Not a sequel, not quite a remake, it’s best to think of this version of Child’s Play, the iconic – and controversial – 1988 horror about a murderous doll as a reimagining.
Where the original was directly inspired by the craze for Cabbage Patch Kids – hideous, dough-faced rag dolls that looked like a toddler in anaphylactic shock – this version reinvents the plastic psychopath Chucky for the age of The Internet Of Things – here, he’s an ultra-connected home help device-cum-plaything-cum-serial-killer, an evil Alexa in dungarees.
Director Lars Klevberg asks you to suspend your disbelief (and sensitivity to racial stereotyping) right from the off, as we see a disgruntled employee in the grim Vietnamese Buddi doll factory exacting revenge on his boss by, in about four strokes, removing from one doll the coded inhibitors that prevent it from being a total bastard, which begs the question: why code the evil stuff in at all? Especially to the point where an evil Buddi’s eyes turn red, instead of blue – because that seems like a weird hidden feature.
But that, in a nutshell, sums up the approach to this version of Child’s Play – it’s essentially a 1980s kids’ adventure film dressed up as a horror, with some incredibly brutal (and Final Destination-level inventive) killings along the way and a brilliant voice performance from Mark Hamill as Chucky, cute one minute, threatening the next.
The benefits of this approach – tested on 2017’s hit remake of It, by the same team, is that we have a horror film with a good, zippy script, characters you care about and some great laughs along the way (the neighbourhood kids teach Chucky to say “This is for Tupac” as he hacks away).
The downside? It’s simply not that scary. The original Child’s Play was so unsettling because it was the spirit of an adult – a really awful adult – inhabiting an innocent-looking doll. So his relationship with the original Andy was one of coercion and grooming, and of a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing, and really quite horrible to watch. In this Child’s Play, Chucky is basically just needy – he wants to be loved by Andy, and to remove any competition for Andy’s affection. He’s the killer doll version of a pet cat presenting its owner with a dead bird in the morning, except his votive is your mum’s boyfriend’s face on a melon.
That being said, it’d be hard not to enjoy this film if taken as the funny, silly splatter movie that it is. And a scene towards the end will have 1980s kids whose childhoods were haunted by Teddy Ruxpin, the animatronic teddy, paralysed with fear. Coming, as it does, at the same time as Toy Story 4, we’d take 90 minutes with Nu-Chucky over the same with toybox squares Woody and co any day.