Monday, 29 July 2019

Child's Play ★★☆☆☆

In the great pantheon of pop culture villains, there are some that will just live forever. You’ve got your Michael Myers, and your Jason Vorhees, and your Freddy Krueger. And you’ve got your Chucky. Everyone’s favourite homicidal ‘friend till the end’ doll has been around since 1988 and has gone through quite a development. From his humble beginnings as a straight horror character, through the film’s first sequels as a wise-cracking slasher, into the film’s later campy sequels where he became a comedy character and back out the other end into horror again. Much like Krueger, he’s done it all.

But now, some buffoon in Hollywood has decided to reboot the franchise and start fresh with a new creative team, voice actor and feel – despite the fact the original franchise is still ongoing. That’s pretty rare, huh? Rebooting a franchise that is still very much alive? Original creator Don Mancini has totally disowned this reboot while he continues to work on the next level of the OG Chucky franchise. Rightly so…because this one reeks of desperation. 

Straight out of the gate, this new Child’s Play goes in a different direction to the original/ongoing franchise by changing up what makes Chucky tick. While in the originals, Chucky was a host for the soul of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, this time he is simply a malfunctioning smart-device, after having all his safety features switched off by a disgruntled sweatshop worker who was fired while putting the doll together. Very much a modern horror for our times, this is clearly aimed at the techno-fear generation and puts our homicidal doll into the “internet of things” – he is synced up to all home appliances and even electric smart-cars, so of course, he can cause a lot of shit.

Narratively, the film follows a similar path to the 1988 original – Chucky falls into the hands of Andy Barclay, a lonely young boy from a broken home who becomes best friends with the innocent-seeming doll before things go tits-up. Despite everything wrong with this film, I cannot fault the narrative structure – it is a respectful retelling of the original plot. Sure, there are some minor changes, but the characters are faithfully reconstructed for the most part. The biggest issue is Chucky himself. Apart from looking bloody ridiculous and totally not scary (although I am glad they kept the effects largely practical) – his voice is wrong. Brad Dourif is, and always will be, Chucky. Here, he is recast with Mark Hamill – a terrific voice actor, sure, but not Chucky.

But the film’s main downfall is that once we get into the killing, it just becomes a bog-standard torture porn schlockfest with very little creativity or effectiveness in the attempted scares. The film does not frighten as the original did, and nor is it funny like the later sequels – it is somewhere in between; not scary, and funny for all the wrong reasons. It is humorous just how much this new Child’s Play gets wrong, primarily the design of the psycho doll himself. If your Chucky looks (and sounds) wrong, then your whole film is destined to fail.

I was disappointed in this Child’s Play – not just as a Chucky fan, but as a horror fan. This is a needless and soulless reboot that doesn’t get anywhere near justifying its own existence and only serves as a reminder of how good the original franchise is in comparison – which is saying something, because, and even as a Chucky fan, I can admit that the originals are a bit shit. 
Steer clear of this totally unnecessary reboot and stick with Don Mancini’s originals. They’re flawed, but at least their twisted heart is in the right place. 

Sam Love

Child's Play at CeX

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