Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Child's Play (2019) - Horror Film Review

Due to my car being out of action for a week I almost missed out on seeing this re-boot of the classic psycho doll series. Child's Play has been a series I have always had a lot of time for, and one of the few series where they have been able to go from mostly serious horror to pure comedy horror and still remain good. With this reboot (directed by Lars Klevberg - Polaroid) they straddle the line, while it is full of funny moments it also at least tries to throw up some genuine horror.

The re-boot takes place in a world that is more technologically advanced than ours. This is a world where a company named 'Kaslan' are the prominent manufacturer, they have everything from TV's and phones to self driving cars, and a more advanced version of 'Alexa' in the form of a walking, talking 'Buddi' doll that uses A.I learning to look after and assist children. The film starts with a disgruntled employee at a Buddi factory getting fired from his job. The last thing he does before he kills himself is turn off all the safety protocols on the particular doll he had been working on.
We then go to young single mum Karen (Aubrey Plaza - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Parks and Recreation) and her teenage son, Andy (Gabriel Bateman - Annabelle, Light's Out) who end up with this defective doll that gets named Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill - Star Wars). With its machine learning limiters removed the doll comes to the decision that anyone who gets in the way of his and Andy's friendship deserves to die...

I had purposely avoided all trailers for this film and so I was interested to see just what changes would be made. The biggest by far is why the doll is evil. In the original it was a killer whose soul came to inhabit the Chucky doll. From the start this doll was evil as it was a killer controlling it. Here it instead all becomes a problem that is more sci-fi than paranormal, Chucky becomes evil due to the influences around it. It's A.I learning distorts its world view, so when Andy complains about his cat Chucky decides it needs to go. When Chucky sees Andy and his new friends - Pugg (Ty Consiglio - iZombie) and Falyn (Beatrice Kitsos - iZombie, The Exorcist TV series) laughing at brutal kills in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film it decides that violence is something that would please Andy. This is far less Annabelle, and far more The Toyminator. This technological angle is integral to the new vision as the 'cloud' allows Chucky to remotely control everything, from thermostats, to cars, drones, shutters, and even other Buddi dolls. It felt more in line with a Black Mirror episode in how it takes place in a world not to far into the future from ours.

This all starts off a lot more jovial, Chucky being able to swear, and being able to do 'naughty' things, such as stealing food from a vending machine are set up as humorous events. I enjoyed the divide between this and later on when horrific events start happening. Its ability to record audio and video footage, and its ability to lie creates a good mid film moment where everyone has started to turn against Andy and think he is blaming the doll for his own actions. It's a shame the characters aren't really that interesting outside of Karen, Plaza was wonderful as the young mother, I loved the way she acted around Bateman. The rest of the cast are mostly forgettable with one dimensional semi-villains, such as Karen's nasty boyfriend Shane (David Lewis - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency), and the slimy apartment supervisor. For this type of comedy horror I guess you shouldn't really expect deep or interesting characters. As for Chucky, Hamill is fine, I couldn't help but miss Brad Dourif which isn't fair on Hamill who is a pro when it comes to voice work (just look at his phenomenal voice work as Joker in the Batman cartoons and video games). I felt like this version of Chucky stayed a little bit too robotic in how it acted, again that isn't a good complaint seeing as how here he literally is a robotic A.I.

As is usually the case it is the kills that are set up to be the highlight, and they are bloody and fun. Someone chewed up in a lawn mower, and a nasty buzzsaw death were the highlights but I felt it never really ever went far enough. The finale features a scene that reminded me heavily of a similar part in the classic Carrie 2: The Rage but it never went to as crazy a level as it seemed like it was set to do. I couldn't help but draw comparisons between this scene and that far more violent and brutal one, The most we really get here are a couple of drone attacks and someone being dragged off camera. Effects are fine enough for the most part, but a skinned face that becomes a plot component looked pretty unrealistic. Towards the end of this I was starting to get a little bored despite the action ramping up a lot.

Child's Play was an interesting remake due to how they adapted it for the modern world. There's no denying the doll itself looks fantastic, and that the film is full of moments of genuine humour, but it, aside from a few scenes is lacking in anything too violent or gruesome, with the camera often pulling away, or things happening off screen. Still there is plenty of scope for a sequel in this new version, it has made it's money back at the box office, so I wouldn't be adverse to seeing more of this.


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