I've been watching the 'Chucky' flicks since I was a kid, I'm pretty sure I know a killer doll when I see one.
A Child of Horror
As a kid growing up with practically an entire library of horror, one of my earliest and favorite introductions into the genre was that of the Child’s Play franchise; or what I mostly referred to as the “Chucky movies.” Now I can’t say for sure as to what was the very first movie that initiated me into the world of horror, but I do know that the Chucky flicks were always a major part of my early cinematic education. For the most part, I’ve absolutely enjoyed the hell out of the original series. The 1988 original is one that I find to be legitimately suspenseful with a haunting musical score and an instantly iconic vocal performance by Brad Dourif. As the sequels emerged over the years I remained exceptionally entertained by almost every installment, even when the franchise began injecting a more comedic tone into the writing, I still was very fond of the directions taken. From the original series’ last installment though, back in 2017 with Cult of Chucky, I will admit that the quality and enjoyment value for myself had significantly dropped. Prior to the 2017 installment though, I retain my status of being a true fan of the Child’s Play movies.
Thoughts Going Into the Remake
Unfortunately it seems that the rule for modern remakes, more often than not, is that they tend to pale in comparison to their predecessors. When a remake goes wrong they are either unambitious, soulless cash-grabs that basically attempt to only recreate the original picture frame by frame and fail to justify its own existence… I’m talking about you, Disney. Or they are unrecognizable clusters that neglect the spirit of the original and result in a particularly unsatisfying product. Don’t get me wrong, there have been more than plenty of successful exceptions to prove both of those statements as inaccurate. In terms of recently though, lackluster remakes are sadly more inclined to be the bulk of what is released into the cinemas nowadays.
When the trailers and all the information came out about the Child’s Play remake, I personally wanted to like it. Yet there wasn’t a shred of promotion or advertisement that excited me at all for its release. I was intrigued by some of the changes that were going to be made from the original and I was certainly onboard with hearing Mark Hamill’s new interpretation of the Chucky character. Other than that, all the ads came across to me as nothing more than a generic remake that may not leave much of an impression at the end of the day. However, I remained as optimistic as I could to view the film before coming to any rash conclusions.
The world is in love with the Buddi doll; a state of the art toy that has unlimited capabilities to interact with its owners, access several other wireless technologies, record video and audio, walk and talk all on its own, and be the best friend that anyone could ask for. After a disgruntled employee intentionally sabotaged one of the dolls to be absent of all its safety protocols, a single mother (Aubrey Plaza) finds herself in possession of the tampered doll as she gifts it to her 13-year-old son Andy (Gabriel Bateman). All seems well in the beginning, until it is eventually revealed that not everything is running smoothly with Andy’s new Buddi doll, Chucky (Mark Hamill). That is when the terror ensues upon our innocent family.
A Remake I Dig?
This wasn’t the least bit expected on my behalf. I actually, legitimately dig the Child’s Play remake. 2019’s Child’s Play isn’t the run of the mill, generic cash-in that copies and pastes the original’s screenplay, nor does it forget the roots from whence it came either. Surprisingly, this is a remake that intelligently incorporates elements from the original, while providing a narrative that is entirely its own with a unique voice that separates the remake’s identity from 1988 film yet still capturing a similar spirit that shows love for what came before it.
The writing has interesting satire, funny dialog, sheer dark humor, character driven suspense, and a story that walks the fine line of adaptations with grace. The acting is all around extremely solid, special effects were devilishly fantastic, and the cinematography is fairly gorgeous. One of the extremely rare occurrences where a remake wildly surpasses my expectations by leaps and bounds. Not to say that my personal mindset was to hate this new iteration of a beloved movie, but I didn’t think I would enjoy it quite as much as I turned out to.
While reasoning out my approach to this review, I’ve determined that I will not be breaking this movie’s plot down beat by beat. I will acknowledge a select few key points, but I won’t be describing the narrative in detail as I normally do so that future viewers may enjoy the picture completely uncompromised. So, apologies in advanced if my writing becomes relatively vague in parts.
Difference Makes All the Difference in the World
What really makes this remake stand out, in comparison to dozens of examples that instead underwhelm the audience, is the fact that the 2019 adaptation strikes the right balance of specific components to change and others to maintain in order to create a new experience with familiar foundations of the original. Translating the tone from a straight horror film to incorporate more black comedy reminiscent of something along the lines of Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Yes, this remake applies the same exact premise of a murderously insane doll named Chucky that comes to life terrorizing a single mother and her young son; except there are attempts within the material to distinguish itself from its origins.
In the original film, the doll was spiritually possessed by a serial killer by the name of Charles Lee Ray through the power of voodoo. In the remake, there is no murderer transferring his soul into a children’s toy; the toy going on a rampage is simply the product of faulty operative systems tampered by a disgruntled Vietnamese sweatshop technician who had enough of his boss’s abusive behavior, where in a humorous fit of rage he sabotages this doll to become physically dangerous right before spontaneously ending his own life. What I just described sounds absurd, I know, but all of that added tremendously to the dark humor scattered throughout.
Don’t F*ck with the Chuck
Any genuine horror fan on the street will attest to Brad Dourif’s role as Chucky is nothing short of terrific. Chucky is one of the biggest icons in the genre and when it comes to a remake, if they really want to leave their own distinct mark on the character then they cannot replicate what has already been done before. There’s no point in duplicating what’s been seen in the other films since we’ve all already seen it, right? Therefore, the remake needs to be ambitious and try something different. Even though that is definitely a risky move, if it is done right then the end result should pay off well. In my opinion, that is exactly what happened here. The remake tried something not executed in any other previous installment of the original series, giving itself a whole new identity from its predecessors. Honestly, I loved that Chucky was so different. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dourif’s performances in all of the previous Chucky flicks, but if I want to see his work again then I can simply pop in the original. With the remake, I need something else so I can appreciate the newfound efforts more.
Mark Hamill nails this vocal performance because at no point is he trying to do a Brad Dourif impression, he’s doing his own thing. He’s making this Chucky his own and he adds a surprising amount of dimensionality to this toy. Because the origins of this Chucky doll are so vastly different from the original, it wouldn’t make sense for the toy to retain that same crazed persona as before. This toy has always been a toy, this is not a murderous human soul possessing a doll, this is a piece of technology trying so desperately to please his best friend. In some ways, this takes a polar opposite approach on the character as Chucky’s intentions from the original were to basically kill Andy; while in the remake, Chucky is programmed to love Andy and do whatever it takes to make him happy. Sometimes those efforts result in death, which isn’t very good for anyone who isn’t Andy. Truth be told, there are a lot of scenes where the remake felt like a stalker thriller only with a mini robot rather than a single white female… Get it? Seriously, it’s actually pretty cool how intense yet sympathetic this new version of Chucky can be. Yes, the doll is basically insane in going way too far with its actions. However, there are glimpses of Chucky genuinely confused and saddened that his efforts continuously upset Andy. At the end of the day this is a machine that is only following what it was programmed to do, which is to appease the individual it imprints upon by any means necessary.
Friends Until the End
There is a thoroughly sincere friendship being built upon in this movie between Andy and Chucky. Something that really wasn’t touched upon in the original, but in here, the audience comes to understand why a 13 year old boy would take to a doll and even grow a bond with it. First of all, this toy is freaking awesome. So much so that I want the damn thing, even if it did start going on a ramped killing spree. It connects to televisions, computers, thermostats, cars, hearing aids, wireless speakers, cell phones, other toys, fridges, etc. and can operate them at will. He walks and talks with the capability to carry on full conversations. He can fetch items needed from other rooms in the house. Call transport services to give their owner a ride. He has a glowing E.T. finger. He can scare the sh*t out of alcoholic step fathers when they go to grab a beer. He’s awesome!
Secondly, clearly Andy is a kid that is a bit of an introvert. He doesn’t have much in the way of friends and his home life seems to be overwhelmed slightly by the new inclusion of his mother’s romantic flame, who is a basic douchebag. To me, it made total sense why this teenaged kid, a complete loner, would take to befriending this creepy little doll. That’s another thing, the script actually touches on the fact that this doll kind of looks creepy, but it feeds into a lot of the humor provided. At no point was I questioning as to why Andy was gravitating emotionally towards Chucky. He’s a kid that yearns for some form of friendship, when it comes in the shape of a quirky and out of sorts midget robot it’s kind of difficult not to be utterly charmed by the duo.
Strangely enough, there are a number of similarities that occur in both the original and the remake yet feel natural. The remake never felt like a cheap rehash because there was always a change in context for the individual plot points. Some of the familiar instances are the clear and obvious ones; such as how the Chucky doll becomes homicidal, the single mother coming in possession of the doll, everyone around Andy questioning whether or not he’s just crazy, etc. However there is always a defining difference that the remake takes on the multiple subjects to make it feel fresh and not so redundant. There are even specific scenes taken from the original and because the context is changed so drastically, the movie still managed to rope me into the suspense. For instance; in the 1988 film, Chucky at one point attacks Chris Sarandon’s character (Detective Mike Norris) while he is driving a car. Resulting in a very memorably intense sequence between the two characters. In the remake, a similar situation transpires to another character, except this time Chucky performs his attack on this character in an entirely different way than before. I don’t want to spoil everything that goes down, but it involves a self-driving vehicle and one scared old lady.
The world that these characters inhabit supplies this remake with an identity all of its own. While the original was in no way trying to be in any other time period outside of the 1980s. The remake gives subtle hints that this could possibly take place in the not so distant future instead of currently. Not everything is pristine and sci-fi heavy by any means, but there are faint nuances surrounding this world with technology not quite in our own time yet. Making me feel as though I’m being transported into a realm that isn’t quite mine. Akin to what can be seen in an episode of Black Mirror. It’s certainly an interesting and clever touch to stand out from the sea of remakes over the decades.
Something I have always appreciated about the original is the several creative uses of practical effects. The same can be said about pretty much the rest of the franchise. The animatronics, body suits, the gore, everything visually was eye candy for horror fans. A significant concern of mine was whether the remake would stay true to the spirit of the original’s practical nature or if it would venture into the cartoonish avenues of CGI. Much to my delight, 90% of the special effects appear to be completely achieved through practical means. Chucky himself almost always looks great here and the work the filmmakers do to convince us that he is functioning on his own is fantastically done. Not to mention the gore hits a homerun in my opinion. There is some serious carnage that happens to the human body in this movie and it is pretty awesome, a lot of which rivals much of what was seen in the original series. I’m definitely proud that these filmmakers weren’t afraid to go for the R rating and they really went for it. Kudos.
Now, not every single effect in the movie is perfect. There is an extremely small portion that looks somewhat painfully apparent that it is CGI. By all means, not the worst special effects, but they are rather noticeable. Especially when they are seen side by side with some phenomenal practical effects. I won’t deduct too terribly on these merits since the CGI was used sparingly, so I give them credit for not cluttering the screen with digital splooge. Although, maybe an additional week or two on finalizing a few of those renders would have benefitted the picture a little better is all I’m saying.
One thing I was not expecting was for this film to be downright gorgeous in its cinematography. The color schemes and lighting occasionally looks straight out of a Dario Argento flick. Stylish lighting filled with vibrant greens, reds, yellows, and blues seen in every frame. Not to mention the thick atmosphere drenching the environment. A visual treat for me personally for the majority of the runtime and I heavily appreciated.
I Wouldn’t Call Them Plot Holes
For the most part, the motivations of every character is concise and easy to understand. When Andy begins to realize Chucky’s violent tendencies, it still makes sense why Andy would try covering that up from his mother. However, Chucky’s violence reaches a point where I was slightly questioning whether Andy was being idiotic for not going straight to his mother about something awful that Chucky committed. A small part of me kind of understood, but at the end of the day this toy is clearly f*cked up and you gotta report that pronto. It wasn’t a big deal that ripped me entirely out of my immersion, but it did distract me a tiny bit. I was still easily able to look over that and move on though.
Was the Ending Changed?
I promise I won’t be spoiling anything about the ending, no worries in that department. However because of the simplicity of the climax’s set piece, the way it was shot and edited, make me kind of wonder if the last ten to fifteen minutes might have been the result of a reshoot maybe? Not to say that it was bad, not at all. The climax was actually successful at holding me in suspense. Something about the closing moments oddly seemed as though the writers may have had another ending in mind and then during production the filmmakers came in with a secondary ending real quick in case it didn’t test well with audiences, then that’s what we got here. That’s what it feels like to me anyways, I have no evidence whatsoever of that being the case, I’m only reporting on what I felt. Still entertaining and cool ending, just stuck out a bit more to me in a peculiar manner.
Child’s Play 2019 impressed me; this is fun, funny, gory, clever, and intense in parts. I had a ball with this remake, which is depressingly rare. These filmmakers actually gave a damn in paying homage to the original without being cynical while also providing moviegoers with something new. This is not a shot-by-shot remake, neither is this an “in name only” remake, this is a remake done intelligently. There is no doubt that remaking a classic or beloved property is beyond a tough nut to crack, that doesn’t give studios an excuse to be lazy in making us pay for something we’ve already seen before. We deserve originality, creativity in adaptation, not “copy-and-paste”. 2019 Child’s Play is the right kind of remake; a bit of the old interwoven with something new and told with a voice of its own. Check this out as soon as you can if it sounds like your cup of tea.
Also, it was nice seeing the Orion Pictures company logo pop up in front of the movie. Puts a smile on my face. Extra points because I’m biased!
Which Chucky Did it Best?
That’s All Folks!
Child’s Play 2019… What did you think? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Ade due Damballa. Give me the power, I beg of you? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoy my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a hidey-ho day! Whatever that means.
© 2019 John Plocar