The 2019 version of Child’s Play is suffering from an identity crisis.
While it’s most definitely a horror, it’s also a comedy, and in some instances even a satire of our constantly-connected, technology-reliant culture.
In terms of the finished product, the movie itself doesn’t quite know what it wants to be: while the film is clearly geared to a younger audience, there are some gory scenes that are too graphic for kids — we’re talking potentially scarring, possibly even for some adults.
Unlike the original 1988 film, in which a serial killer’s deranged soul transfers into the “Buddi” doll (a.k.a. Chucky), in this version a disgruntled, suicidal worker in Vietnam turns off all of the doll’s security precautions, essentially turning it into a vessel for violence and vulgarity.
Before we know it, it’s in the hands of Andy (Gabriel Bateman), who’s gifted the doll by his single mom Karen (Aubrey Plaza).
How is this version of Chucky?
Not that Chucky was ever an attractive doll, but man, the 2019 version looks just plain wacky. He’s creepy, too, and in that creepiness lies the fear. It’s clear that the filmmakers are seizing on the meta aspect of Child’s Play, and there are frequently jabs at his appearance and at the concept of the doll coming to life.
But is he scary?
Yes and no. In some scenes, mostly at the beginning, he comes off as friendly and lovable. In the previous movies, it was always clear that Chucky was bad, right from the start. Of course, as this version of the doll is exposed to the world and the people in Andy’s life — including his friends, an unlucky neighbour and his mother, and his mom’s good-for-nothing boyfriend — he grows more and more evil, as his red eyes indicate.
Past the middle point, Chucky definitely becomes scarier and the gore starts up. I’d managed to repress the disgustingness of the ankle knife slit, but this movie generously brought it back to the forefront.
You said the movie can be pretty gory. What are we talking about here?
Horror buffs will barely bat an eyelid; in fact, they’ll most likely laugh because the majority of deaths are over-the-top, even ludicrous. But for children, they’re far too grotesque, so consider this a caution if you’re considering taking your kids under 10 to this movie. A murderous doll is enough to traumatize a child, and if an ’80s version managed to do the job, consider what Chucky in 2019 can do.
Is it typical horror-movie acting? In other words, not that great?
The movie has its stiff moments, that’s for sure. Dialogue often takes a back seat to the visual effects, especially in horror, and that doesn’t change in this edition of Child’s Play. The adolescent Bateman (an appropriate horror name, no?) is a charmer and definitely holds your attention on-screen, while Plaza seems a bit young to be his mother — my seat neighbour thought she was his sister at first — and as in many of her other roles, she seems almost disinterested.
Scene-stealers are Brian Tyree Henry (who’s been in what seems like a zillion movies in the past two years) as the police detective and virtual unknown Ty Consiglio, who stars as one of Andy’s neighbourhood friends.
Karen’s boyfriend Shane, the perfect a–hole, is portrayed to a tee by Canadian David Lewis.
WATCH BELOW: ‘Child’s Play’ cast interview with ‘ET Canada’
So what’s the bottom line?
Child’s Play is a typical horror movie, at once a throwback to what the franchise used to be and an inside joke about itself. The story is bare-bones and simple, punctuated with some of the more inventive deaths we’ve seen recently in the genre. Not necessarily a good choice for children, the movie seems more appropriate for adults who’ve seen the original(s).
Still, if you love a good horror or if your teenager is into it, then by all means, why not pay Chucky a visit?
‘Child’s Play’ is now playing in theatres across Canada.