DIR: Lars Klevberg • WRI: Tyler Burton Smith • DOP: DOP: Brendan Uegama • ED: Tom Elkins, Julia Wong • PRO: Seth Grahame-Smith, David Katzenberg • DES: Dan Hermansen • MUS: Bear McCreary • CAST: T Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill, Gabriel Bateman
Every Halloween you will always see the same costumes from horror movies. Ghostface will be requesting a song to the DJ dressed as Michael Myers. Freddy Krueger will be scrambling for change to get his coat in the cloakroom. Pennywise will be tearing it up on the dancefloor. One thing that all of these characters have it common is that they come from big recognisable films. One guy who shows up to every Halloween party in Chucky. There will always be someone donning dungarees and a cheap ginger wig. Despite all his appearances, every Halloween Chucky’s movies never seem to receive the same degree as love as the other horror icons. Chucky is left out in the cold while everyone else are film stars. It’s not for the want of trying; he has been in 7 films before this reboot. Chucky has always been waiting for that movie to shoot him into the VIP section of horror. With It (2017) and Halloween (2018) blowing fans away with their fresh takes on old-school horror, it seems fitting that Chucky gets an opportunity to garner new fans. Child’s Play (2019) gives the doll a chance to prove to the world that he deserves his annual place at the party.
Child’s Play (2019) tells the story of Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman), a 13-year-old, who, following a move to a new city, is left with no friends. In a bid to try and give her son some happiness for a change his mother (Aubrey Plaza) decides to give him a doll (voiced by Mark Hamill) for his birthday. With his new buddy Chucky by his side, Andy strives in the world. His grades improve in school, he makes new lifelong friends and Chucky scores the winning touchdown in the big game. Wait, this isn’t the feel-good indie film of the year? Andy’s doll Chucky is a murderous doll who rejects his programming in favour of becoming evil. After 7 films it would have been nice for Andy to catch a break for once. The film arrives at a time where horror has become staler than ever before. Every single month we get the same horror movie filled with the same lifeless characters and beat for beat jump scares. The film is surprisingly different to your average run of the mill horror film. The narrative could have easily been one where Chucky is evil for no reason from the get-go. In this film you can understand why Chucky picks up his trusted knife. Chucky is a good friend who just wants what’s best for Andy. The opening act details the rise of their friendship in a natural manner. From Andy’s reluctance, to their eventual bond, the friendship feels honest. When Chucky sees Andy being mistreated by his Mother’s boyfriend (David Lewis) and the family cat, Chucky seeks justice for Andy. Unfortunately, Chucky’s version of justice isn’t exactly legal. What follows is a second and third act that is more conventional than its first. The difference here is that we are invested in the characters. Nothing feels forced. Too often in horror films’ the villain goes full villain mode for no real reason. It’s refreshing to get a slasher film that cares about its characters.
Child’s Play made an ingenious decision in casting Mark Hamill as the menacing doll. Hamill is obviously most known for his portrayal of Luke Skywalker. While most actors would have decided to stick to blockbusters after leading the most successful series ever. Hamill took a different path. Hamill decides to become the best vocal performer in the world. If you are unaware of his voice performances check out his portrayal of The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. Hamill is arguably the finest Joker ever. In Child’s Play Hamill gives a voice to Chucky. The original Chucky, Brad Dourif, gave the character a gruff voice which was clearly evil, that’s not an insult – his performances were terrific. Hamill decides to give Chucky a child-like voice that is eerily off-putting. Even when he goes down a villainous route Chucky’s voice never changes. Hamill’s performance of “The Buddi Song” will leave you with Goosebumps. The character is let down by its design, which belongs in a cheap parody film. How they greenlit a design of Chucky that resembles a CPR doll is beyond me. Hamill’s performance deserved to come out of a menacing figure not a cheap SNL prop.
Having a teenager as your leading character is always a risky move. Especially in horror where the teen characters are usually whiny and unrelatable. Gabriel Bateman does a decent job as Andy. Bateman is no stranger to horror, having previously appeared in Lights Out. Bateman is likable as the kid who can’t catch a break. It’s easy to forget that Hamill wasn’t there when filming was taking place, Bateman was literally acting with a doll. Despite this, he still manages to create chemistry with Chucky. Bateman is a talented young man who I’m sure we’ll see more of very soon. Once Andy makes friends the movie falters. Ty Consiglio plays Pugg in a performance that wouldn’t have landed him a part on Nickelodeon. Beatrice Kitos does better as Pugg’s sister Falyn, but they take the film off course with teen angst. Had Andy been written like his friends the film would have been a complete disaster. Aubrey Plaza is as entertaining as always as Andy’s mother Karen. Plaza uses her comedic experience to land solid laughs. It’s a shame that she disappeared for chunks of the film because she is always a hoot when on screen. Without a doubt the standout human character in the film is Detective Mike, played by Bryan Tyree Henry. Henry is one of the most consistent actors around today and shows yet again what he has to offer. Henry brings charm and liability to a character that in any other movie would be one note. If Hollywood doesn’t cast Henry and Plaza in a romantic comedy in the next year I will riot.
There’s been an air of controversy surrounding the creation of this film. This is the first ever film featuring Chucky that has not been written by creator Don Mancini. Mancini has distanced himself from Child’s Play (2019) after MGM didn’t want him on board. It’s never nice to see a creator being pushed away from his own creation and leaves a sour vibe around the film. Lars Klevberg is the director of this Chucky reboot. Klevberg’s only other feature to date is another 2019 movie called Polaroid. The direction he chooses to take this film was wise. Turning Chucky into an Alexa-type gadget was wise. The scares may not be intense, but you can’t deny they are creative. Klevberg does fall victim to clogging his last act with unnecessary jump scares. The script, by first-time movie writer Tyler Burton Smith, is filled with clever gags. Smith doesn’t quite figure out how to write teenagers or how to finish the movie neatly. For a first-time writer there is a lot to be admired. For 2 guys who are new on the movie scene, Klevberg and Smith managed to make one of the year’s surprisingly enjoyable films.
Child’s Play (2019) is the best Chucky movie to date. It’s not that this is a masterpiece. For starters the other 7 aren’t that good, besides Chucky himself. Everyone expected this to be a dud. All the pieces seemed to come from different boxes, yet they all fitted together. Hamill is riveting as the villain. Bateman delivers one of the better leading teen performances. Aubrey Plaza and Bryan Tyree Henry are both too likeable to dislike. You’ll come out of the theatre with an odd feeling. Seldom do you walk out of a horror film thinking of the characters instead of the horror. Yet Child’s Play (2019) is that movie. Roll on October when we will finally have a reason for so many people to dress up as Chucky. I might just join them.
Liam De Brùn
16 (see IFCO for details)
Child’s Play is released 21st June 2019