Directed By Lars Klevberg
Starring – Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill, Brian Tyree Henry
The Plot – A mother (Plaza) gives her son (Gabriel Bateman) a toy doll for his birthday, unaware of its more sinister nature.
Rated R for bloody horror violence, and adult language throughout
– 80’s aesthetic. When I first saw trailers for this film, I thought the overall cinematography looked very cheap and uninspiring in finding its artistic integrity, but what I overlooked was its cheap design serving a purpose for a bigger, nuanced idea of 80’s neon that remains consistent throughout the film. This glow of conscience that the film has brings us back to the start when “Child’s Play” was born, but it does so without it being actually set during this influential decade, and instead borrowing the best parts stylistically from it. This gives us many dreamy images during the film in which many different colors collide among each other, bringing us a canvas of colorful expression to influence and enhance the devilish ideals just lurking in the shadows. In addition to this, the child gang in the film feels very much like a delightful trope of 80’s cinema, a-la “The Goonies” or the newfound nostalgia of “Stranger Things”, in that we get a group of profound youthful characters who dominate the foreground of the film’s attention, and feel like the best shot at stopping the madness behind a sadistic doll.
– Blood binge. One of the more surprising aspects of the film was the use of splatter against a series of brutally devastating kills that satisfies even the biggest horror hounds of the genre. This is certainly nothing surprising for a horror film, but is for something like “Child’s Play” that, while known for its gimmick of creative kills, wasn’t always the most satisfying in terms of what it actually showed. This film simply doesn’t have that problem, as a fine combination of practical effects involving prosthetics and computer generation marries a hybrid of young and old enhancement that kept me firmly engaged on the crushing blows that transpired on screen. Also unlike its 1989 original, the film allows the bodies to stack up slightly higher, making Chucky’s reign of terror feel more impactful because of his growing reputation as the film progresses.
– Perfect tone. Klevberg gets it. He understands the ridiculousness of the Chucky character combined with what’s asked of him, therefore it allows him to competently balance this dynamic of terror and tease that makes this one of the more delightfully engaging in the history of horror slasher remakes. Never during the course of the 85 minutes did I feel like this film was taking itself too seriously, nor did it ever feel compromising towards two opposing directions that sometimes fleshes itself out in a movie trying to accomplish far too much. This ones intentions remain firmly grounded in the tonal department, and because of such brought a barrage of laughter and chills that perfectly articulates the kind of effect that only certain horror antagonists bring forth. Chucky is a roaring good time, therefore a film depicting him at his infancy should be as well, and Klevberg never loses the attention of his audience because he never loses focus of what kind of movie this rightfully should be.
– Speaking of remake. On the topic of all time slasher horror remakes, this one is the very best, not only because it manages the consistency of the very best entries of the franchise, but also because it takes a familiar plot and really diverts itself away to make what feels almost like an entirely new film in the series. Aside from this at its roots being the story about a boy who receives a birthday gift from his mom, and that gift turns sinister, the film masters more human impulses for its characters, syke-outs in scares from scenes that felt similar to original entries, more capabilities in tools for what Chucky can do, and many more characters than the original movie that at times felt constrained because of its tight-knit nature of a production. Remakes to me should only be done if they add something unique and original to the material, and this one does it in spades, conjuring up a remake that has enough respect for the original without trying to replicate it.
– Social commentary. The last thing I expected from a Chucky movie was a profoundly poignant observation about society, but this film gave it to me in a series of scenes that not only establish some level of empathy for the character, but also supplant food for thought in where psycho killers originate. Chucky is victim to a series of angry exchanges and violent cinema (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, YESSSSS!!!) that falls at his doorstep because of his close ties to Andy, and while soaking all of this up we get a tease for the rage that developes from being a product of the environment around him, giving us complex layers of exposition that Charles Lee Ray never found in seven Chucky movies. It proves that horror films are still capable of delivering an attention-grabbing scene, all the while never backing down from the point that it makes against its own material. It’s clever writing that metaphorically casts Chucky in the role of our kids, and allows us to step back for a second and soak in how strange we look as a species that craves all things violent.
– Technology incorporation. “Blair Witch” take notes. This is a film that introduces modern day technological advancements to its killer and makes full use of the gimmick in a creatively menacing manner. Because of such, Chucky’s eye for his future victims feels wider than ever before (Especially thanks to a Jack Black look-a-like that serves as his biggest ali), and the thought process that went into illustrating some unique kills supplanted a level of purpose for the incorporation. Everything feels like a series of believable bad ideas that we as outsiders can see the negatives of long before our characters do, yet remaining faithful to real life, in that not every modern day idea is a well thought out one. Likewise, the commercials that constantly fill the screen, and even open up the film to give us our first dose of valued exposition, give the android design this kind of lived-in believability with its marketing that really seduces us the audience immediately with its tantalizing of the newest gadget that we must buy regardless of price.
– Delightful cast. Plaza and Henry are especially brilliant, outlining two sides of Andy’s adult intake that balance love and paranoia respectively. Henry is someone I’ve been watching for a while now, and his on-point delivery of sarcasm among a glowing child-like twinkle in his eyes made for constant scene-stealing, that brought forth my single favorite character in the film. Plaza sadly doesn’t get enough time to further flesh out her character, but her mom character establishes the human aspect that I mentioned earlier better than the prophet Catherine Hicks ever even attempted to. Plaza’s dry delivery and distant facial registry still persists in this film, but it’s her abilities under fire from Chucky that bring forth a scrubbing of typecast roles for her that will hopefully spring her in different movie directions going forward. Mark Hamill is good enough as Chucky, but his familiar vocal tones to Brad Douriff never allow him to make the role his own, nor does the lack of memorable one-liners from the iconic figure do him any additional favors in this department. The attention falls solely on the shoulders of 13-year-old Gabriel Bateman, who was a whirlwind of emotional dynamics for the film. Bateman’s line delivery and emotional evolution feel very much earned and soaked in believability, and his character’s personality feels especially refreshing from the original Andy if only for how the doll must win him over before he falls under his spell. I don’t often commend child actors, but Bateman is leagues ahead of the competition for the immense task he is asked to juggle with being the focused protagonist for roughly 85% of this movie, and I certainly can’t wait to see where his career takes him from here.
– Chucky design. I hated the visual and character building for this character, mainly because it takes something so perfect and boggles it up with a series of plot contrivances that feel more obvious the longer the film runs. On the latter, the serial killer Charles Lee Ray is traded in for an android that is the creation of an angered employee, and it just doesn’t feel as personal or effectively tragic as a curse for the man locked into this laughable body. As for the appearance, the computer generation is a bit too influential here, garnering an overall design that is creepy from the get-go, and doesn’t feel believable as a product that families would actually purchase. The original Chucky design looks friendly on the surface, and only becomes evil as the film unravels. I also didn’t care for the blue-to-red color transitions that the doll constantly conveyed to obviously channel its evil side. This is essentially exposition for idiots. It’s a bit too obvious and on-the-nose for something that should require the toy being brought to life.
– Episodic pacing. It’s a bit aggravating to me when a film will edit and paste scenes together that feel like no time has passed, but that’s totally the case with this one. A mess on the post-production department, “Child’s Play” often looks and feels like an episode of “Black Mirror” for how long spans of time will pass with very little leverage on our attention, and instead of feeling like one cohesive unit that balances many subplots simultaneously, stumbles with repeat setting scenes back-to-back in a way that constantly jarred me and brought me out of focus in questioning repeatedly how much time has passed. With more attention given to Henry’s character, especially in the refreshing dynamic with his Mother, the Andy/Mom side of things could be given proper time to age to better establish not only the bond between them, but also Andy’s dependability on Chucky when no one else has time for him. The friends subplot is also especially unearned with how little time is devoted to it, and it screams for around 20 additional minutes to better supplant the supporting characters.
– Poor special effects. The budget for this film, despite using C.G influence, somehow feels cheaper than its 30 year prior original, and I point particularly to the movement of the doll in this regard. Close camera angles and choppy editing are to be expected in a film with a doll antagonist, but that’s maybe the best thing that this production does for Chucky, because his wide angle scenes where he’s running feel very weightless and even counterfeit to the believability that allows this to flow naturally in our vision and imagination. The original “Child’s Play” used child actors in the costume to make its movements feel seamless, and I think that stroke of brilliance and authenticity in choosing computer generation over live action really limits its potential in what they are able to accomplish in real time.
My Grade: 7/10 or B