Chucky. Many of us know him, many of us don’t – regardless, he’s no doubt part of the horror halls of fame a like every old franchise that is at least slightly popular, why not reboot it in 2019? Child’s Play is exactly that, a “new approach” to an old franchise. But where many other reboots fail, Child’s Play succeeds in providing a modernized spin on its own source material while still maintaining the same spirit the older films tried to embody. Like most Chucky films, Child’s Play is the definition of camp-horror fun, providing gruesome death sequences, quippy one-liners, and mountains of intentional horror tropes. This part comedy, part horror film follows the story of Chucky (Mark Hamill), a kids doll that develops a murderous appetite when he makes his way into the household of a single mother (Aubrey Plaza) and her son (Gabriel Bateman).
Chucky has always been one of those horror films that is trying to make you laugh at its intentionally preposterous plot, something that has drawn in such a cult following. At its core, the Chucky franchise is as much comedy as it is a horror. But unlike the more recent Chucky films, Child’s Play takes its human characters a little too seriously at times, attempting to provide a moral or message to its audience when it doesn’t need to, and one that unfortunately gets lost in transit. Despite this, Child’s Play makes sure to portray Chucky as the lovable asshole we all know – but perhaps not in the way that die-hard enthusiasts of the later films will expect (or like). This is Chucky in his formative years; naive, hesitant, and slowly learning to embrace his killer tendencies. The “modernized” spin on this film is going to twist a nail in the legs of a lot of Chucky purists, simply because it diverts from the character’s original origins. But what it lacks in faithfulness, it makes up for in Mark Hamill’s fantastic voice acted performance.
Hamill being the legendary voice actor that he is, provides a creepy, hilarious, and blasé performance as the killer doll — fitting just the tone and personality that is required to capture his wacky personality and quirks. Whether he’s skulking in the corner of a dark room uttering creepy words or singing a lullaby in an off-pitch voice, Hamill nails all the levels of Chucky’s personality. As for the humans, Aubrey Plaza felt like… well, Aubrey Plaza, a teen that is perpetually moody, despite her playing the role of a young mother. Films such as these are perhaps stretching her range as she seems to have trouble playing anyone that isn’t sarcastic in nature. Gabriel Bateman plays the role of Andy, a young boy who suffers from a bit of loneliness. While child-actor Gabriel Bateman stumbles throughout the first half of the film, he eventually finds his footing and provides a well-acted performance as a kid getting tormented by a hilariously creepy doll.
Where this film visually strives in was its marriage between practical effects and CGI on Chucky himself. I found myself not knowing what was and wasn’t CGI in many of the candid moments Chucky is on screen. The fact that practical effects were maintained throughout this film helped make Chucky feel much more physical and believable. But while Chucky himself looked great and felt real, what took me out of the film was its somewhat dull choice of locations, as the film is mostly set in a dinky dark apartment block – you don’t get much variety and the halls of the apartment quickly begin to blend together. There are moments in this film where its lighting is well executed, but director Lars Klevberg and cinematographer Brendan Uegama don’t provide much in the way of interesting camera-work, something which could have significantly improved the repetitive locations.
Lars Klevberg does a great job in providing a fun and modernized version of Chucky, but perhaps not enough to grant it full brownie points as a flat-out parody or horror, leaving it in an awkward state of limbo in some areas. The modern twist may agitate some, but I found it as one of the few times where it was executed successfully. If you’re in search of a horror film that isn’t necessarily scary, but simply a load of fun, Child’s Play has some time to play. Boxed up in a shiny new body, Child’s Play gets a lot of things right about the Chucky franchise, providing a solid recreation of the Chucky character inside a fairly standard horror flick.