Acknowledge it that the classic Child’s Play story about a doll possessed by an evil spirit brought in life by voodoo spell is a thirty-year-old horror story—older than most millennials. After spawning six sequels and popularizing Chucky as one of the most iconic horror villains, the franchise finally follows the step of other horror classics into the remake/reboot zone. Surprisingly enough, Norway director, Lars Klevberg (Polaroid) takes a sharp treatment for the reboot—leaving the Haitian voodoo elements back in the 80s and goes full futuristic instead. Call it a fuckup Black Mirror or Twilight Zone episode when the AI of a child’s doll gone berserk.
Given the new concept, Child’s Play unarguably becomes a new entity blending tech-horror with the 80s slasher tropes. The only things retained from the original franchise are the characters and, apparently, the killing doll narrative. Karen Barclay and her son, Andy, return as the main protagonists. Aubrey Plaza (Ingrid Goes West, Safety Not Guaranteed) is the new Karen, a widow working in a department store selling electronic products et al. Gabriel Bateman (who looks like Ansel Elgort sometimes) is Andy, Karen’s son whose hearing loss making him an outcast who resorts to his phone all the time. Chucky is returning, too; but, it’s no longer an incarnation of Charles Lee Ray who inhabits a Good Guys doll. The new doll is a Buddi doll, an AI injected doll produced by the fictional Kaslan Industry sold in Karen’s working place. This AI doll can sync to other Kaslan products and, most importantly, has the receptive tools to imprint and learn.
Long story short, an ill-will Kaslan worker in its Vietnam factory removed all safety protocols of a Buddi doll out of anger. The doll, which ridiculously passed the QC process, was then distributed to the US where it eventually defected and returned to the store during Karen’s watch. In an attempt to get something striking for her son’s birthday, she acquired the broken doll which finally becomes the new Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill). The reluctant Andy receives the gift and, even, makes friends with the doll that becomes more obsessed to be Andy’s best friend. In no time, their relationship turns sour and toxic, and there’s where the killing spree begins.
The killing spree flaunts Lars Klevberg’s devotion to the grindhouse cinema involving blood-gushing, bone-cracking, flesh-ripping violence. Chucky learns most of his murderous stunts from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and he becomes quite adept with the methods, even when the killings begin to feel repetitive. While the conflict goes ridiculously unconvincing as it goes from channeling its inner evil ET incarnations to becoming robot apocalypse, the new Child’s Play can at least provide satisfying slasher spectacles to appease the genre aficionado. It’s disappointing that the sheer department store chaos on the edge of its third act could not live up its potential for a full-frontal, explicit gore-fest.
Casting Mark Hamill to voice Chucky is possibly the movie’s best decision. Hamill adds many layers of creepiness to the killer doll, even in its most non-dangerous stance. Robotic Chucky might not be of everyone’s preference given the character’s long history of violence; but, it’s the best that this reboot can do to distant itself from Don Mancini’s (the Child’s Play creator) upcoming series to continue the previous canon. At least, by combining the classic killer doll tropes with tech-horror and grindhouse bloodbath, the new Child’s Play makes a sheer mess, but, honestly, it’s an entertaining chaos