When it comes to remakes these days, I feel like I’ve softened on my stance regarding their existence because simply, like death and taxes, they are just an inevitability. And when it was announced last year that we were going to be getting a new iteration of Child’s Play, of course I had some concerns, considering we had a Chucky franchise that was still doing its thing, and the original Child’s Play played a massive role in the formative years of my childhood.
So, going into Child’s Play (2019), I wasn't exactly sure how the remake would land with me, but I'll be the first to admit that I was shocked by how much I enjoyed it. Not only does it deliver up a viciously entertaining time, but it also does what every great remake should do—find a way to bring something new to the table—and that’s precisely why Child’s Play (2019) worked as well for me as it did. It’s just a helluva good time all around, and tons of nasty fun.
Written by Tyler Burton Smith and directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Lars Klevberg, Child’s Play (2019) follows single mom Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) and her teenaged son Andy (Gabriel Bateman), who are settling into their new life, but Andy is struggling to figure out just where he fits in, both socially and at home as well, especially considering his mom enjoys having her boyfriend, Shane (David Lewis) over frequently for some “intimate” hangouts. Karen realizes that as a single parent she hasn’t been able to provide Andy with all the attention he needs, so she decides to give him a “Buddi” doll, manufactured by the uber-tech conglomerate Kaslan, which is meant to be a pseudo pal for Andy that also happens to be able to control the television, the thermostat, listening devices—you name it.
At first, Andy isn't thrilled with his new pal, especially as he feels like he's a bit too old for dolls, but once Chucky imprints himself on the teen, Andy begins to enjoy the company of his AI pal, which of course starts off innocently enough. But Chucky starts to malfunction in some dangerous ways, and Andy has to figure out a way to stop his new "Buddi" before the doll goes too far and eliminates everyone he loves for good.
For Child’s Play (2019), Smith’s script sidesteps the concept of voodoo and instead smartly focuses on making this iteration of the story a full-blown technological nightmare that also thoughtfully dives into the isolation that is plaguing our highly connected world as of late. There are some interesting themes that have been woven into the narrative for this new Child’s Play, making it just as timely as it is devilishly delightful to watch. In terms of Klevberg's efforts on the remake, I must say it is a truly impressive early feature (his other film, Polaroid, was also released this year in Europe) that keeps a consistently energetic pace, gives us characters with some depth to them, but also leans incredibly hard into its R rating, which should undoubtedly please some of the hardened horror fans out there who enjoy a whole lot of gore with their genre movies (there's one kill in particular that was so awesomely gruesome, that I couldn't help but cackle as it was happening).
Beyond the fact that it also tips its hat to Child's Play O.G. a few times, I also enjoyed how Klevberg has clearly put his own fandom on display here, with some lovely nods to films like RoboCop, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (which might be one of the remake’s best and most hilarious moments), as well as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. As mentioned, Child’s Play (2019) is gleefully gory at times, which was fun and all, but I am an even bigger fan of the Buddi redesign from Todd Masters and his team at Masters FX, as Chucky is an absolute marvel to watch throughout the film, and it fits perfectly in line with the Buddi doll’s functionality. Also, kudos to Mark Hamill, who lends his vocal talents to bringing Chucky to life here, as he finds a way to make the doll empathetic and terrifying all at once, which is no easy feat whatsoever. But Hamill is just aces and was the perfect fit for this role.
There are also a few other brilliant “creations” that get unleashed later on in the film, but to reveal those directly would take away from the balls-out fun that awaits viewers during the remake’s brilliantly over-the-top finale. Seriously, it’s like a genre fan’s dream come true and in some ways reminded me of Cabin in the Woods, but on a smaller scale (or maybe it was just me—either way, I had a blast). It’s also worth noting that Bear McCreary’s score is absolutely brilliant and might be one of the best we’ve ever heard in a Child’s Play film ever.
There are going to be a lot of horror fans who are going to be outright dismissive to this new Child’s Play, and believe me, I get it. No one likes to see their favorite stories being retold or the iconic characters that they’ve admired for decades taken in a different direction. As Garth says in Wayne’s World, “We fear change,” and it’s something I totally understand as a fellow fan who still feels all of the stings of the remakes in the past that completely floundered in their efforts. But with Child’s Play (2019), I found myself not only wholly entertained, but completely surprised with Klevberg’s efforts. When it comes to the ideal way to approach a remake, this one gets way more right than it gets wrong, and I cannot wait to see it again.
Movie Score: 4/5