Chucky unlucky in ‘Child’s Play’ remake
Even by the lamest, lowest standards of schlock horror, Child’s Play is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Worse, it’s not even fun trash. This unnecessary remake of the 1988 surprise hit, which launched a franchise – seven films in all, with a television series on the horizon – has been calculated to operate at the lowest-common-denominator of the genre.
It should be noted that the creators of the original franchise have essentially disavowed this version, and it’s immediately apparent why. This Child’s Play starts badly and only gets worse.
For reasons known only to screenwriter Tyler Burton Smith (making an inauspicious feature debut) and director Lars Klevberg (his second feature), this film opts for science-fiction rather than horror. The hi-tech “Buddi” doll isn’t possessed by an evil spirit (as in the original film) but has been reprogrammed by a disgruntled factory worker.
It’s this particular doll that finds its way to the hands of young Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman), a withdrawn youngster newly arrived in Chicago with his single mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza), and it’s not long before this doll, named “Chucky” (voiced by Mark Hamill), gleefully goes on a murderous rampage.
The filmmakers don’t take the easy way out; they take the stupid way out, as the characters’ penchant for moronic behavior only seems to escalate with each passing moment. Chucky, at least, has the distinction of malfunction. The human characters have no excuse for their aberrant behavior. It’s impossible to sympathize with them on any level. They’re so stupid, and they get what they deserve.
Plaza, enjoying a rare big-screen lead, is unable to breathe life into her stock character, which is written as perhaps the most irresponsible single mother in horror-film history. Completely oblivious to what is taking place right before her eyes, whether it be the behavior of her boorish, beer-swilling boyfriend (David Lewis) – who comes to a predictably sticky end (none too soon) — or dragging Andy into danger without a second thought.
Brian Tyree Henry, a likable actor cast as the resident police detective, doesn’t fare any better. Evidence stares him straight in the face, and he too is completely oblivious. Plaza and Henry are talented professionals, and to say that they deserve better is an understatement surpassed only by the thought the viewer deserves better, too. Horror fans put up with a lot, and Child’s Play almost seems engineered to push that tolerance to the limit.
There are elements of satire and black comedy, but they’ve been presented in such a crass, simplistic manner that gives a new dimension to the term “obvious.” There are no surprises here, just enormous lapses in logic that grow wider and wider. There’s something vaguely insulting about a film that treats its genre – much less a discerning audience – with such contempt.
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