Child’s Play

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Lars Klevberg

Starring

Aubrey Plaza Gabriel Bateman Mark Hamill

Anticipation.

This franchise should have been put back in its box a long time ago.

Enjoyment.

The little horror reboot that could.

In Retrospect.

Not quite off the top shelf.

The toy terror is back with a vengeance in this entertainingly gruesome slasher reboot.

Chucky has been repackaged for the app generation. Where the flame-haired toy terror from director Tom Holland and writer/creator Don Mancini’s original 1988 slasher acquired its homicidal tendencies through supernatural means, this time it’s the surprising result of a labour dispute in a Vietnamese sweatshop, where ‘Buddi’ dolls are being mass produced for the American market. That’s right, the real evil here is rampant Western consumerism – although if the film has a stab at being a self-aware capitalist satire, in truth it’s far more effective as a grisly homage to its B-movie forebears.

In Lars Klevberg’s Child’s Play, the littlest hell-raiser is remodelled as a cloud-based virtual assistant, WiFi enabled and fully compatible with all Kaslan™ smart home appliances. Instead of being possessed by the spirit of a serial killer, this version of Chucky (as the doll dubs itself, weirdly) has had its AI chip supercharged and its safety settings disabled. Think Alexa with a bloodlust. Initially it seems a bit of stretch that a goofy-looking humanoid gadget dressed in dungarees could become the latest must-have household accessory, but by alluding to the real-world gamification of consumer technology Tyler Burton Smith’s script goes some way to explaining the Buddi phenomenon.

For Aubrey Plaza’s single mother Karen, the doll presents an opportunity to reconnect with her son, Andy (Gabriel Bateman), who has taken a disliking to her new boyfriend, Shane (David Lewis). Appropriately for a film about a young boy befriending a diminutive being of strange origin, Bateman bears a resemblance to Henry Thomas of E.T. fame. And in a further nod to Steven Spielberg’s classic sci-fi adventure, the tip of Chucky’s index finger lights up whenever he is shown syncing up to another electronic device – typically in order to wreak havoc on anyone who threatens to come between him and Andy.

While the body count is relatively low for this franchise, the death scenes are inventive and entertainingly gruesome. Yet if the film earns its R-rating with aplomb, it benefits from not piling on the schlock and gore, allowing Andy’s (and Chucky’s) story plenty of breathing space within its tight 88-minute runtime. In another smart casting move, Mark Hamill is amusingly malevolent as the voice of Chucky – none more so than when singing Bear McCreary’s creepy theme song. On the downside, Atlanta star Brian Tyree Henry is slightly wasted as the neighbourly detective who comes to Andy and Karen’s aid late on. But this is still a cut above your average horror reboot.

Published 20 Jun 2019

Tags: Aubrey Plaza Chucky Gabriel Bateman Lars Klevberg Mark Hamill

Anticipation.

This franchise should have been put back in its box a long time ago.

Enjoyment.

The little horror reboot that could.

In Retrospect.

Not quite off the top shelf.

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