In 1988, the world was introduced to one of the most iconic horror villains of all time: Chucky. Chucky was a doll that through voodoo magic, contained the soul of a serial killer. Chucky set the world on fire and launched an entire franchise of Chucky-based films (and an upcoming television show starring the original Chucky voice Brad Dourif and developed by original writer Don Mancini is currently in the works as we speak). Despite consistently mixed critical and financial responses to the films, Chucky has yet to leave our screens. And after so many years of Chucky, you would think that a remake while the original series is still ongoing might be unnecessary. I am here today to tell you that you would be very wrong.
I must admit that I was skeptical walking into this remake of Child’s Play. The only thing consistent about remakes is how hit and miss the quality level is. The 2017 remake/adaptation of IT went on to be a huge critical and financial win for Warner Brothers. Despite making its money back, the 2019 remake of Pet Semetary left much to be desired. So, I went in skeptical but also quite optimistic about this new take on Chucky. I started out with low expectations but grew more hopeful as wonderful talent such as Aubrey Plaza and Mark Hamill signed onto the project. My optimism hit peak when I heard that they were doing a new spin on Chucky where he is a robotic toy instead of a possessed toy. That new, all too relevant spin on the character is one of the many reasons this remake is wonderful.
The new Chucky, which is titled a Buddi doll (basically a Cabbage Patch doll with the capabilities of Siri) is designed to be your friend until the end – or at least until the new update is released. He is designed to learn about his owner and their environment slowly, so he can become more helpful in making their everyday lives more pleasant and fun. What happens when an artificially intelligent doll (that might be a bit defective is placed with a teenage boy in the modern day. He observes things that make teenage boys happy: violence. Violent video games and movies are all the rage in the world of entertainment. Look at how fans were upset when more characters didn’t die in the final season of Game of Thrones or kids play shooting games like Fortnite on an endless loop. Chucky sees that violence makes his owner happy and decides to replicate that in an attempt to please his owner, Andy.
This is where this film has a lot to say in my opinion. Of course there are the messages of where do we draw the line with technology and artificial intelligence? When is a robot no longer just a computer but a being with a mind and feelings of its own. And the last big one: where do we draw the line of condoning violence for entertainment? Chucky is almost a representation of Hollywood, who is constantly producing projects that torture and kill off its characters to please the bloodlust of its audience. Andy almost represents the audience who is screaming in terror as Chucky tries to please him with horrid acts of violence. The only difference is as an audience member, we are to some degree, more in line with Chucky. We paid a ticket to see a doll kill people, we pay TV subscriptions to see dragons burn masses and zombies tear people apart. We even attend live events where people beat each other up just for entertainment. We cheer on the violence; and though most of it is fictional, what does that say about us?
Deep introspective questions about enjoying violence aside: the kills in this film are quite fun. I would put them on the level of the Saw franchise in some scenes. Chucky is very inventive and knows how to put his ability to control technology to the test. If you’re going to this movie in hopes of seeing some gnarly kills, then you won’t be disappointed. Particularly by the incredibly fun, violent, and outrageously chaotic third act. The first two thirds of the film are genuinely just some dark fun with a bit of suspense. The final act however is deliciously dark, over-the-top, and had me on the edge of my seat. What the film does well though is making me shake and squirm but all with a huge smile on my face.
Another thing this film does well is bringing the relationship of Andy and Chucky to life. Somehow, someway, Chucky is made to be sympathetic in this film. He wants nothing more than to be friends with Andy and will do anything to make sure nothing stands in the way of that. When their friendship is good, you’ll be hoping the movie never veers into horror. And when things do inevitably get grisly, you’re heartbroken for the pain that both Andy and Chucky go through as things descend into a hellish chaos.
This relationship is also brought to life by some triumphant performances from the cast. Mark Hamill crushes it as Chucky, which is a hard feat to do when the original is so iconic. He emotes humorously, creepily, and angrily in a startlingly sympathetic way. Gabriel Bateman is one to watch as he brings a satisfying realism to teenage Andy. He is emotional, likable and someone to root for in every scene of the movie. The always impeccable Aubrey Plaza is well cast as a young mom who is just trying to figure out how to properly raise her son. She brings her usual sarcastic bite while also making for a believable mother who is desperately trying to help her son. The supporting cast is quite good all around as well, though the focus is largely on Andy and Chucky.
The directing and writing work very well here. Though there are some things that are a bit unbelievable about the film, they never bothered me too much, as the film is always winking at its audience with its humorous reality stretches. The score is also delightful, mixing childlike sounds with eerie undertones. The only technical qualm I have is that sometimes, Chucky looks a little off. His face can move in odd fashions and not look quite right but this never took away from the film for me.
Overall, this film was a blast from beginning to end. Don’t go in expecting the exact same story or Chucky from the original Child’s Play and you will enjoy the wild ride that you’ll be on. It delivers on all fronts; it’s got scares, it’s got laughs, it’s got hearts and one seriously violent doll. I’ll be adding this to my Halloween watchlist for years to come.