by Patrick Bromley
The new Child's Play is an unusual case: it's a movie that's better than I could ever have expected it to be while still not being a movie I like very much. I suspect this has more to do with me than the film, which is competently made and even quite enjoyable at times. For a studio horror movie, it's surprisingly gory and nasty. More importantly, it chooses to forge its own path rather than slavishly imitate its predecessor. Yes, it's clearly Child's Play, but it has been reconsidered practically from the ground up. It's the same model with new parts.
I like that this new Child's Play doesn't replay the whole "doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer" angle, opting instead to tell a tale of technology run amuck. Our dependence on technology, the movie seems to suggest, might just kill us -- especially if that technology begins to depend on us just as much. It weirdly has the effect of absolving Chucky of his sins somewhat, since he's no longer operating on evil free will but is instead just a victim of bad programming. His love for Andy seems genuine, even if he's got a funny way of showing it. When Mark Hamill was announced as the new voice of Chucky, I was worried he was going to be doing either a Brad Dourif imitation or a variation on his Joker. Instead, he's riffing on HAL -- a robot who simply wants to learn.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (a movie the characters apparently watch totally out of order) that of course made me very happy because I'm me, even if it does suggest that impressionable minds might learn to kill from watching horror movies, a message I would have thought went out in the 1980s. The design of Chucky is awful, but the way the character is handled is interesting and different from the original. Director Lars Klevberg (Polariod) stages the kill sequences for maximum grodiness, and it's nice to see a big-name horror movie like this one go for broke in those moments. Two of the three major deaths are spectacular, with a Final Destination-esque spark of nastiness to them. They alone almost make the movie worth seeing.
Tom Cruise Mummy quoting a bunch of better movies in the hopes of scoring some horror cred. I actually had 2011's Fright Night -- another remake of a Tom Holland film -- in my head throughout most of Child's Play. Both are serviceable horror movies taken on their own, but to watch them is to see where they fall short and where their predecessors succeed. The 1988 Child's Play is a movie that shouldn't succeed but does, to the point that it's a genuinely special film and one of the high points of '80s horror. The 2019 Child's Play is a remake that shouldn't succeed but does, only so far as it's not terrible but unlikely to be remembered as much more than a horror trivia question. Of course, who knows? Maybe another viewing will allow me to watch it as its own entity and not in relation to a movie I love a lot. I've been wrong about such things before.