Horror has been much maligned over the past decade or so for constantly releasing new films that act as the dreaded ‘reboot’. Even the word strikes fear into the heart of even the most ardent horror fan. As much as you may like a franchise, there is no guarantee that a rebooted franchise will be a hit at the cinema or, more importantly, do your favourite film justice. We can go right the way back to 2005 and The Amityville Horror remake – to the uninitiated this may seem like a perfectly decent film with jump scares and creepy moments but the moment you go back to watch the original 1979 movie then the whole remake/reboot movie looks particularly flimsy and overly slick. We can all appreciate a well made film whether it be a reboot or not but how does Child’s Play fare in the world of the horror reboot?
The answer is that it fares surprisingly well – I did expect this to be a bit of a shambles I must admit when I heard it announced. I certainly didn’t go to see it at the cinema, how could they do this movie without turning it into a comedy horror mess (I’m looking at you Seed of Chucky!) Did the world really need a new version of Chucky? It could still be argued that maybe the world didn’t need a new Chucky at all, especially with the original Chucky very much still live and stabbing (more on tat in a moment)! Movie studio’s being movie studio’s sensed some money in this and set their minds to producing a 21st Century upgrade to Chucky and actually, the end result of this is a movie that is pretty well put together, a story well told and a movie you never even knew that you wanted to see.
Gone is the voodoo Mumbo Jumbo of the original movies so there is no more Charles Lee Ray being gunned down in a toy store and transferring his soul into a doll. Although this is kind of part of the charm of the original film, it feels like a very 80’s horror trope to have black magic involved to explain something that can’t really be explained. Instead we have a more technical Good Guy Doll, which has been re-branded as Buddi for the reboot and a disgruntled and mistreated factory employee who alters the coding of this Buddi doll and removes all of it’s inhibitors before placing it in the packaging, ready to be sold to the unsuspecting general public.
The Buddi Doll’s are less like the Good Guy Dolls depicted in the original movies in that they are more like a fully moving Alexa or Google Home and, as such, Andy Barclay has to be a slightly older kid that would be interested in using such a toy so the upgrade to a Google-esque device is a welcome and believable plot device. As you will see during the movie, anything that has Wi-fi can be controlled by the Buddi doll which cleverly feeds into all of our homes slowly becoming dependent on AI devices that even down to the colour of our light bulbs, opening or shutting doors and curtains and even the robotic vacuum cleaners, fridges and other domestic appliances that are becoming ‘Smart’ now. It would seem that I may have initially under estimated this movie as I really like these idea’s and even though it is bang up to date and on-trend for a lot of homes now, it is also very old school in the way that the movie prey’s on real things to create real fear from the viewer. It is this sort of horror movie making that has been missing from films for quite some time now.
As I have mentioned, the story is well crafted and the movie takes it’s time in exploring Andy’s relationship with his Buddi doll, which, if you’re wondering, does end up calling himself Chucky. It’s a welcome change for a movie like this to spend time on characterisation and have the kills and gore gradually ramp up as the characters develop and don’t just go gung-ho into ridiculous or gratuitous kills right from the off. As usual I won’t give away any specifics of the film but there are some great kills in this and some good uses of technology and environment to achieve this. As horror fans, we can always appreciate those elements!
Let’s move our attention to the Chucky doll itself and this is probably the one element of the film that I wasn’t particularly crazy about. For all the 21st Century enhancements to the doll’s abilities it’s actually the look of the doll that lets the whole thing down a little bit as I don’t think that it really looks like too far removed from the original Chucky doll. I get that there needs to be some familiarity there with the character and maybe there is only so much you can do with a doll but I just can’t help thinking that they could have done better with it than they did. Although it is worth noting that during the third act of the movie, the doll does manage to look suitably threatening when it needs to. As my other half told me during the film, in real life you have these Baby Annabelle dolls and Baby Born dolls that don’t really look too realistic but do look very creepy and kids go absolutely crazy for these things so maybe the look of the doll isn’t as much of an issue as I’d made it out to be as that is possibly how it might look if this was real life.
Whilst we’re talking of Chucky himself, it would be amiss of me to not mention the Elephant in the room – Brad Dourif. For 7 movies now, he has been the voice of Chucky and to most people, including myself, IS Chucky to most extents. So, it’s a pretty big deal for Brad Dourif not to be the voice of the killer doll. Instead, in this movie, we have Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) of Star Wars fame who provides the vocal talents here. What we get is, essentially, a variation of The Joker voice that Hamill does in some of the Batman animated movies as well the Arkham games on PS3, which really works for Chucky as it is the sort of voice that you would want Chucky to have I think, especially when the doll is going super psycho towards the end.
It is Brad Dourif’s abscence from the film that actually provides the biggest paradox that I very briefly touched upon in the introduction to this article and that is that Brad Dourif’s version of Chucky still exists! We have a weird situation here that now we have the new Child’s Play franchise beginning with this reboot but also we have the existing 7 Chucky films with the promise of adding more to the franchise from creator Don Mancini as well as the promise of a TV series coming featuring original Chucky too. It’s the first time that I can remember that two different versions of the same character can exist at the same time and, as ever, this is due to licensing issues. The production company that did this reboot has the rights to the Child’s Play name and Don Mancini has the rights to the characters and use them as long as the title Child’s Play is not used. For me, Brad Dourif will always be the voice of Chucky and he is certainly the most skilled at it, his over the top voice work is perfect for the character and I do hope that this version of the character continues for a long time yet.
All in all, despite my issues with the doll itself, I can’t really criticise the reboot too much and would certainly welcome a sequel to this as I would be interested to see where this story can go. I also wonder how the rogue code will be transferred to another doll in any sequel as the soul was always transferred when the doll was remade in the original sequels so I will definitely be interested to see how this will be handled. I am glad that I am glad, if that makes sense, because that shows that Child’s Play was a worthwhile film and we can only hope that the quality of the film will be upheld in future if there are to be any sequels.