I must say it was smart of this films marketing department to make the most of it’s shared release window with Toy Story 4.
In case you haven’t seen the darkly hilarious teaser posters for Child’s Play, they include multiple toys from the Toy Story universe after being brutally killed by Chucky, this series’ murderous doll.
I must state at the beginning that I am a newcomer to this series, therefore I have no nostalgia for the films or the character. I know of the series by reputation, but it sounds like the kind of thing I’d hate, broadly speaking an ageing horror series that never knows when to stop producing sequels, I don’t think Chucky ended up going to space though, so Jason Voorhees still holds the dubious honour of ‘most ridiculous sequel trajectory’.
Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman) is a friendless 13-year-old from a single parent family, feeling isolated from kids of his age given the fact he is hard of hearing. His well-meaning mother (Aubrey Plaza) buys him the popular Buddi AI Doll (voiced by Mark Hamill, but the play-thing soon turns deadly.
If there was ever an exhaustive list of horror film cliches, I’d say Child’s Play uses most of them. Jump scares, music building tension, comedy black character, an almost indestructible villain, the list goes on and on.
Yet, I find it very difficult to hold any of this against the film. Yes it is the stick I usually beat horror films with, but Child’s Play has a certain playful charm that is lacking in most typical horror films.
Whereas a film such as Brightburn merely wallows in its use of cliche, Child’s Play jumps off from them, and sees how far it can push the boundaries of its cliches. Yes, you can always spot which characters are going to die from a mile off, but you happily keep watching to see in what creative way they’re going to die, and that’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.
The film is helped immensely by the portrayal of Chucky. Mark Hamill, while mostly known in the mainstream for playing Luke Skywalker, is a decorated and well-respected voice actor, perhaps best regarded for his role as The Joker, in several animated Batman vehicles, and here he toes the line of cute and creepy extremely well, giving a dynamic performance that leads you wanting more.
The rest of the cast is fairly varied, if unspectacular, too. Aubrey Plaza does a decent job as the hard-working single mother, and Gabriel Bateman is one of the better child actors I’ve seen, which isn’t saying a lot really, given the hit-and-miss quality of child actors.
As I understand it, the Chucky franchise has always had an undercurrent of dark comedy, an undercurrent it retains in this re-imagining. Off the back of IT’s success, the fact that the films share producers was always going to be trumpeted. For what it’s worth, Child’s Play relies more heavily on the comedic tone, and there are a fair few funny moments mixed in with the creative violence.
As I say though, even if a film does do something different with a cliche, it does stop it from being one, and Child’s Play is littered with often-used horror devices, with mixed results. It has a few creative kills, but relies too heavily on shock-value body horror for my liking, and it starts to lose some of its logic towards the end.
In conclusion though, while hardly being anything new or exciting, this new iteration of Child’s Play is fun enough for what it is, containing enough laughs for the comedy crowd and violence for the horror ones to keep both happy, while keeping a brisk enough pace as to not turn off newcomers. I’d say it has given this stagnating toy of a franchise a fresh set of batteries.