the dark hearts of horror fans everywhere, the announcement of a Child’s Play reboot was met with heavy skepticism from the start.
Child’s Play 2019 first shocked fans announcing that serial killer Charles Lee Ray and his malicious voodoo would be axed. With such a blow to the soul of such an iconic character, who could blame the outcry expressed by genre fanatics, myself included? Further dread was felt when it was announced that Brad Dourif, the only voice to ever play Chucky, would not be returning. Furthermore, the murderous doll would take on the form of a defective toy. How many alterations from source material did we need to hear before prematurely rejecting this soon-to-be abomination?
Heads began to turn when Mark Hamill was reported to take up the Child’s Play mantle. If anyone could put a voice of insanity to Chucky, it would be the man behind The Joker from Batman: The Animated Series. Fantastic as Hamill may be, was this enough to save the reimagined horror character loved by so many? Or did this reboot turn out to be the disaster that everyone anticipated?
With strong deviations from source material, one thing remains the same in Child’s Play 2019. Single mother Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza: Safety Not Guaranteed) gifts her son, Andy (Gabriel Bateman: Lights Out), a popular doll that is more than it seems. From there, this reboot goes haywire … in all the right ways.
Despite having little to his resume, Norwegian director Lars Klevberg delivers a well paced film escalating from a deviously playful tone to a child’s nightmare come to life. Hamill fills Dourif’s shoes to perfection portraying Chucky as a self-aware AI doll learning to fulfill its programmed duty of serving as Andy’s friend to the end. However, with safety protocals removed from his operating system, Chucky’s adaptive behavior becomes dangerous as he misinterprets situations finding deadly solutions to make Andy happy.
Eliciting a level of sympathy like a child who doesn’t know any better, Hamill takes a very unique approach to the iconic doll of horror. This paves the way for an incredible character arch as Chucky becomes lost further in malevolence. At this pivotal moment, the entire tone becomes darker with bloodier kills, stronger jump scares, thicker suspense and one chaotic climax all brought to life through Hamill’s versatility.
Whenever a franchise held high in regards is rebooted, it is inevitable for people to compare the new film to its predecessor. I, myself, am guilty. However, in the case of Child’s Play 2019, I strongly believe this to be a mistake. Whether it be for better or worse, comparisons detract from seeing this stand-alone film for what it is. Klevberg clearly set out to make his own version of Chucky rather than simply capitalize on nostalgia. Surprisingly, his vision works.
Some complaints have suggested that Child’s Play 2019 should have chosen a name apart from the franchise title. However, this would have merely opened the film up to further scrutiny with cries of a ripoff. Complaints have also surrounded the overall look of Chucky. I will be honest. I wasn’t a fan, either. That is, until I saw the film as an intended modernization of the ’80s classic.
In the beloved Child’s Play of the ’80s, Chucky was made to resemble a creepy style of a doll made in that time. However, Chucky’s new look fits with toys manufactured today. While his image has a disturbing moment or two, it is his demeanor and the voice behind him that makes this new Chucky a worthy killer doll for modern times.
Chucky’s updated look isn’t the only thing modernized about Child’s Play 2019. Coming across as an outstanding Black Mirror episode, this reboot puts the perils of wireless high-tech on gruesome display. In this Child’s Play universe, multinational toy and electronics manufacturer, Kaslan Corporation, has seemingly cornered the market for everything tech-related. From electronic toys, televisions, stereos and self-driving cars, the corporate name is everywhere. Good for them. Bad for everyone else. Able to connect to anything brandishing the Kaslan name, Chucky is able to use this to his advantage giving him a psychological and physical edge only dreamt of by the original slasher doll.
As a diehard fan of ’80s horror classics, I would have loved to see a well-made nostalgic remake just as much as the next horror fanatic. However, if we hold too tightly to an era long since past, we miss the worthwhile horror of today.
Klevberg took a massive risk reinventing such an iconic character. In the face of endless ridicule prior to the film’s release, this no-name director made his mark creating his own updated version of a name recognized for over three decades, and it turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. Void any comparison to the original and engulf yourself in the reimagined thrill ride that is Child’s Play 2019 in theaters now.