REVIEW: Child’s Play (Spoiler Free)

Chucky would 100% make Woody reach for the sky.

The 13-year-old Andy, along with his family and friends, are terrorised by a high-tech doll that becomes self-aware after it rejects its programming.

Another year, another horror reboot. Bringing back the cheesy 80s slasher gorefest, 2019’s Child’s Play operated exactly as you would expect: a perfectly fine remake that added nothing too new to its source material but stylistically evoked some light entertainment. Never being too much of a fan of the Child’s Play franchise, I wasn’t exactly going into this movie with much expectations. What I got was fine and I’m not going to start complaining… it was just fine.

Trust me, if I hadn’t known Child’s Play was originally a film series about a doll being possessed by the soul of a serial killer, I would have thought this new movie was a rejected script for Black Mirror. Exploring A.I. concepts without much of a grounding in themes, Child’s Play operated as a perfectly serviceable jump scare extravaganza which had its moments, but mostly proved underwhelming.

2018-10-02 The Kaslan Project 0043.dng
(Eric Milner/Orion Pictures 2019)

Instead of finding this movie scary, I was more fuelled by its humorous entertainment value. Most of Child’s Play was indeed intentionally funny but it was the film’s ability to channel shlocky 80s vibes that made it devilishly fun at its best. If anything, I liked how overboard Child’s Play went, especially during its kill scenes. Taking advantage of a story where a sentient doll insanely murders a bunch of people really played as Child’s Play‘s best strength. And like an 80s slasher, it didn’t take itself too seriously; so when a man would get murdered in his garden, the most contrived and inventive means of death was implored. Child’s Play was grizzly and never bothered to apologise for it. So, if I could point out my favourite element of this film and the reason why I didn’t think it was a totally middling experience: Child’s Play scored primarily in its over-the-top 80s styled overkills. I just love when a movie so unabashedly goes out of its way to make the audience squirm… love it.

However, despite being similar in vein to 80s slasher shlock, there’s a reason said 80s B-movies aren’t particular remembered nowadays or even treated with an ounce of respect by modern audiences. See, these type of movies age badly. You may enjoy it now, but I doubt you’ll even remember it beyond your first viewing. Child’s Play was entertaining and passable for its runtime, but its reasons for existing beyond just updating the original Child’s Play remains ambiguous. Not offering much nuance and just building itself off the strong-will of those in the genre before it, Child’s Play resembled 80s shlock more accurately than just in its entertainment value, it would seem.

Beyond that though, the filmmakers could not have got anyone better to voice the new version of Chucky than Mark Hamill. Hiring the man who brought life to the animated Joker was a stroke of genius as Hamill really made this role of Chucky his own. Child’s Play also garnered some pretty good performances out of Brian Tyree Henry and, I guess, Aubrey Plaza, whom I still believe to have been miscast. To set the record straight, I really liked Plaza and consider her capable of some wildly awesome performances and even though in Child’s Play she was good, I was never really sold on the idea that she was the “mum” character.

I guess Gabriel Bateman was fine with the central child performance of Andy, despite having some very cringey on-camera moments. The other child performances were fine too, I guess, but I feel the reason I wasn’t 100% on any of the movie’s performances is because of how thinly written the characters were. Child’s Play felt like it unintentionally filled its cast with the most cliché, stereotype horror characters that eventually a lot of the tension in the movie felt lost because said character archetypes are, at this point, blatantly obvious in how they’re used. The movie featured noticeable horror trope roles like the mother’s alcoholic, deadbeat boyfriend, the weird, purvey janitor, the Stephen King like band of foul-mouthed teenagers… and, of course, they all met the exact fate you would predict them to meet.

Alongside its predictability, Child’s Play just felt genuinely flat. Never did anything feel extraordinary in the film or at the least bit progressive in its escalation of horror. Jump scares galore really thinned the performances of Child’s Play‘s horror elements to the point nothing really played as a true terrifying experience as most of the scares ended up either being fake outs or attempts at comedy.

In the long run, I could see people liking this cheesy foray into B-movie archetypes. Child’s Play was the bare minimum of what a slasher movie should be as I wouldn’t dare argue with a person who genuinely liked this movie, because there was enough “ok” elements in Child’s Play to make it a positive experience for some. The movie, to me, killed sometime and made me smile on occasions, but, to be honest, I’ve already forgotten most of its story.

Child’s Play, sadly, belongs in the… KINGDOM OF THE CRIMINALLY DULL…

 

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