Movie review: Chucky returns as a high-tech doll in new 'Child's Play'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jun 27 2019 01:26 PM

In 1988, the first "Child's Play" film by director Tom Holland was released. That low-budget slasher horror film about a toy doll possessed by the soul of a mad killer became a cult favorite and spun off its own franchise of six sequels, comic books and merchandise. This year, it joins the ever-growing list of classic films which have been remade or rebooted for the millennial generation. 

In the original "Child's Play," Chucky was a "Good Guys" doll that six-year-old Andy (Alex Vincent) received for his birthday from his mom. However, this Chucky had previously been possessed by the soul of a serial killer Charles Earl Ray (Brad Dourif), who was able to transfer his soul into the doll via a voodoo ritual before his human body died. Chucky would then set out and kill people who wronged him before, or stood in his way now as he attempted to transfer his soul into Andy.

With his messy shock of orange hair, big sinister blue eyes, denim overalls and rainbow-striped long-sleeved shirt, the original Chucky doll was an ugly, unsettling-looking toy which no normal child would want to own. He has since become an iconic horror figure along with fellow slashers Michael Myers (of "Halloween") and Freddie Krueger (of "Nightmare on Elm Street"). When I visited Universal Studios LA during one of their Halloween nights, seeing this little half-pint sized Chucky doll running around stabbing the air with a knife in his hand was one of the most truly chilling things I saw there.

In this new "Child's Play," Chucky was a Buddi doll, a futuristic artificial intelligence personal assistant doll for children. Instead of a voodoo ritual, the evil of this Chucky was caused by a programming malfunction caused by a disgruntled technician. With his violence control and other safety features turned off, Chucky imbibed and emulated the violence he saw around him (either actual or in movies) to hurt and kill people who either bullied or befriended his 13-year-old introvert friend Andy (Gabriel Bateman).

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While the face of the original Chucky can cause nightmares up to now, this look of this new Chucky was very forgettable. It had a blank, nondescript, unremarkable face that does not inspire fear or dread. That the filmmakers settled on such a mediocre facial design for their central character was, I thought, the worst decision they made. They messed with an icon, and came up with a bland reboot image which greatly affected the scare factor. To their credit though, they gave him the voice of Mark Hamill. 

The scares delivered by this new Chucky were all technology-driven, not just all knife-stabbing this time. Since he was essentially one big general remote control, this Chucky had the electronic equipment (from lawn mowers and rotating saws, to robotic taxicabs and drone blades) around him all under the control of this fingertips to do the killing for him. 

This provided some innovative high-tech updates to popular slasher film tropes, which was, to be fair, entertaining, and actually fun, if you like the gory type of horror. Therein also lay a cautionary tale about the dangers of modern technology. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."