Review – Upchucking a Remake (“Child’s Play”)

Somebody shoot me. Here comes yet another remake to torture us all and remind us that Hollywood is fresh out of ideas. UGH!! And if that wasn’t bad enough, the killer doll in question (“Chucky”) is called Buddi, is digitally electronic this time around, and can be operated by your cellphone. *Groan*. Damn millennials!

Okay, first imagine a world where every electronic device you own is made by Kaslan Industries (Tim Matheson as Henry Kaslan). TV’s, cellphones, room thermostats, roomba vacuums, and everything digital. And now there’s Buddi! An interactive ugly-looking AI doll that can speak, walk, record video, download stuff from your phone, and do all sorts of crazy things. However, some disgruntled sweatshop worker in Vietnam removes all the safety protocols from one of the dolls AI chip that gets shipped to the USA.

Say hello to Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza), a single mom to hearing-impaired tween Andy (Gabriel Bateman) living in Chicago. For her son’s birthday, she gives him a Buddi doll, which he quickly activates with his cellphone. But this “special” Buddi (voiced by Mark Hamill) renames itself Chucky (for some unexplained reason) and begins to ingratiate itself into Andy’s life, absorbing information into its database; especially what Andy likes and doesn’t like… like the cat clawing him. Pretty soon the doll is wreaking all sorts of havoc, much to Andy’s shock & surprise, and to his new friends, Falyn (Beatrice Kitsos) and Pugg (Ty Consiglio) as well.

Chucky offs Karen’s loser boyfriend (seriously, WHO in their right mind takes down Christmas lights—late at night—with them STILL ON??) and leaves Andy, shall we say, a souvenir? Meanwhile, detective Mike Norris (Brian Tyree Henry), who lives down the hall, is getting suspicious of not only the boyfriends death, but the very strange dismemberment of the sleazy apartment janitor (Trent Redekop, a dead-ringer for Jack Black!). As Chucky get more intuitive and possessive of his young master, the body count climbs, thanks to his ‘magic finger’ (think E.T.) and his Kaslan digital connections.

Andy, stressed out beyond belief, tries to get anyone to believe “it was the DOLL!”, but you can imagine how that works. The ending inside the Zed-Mart is a bloodbath and features one of THE worst endings I’ve seen in a long time. Not one, but TWO back-to-back deus ex machina’s! Deplorable! What did the writer, Tyler Burton Smith, even think? Perhaps because this is his first screenplay ever, having only written video game shorts before? Yeah, it shows. Taking a page from Black Mirror, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits and better movies, this sloppy, campy, and far gorier remake/reboot/re-whatever was unnecessary and totally aimed squarely at millennials.

How bad is it? Every jump-scare (or near-miss) is punctuated by Bear McCreary’s loud musical STING blast! BLAAA!! It becomes a joke after the 15th time. This movie is very much like the current and far superior Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too episode of Black Mirror, but without all the blood. And let’s not get into all the massive plot holes, mind-bending physics issues (how does a doll tie up & gag a fully-grown woman? How?), and the boring dialogue you’ve heard a dozen times before. It’s no wonder this film was denounced by the OG cast and filmmakers. At least Hamill’s V/O, reminiscent of his Joker’s V/O, is decent and eerie enough.

Also a newbie is director Lars Klevberg, another video game short guy, but at least he shows promise with the camera and an old-school flair for horror movies. If you’ve ever seen one of those tacky 80’s slasher films (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Prom Night, etc), then you’ll recognize the style. Another nice aspect of this film are the actors, who really commit to their craft. Gabriel Batemen is quite excellent as young Andy, who has to play opposite a murderous doll and makes it look believable. Quirky comedienne Aubrey Plaza is also quite good as the exasperated mother and the friends, Kitsos and Consiglio, are very good.

Child’s Play (1988)

The one that started it all and is STILL the best! Spawning a crazy SIX sequels (!!!), this film raised a cult following that is still going strong today with eerie action figure life-size dolls, comic books, and a TV series. Unfortunately, there’s always gotta be a remake/reboot to come along and mess the whole thing up!

It’s a dark and stormy night when serial killer, Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), is being chased by homicide detective Mike Norris (Chris Saradon) through the streets of Chicago. Ray is shot, dying, and escapes into a toy shop where, using a voodoo spell, he transfers his soul into a Good Guys doll. The store is then struck by lightning, causing it to explode, killing Charles, but bringing the doll to life! The following day, widow Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) unknowingly purchases the doll (now known as Chucky) from a street peddler as a birthday gift for her six-year-old son, Andy (Alex Vincent).

Later that evening, Maggie Peterson (Dinah Manoff) babysits Andy while Karen is working late and the murders begins! Maggie is hit in the face with a hammer by an unseen assailant (guess who?!) and falls out the window to her death. Detective Norris thinks little Andy is a suspect, but Andy claims Chucky killed Maggie. Soon Chucky starts talking (voiced by Dourif) to Andy and tells him what to do, prompting him to do all kinds of weird things that leads to other deaths and a trip to a psychiatric hospital.

But it’s not long before mom finds out the truth about the doll and tells Mike, who naturally doesn’t quite believe her… that is, until Chucky attacks Mike. Chucky, really pissed off about being a doll, visits a voodoo instructor and finds out he has to transfer his soul into a living being, and that being has to be Andy! The race is on to not only save Andy, but to destroy that murderous doll from others. It all sounds goofy, silly, and downright dumb, but this movie rocks. The SPFX are great, and Dourif’s raspy V/O of Chucky is just what this doll needed. A gleefully sinister horror film that is fun to watch; how often to get to see that?

Director and co-writer Tom Holland (Fright Night, Thinner) admitted he got inspired from watching the “Talky Tina” episode from The Twilight Zone. And it’s easy to see why. This movie, made with a modest $9 million budget, made a cool $33 million, prompting sequel after sequel, each one getting more elaborate and crazy with better Chucky SPFX, goofier deaths, and more tongue-in-cheek gags. By Bride of Chucky & Seed of Chucky (number four & five), it had become almost a comedy with hilarious meta-jokes, pop-culture references, and Chucky practically breaking the 4th wall.

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