Remakes are a tricky thing in the horror genre, for better or for worse. Many fans adore the classic slashers like Friday the 13th, Halloween, or A Nightmare on Elm Street, but bring up any of their remakes, and be ready for a hot take or three.
“The original was perfect!”
“That was my childhood, they’re ruining my childhood!”
“They’re just trying to make a quick buck!”
Yet I hear a lot of people clamor over the 1986 version of Little Shop of Horrors, but much less about the 1960 original. Ditto for Scarface and, to use an outright non-horror example from recent times, A Star is Born, which has been remade countless times now.
When the topic of conversation turns to the new Child’s Play, however, it gets a little muddier. Universal is still making movies in the current canon, the most recent being 2017’s straight-to-video Cult of Chucky. Since MGM owns the rights to the original film, they were able to make and release this re-imagining through their Orion Pictures label. It’s an alternate timeline, a different origin story for our friend till the end, Chucky, and only incidentally calls back to the original 1988 film.
All of that being said, I’m going to have my own hot take, as a movie reviewer is wont to do…
This was a great film. It is not God’s gift to horror, nor does it ever claim to be. But there are too many good slasher things happening here to ignore this film, intellectual property discussions aside. I was hesitant to go along with this film at first, with Bride of Chucky being my first foray into horror cinema of any kind. My interview and preparations therefore with SFX artist Todd Masters managed to get me on board with this film, convincing me that this story needed to be told.
No Good Guys here. Rather than voodoo rituals performed by a madman murderer, this doll, commercially known as Buddi, goes rogue vis-a-vis a disgruntled manufacturer who disables the safety protocols as a “take this job and shove it” personified. Retail worker Karen (Aubrey Plaza) convinces her manager to let her have the doll after a Karen-type customer returns it, claiming it as defective. Karen gifts the doll to her son, Andy, who is hard of hearing and in need of a new friend. Buddi, who works with smart technology, is tasked with helping the young man, though with a distinct lack of safety protocols, things go from cute to creepy before long. Buddi promises to be Andy’s friend till the end, but what means will justify that end in the meantime?
One of the biggest highlights for me was the score, done by Bear McCreary. The soundtrack he provides made moments feel exactly as they needed to, especially during the absolutely bonkers final act, inside the oddly-titled Zed Mart. The musical cues are just too good not to point out. To add to the highlight reel, Aubrey Plaza is one of my favorite actresses as of late, and her time as Karen is incredible.
The gore looks phenomenal here. The kills get downright gruesome, more so than even the Universal series has in recent years, and some of the gore, namely the demise of Buddi 2.0 Mascot Head Guy (yes, he probably has a name), manages to ride the line between horrific and comedic with ease. While the smart car scene was a bit of a letdown in the kill department, it cannot be denied that that is a unique, sign of the times death.
A couple of parts of the film felt a bit superfluous. The intro goes on for a bit, and while I’m fine with building tension, a couple of minutes of the first twenty or so could have stood to have been left on the cutting room floor. Add to that pile on the editing floor some of the bits with the gift-wrapped head following the first real kill of the film, as that whole passage bordered on sitcom, and for a film that was going for more straight horror, that’s not a good thing.
I’m echoing the sentiments of my CryptTeaze compatriot Ash Crowlin in his review of 3 from Hell (which, spoiler alert, I loved, despite its plot holes) when I say that you should see this film for yourself. If you view this as part of Chucky’s thirty-plus year history, you will lose a lot of this film’s charm. Leave the rose-colored glasses at home, you won’t need them. This is a Child’s Play film in name only, though say what you will about using that name as a vehicle for this project. For the gore, for the great effects work, and several of the names behind this film, Lars Klevberg’s Child’s Play is well worth a watch.
Child's Play is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital.