First introduced in 1988's Child's Play, the killer doll Chucky has been through a lot, from star of one of the better supernatural slashers of the post-A Nightmare on Elm Street, pre-Scream era, to featuring in a real-life tabloid scandal, to ending up as a sort-of postmodern, comedic exploration of the genre itself. It seems only fitting, therefore, that a remake should bring the villain in line with the modern sheen of today's horrors and pull the series back to its roots.
Gone is the serial-killer-possessed-doll of the original, replaced by a malfunctioning Alexa-like toy. The set-up is much the same as before, with Chucky ending up in the possession of a young boy, Andy, as a birthday present. From there things go bump in the night, and the supporting cast start having unfortunate accidents.
The shift in the nature of the villainy at the film's core allows the new version to go in two distinctive directions. The first is to tap into our discomfort with technology's all-encompassing presence in our lives (a mine richly tapped in Black Mirror). As the new Chucky learns and develops, he begins to gain access to various pieces of equipment, all linked by the Cloud. It's a cute gimmick and leads to some fun deaths. But where the film really stands apart is in the relationship it fosters between Chucky and Andy, with the new Child's Play at its most effective when it resembles a warped boy-and-toy story. Outstanding voice work from Mark Hamill carries many of these scenes, as the audience finds their sympathies swaying towards the demented villain.
A highly effective first half gives way to a more-expected, blood-filled second, culminating in a sequence that just isn't as gonzo as horror fans might hope. As the original was influenced by trends of the time, so too is Child's Play 2019. The film feels the need to give Andy a set of sassy friends, and at times the film feels like Stranger Things with a killer toy. The presence of both
This new take on Child's Play does enough to not sully the legacy of the cult series, without truly setting itself out as a premium example of the horror genre. When Hamill's softly-spoken tones are involved, the film is kicked up a notch, becoming something funnier and more distinctive. Here's to the sequel that will hopefully feel brave enough to just do its own thing.