In a lovely bit of counter programming, this remake of Child’s Play, the 1988 horror about a doll possessed by a serial killer terrorising its new owner’s family, has been released the same weekend as Pixar’s Toy Story 4. If you like movies about kids call Andy with sentient toys, but tire of the wholesome load and sentiment offered by Disney’s high-tech synthetic film division, then this murderous, gore-flecked offering may be more to your taste.
In the reimagined version, the supernatural’s out and ubiquitous cloud technology is in. Chucky 2019 is the signature product of an Amazon-like behemoth that has networked its apps together becoming all-pervasive in the lives of adults and children alike. The update’s a good joke about how dangerous it might be to have one company with tendrils into every aspect of your routine, behaviour and wants. The new Chucky has the means to record voices, video survey his household and link up to domestic appliances. The new film therefore imagines a more grounded threat than the wise cracking maniac of old; a danger to kids born of their own corporate loyalty.
What’s lost in this new formula is the wit that characterised Chucky when he was Brad Dourif’s killer. Mark Hamill, taking over, lends his Buddi doll a sinister aspect and a psychopathic AI’s understanding of what loyalty to his new master means. This extends, in what is perhaps a veiled joke at the expense of those who blamed the first run of the series for copycat murders (the killers of James Bulger allegedly watched Child’s Play 3 the week before the killing) to a scene in which Chucky watches Andy enjoying The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and copies Leatherface’s MO. This new Chucky’s convincing and nightmarish in an old fashioned way; the new Child’s Play a riff on the killer robot movie of old.
As it progresses Child’s Play settles into a familiar pattern of escalating schlock – ludicrous setups and gory payoffs, some of which – a cheating boyfriend wrapped in Christmas lights and fed to a mower – being so outlandish and contrived, as to be darkly comic.
There’s nothing remotely real or psychologically plausible about the movie; it’s content to be silly and creepy in the vein of the ‘80’s shockers it follows, but that’s the right register for this sort of material. Any attempt to make it more serious and less cartoonish would surely kill the concept stone dead. Consequently, though it hardly justifies its own existence – the critique of modern consumer tech notwithstanding, it’s a perfectly fun reboot for a horror property that was always more concerned with laughs than genuine scares.