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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Review: Child's Play (2019)

Director: Lars Klevberg
Screenplay: Tyler Burton Smith
Year: 2019

Synopsis: A mother gifts her teen son the most popular toy in the market as a birthday present. Neither of them had any idea of the sinister nature of the toy.

One of the most common problems a work team faces when doing a remake is thinking on effective methods to create tension and surprise. When you have already seen a movie or know a villain, you know what it’s capable of doing and it is complicated to develop a story that surprises. This is what happens with “Child’s Play”, which is based in a version with the same title released in 1988 by director Tom Holland, and a villain we know extensively thanks to its success and the countless sequels it spawned. 

In this instance director Lars Klevberg (“Polaroid”) and screenwriter Tyler Burton Smith (“Quantum Break”) are aware that their audience knows the story of the original version and knows the villain. In a smart and bold way, they start the movie with a scene that describes all that the toy, now known as Buddi, can do. Contrary to Good Guy in the 1988 version, Buddi is a high technology toy capable of communicating with several technological devices we use in our homes. This puts in perspective the new offensive arsenal that Buddi will have available and leaves the viewer impressed about how vulnerable its victims can become.

While in the 1988 version it is a voodoo spell which transfers the soul of a murderer to the toy, this version is adapted to modern life. This time the bad behavior of the toy is caused by a manufacturing defect, product of a pissed-off worker who decided to overwrite the security protocols of one of the toys before packing it. This defect allows the toy to learn from human actions and imitate their behavior. The way in which the toy learns and manifests represents two areas of modern life: the evil and violence we are constantly exposed to and our dependence on technology.

Instead of developing certain details, they assume the audience knows them and does not try to change them but overcome them without wasting much time. During the first act, we already know Andy, the kid that is gifted the defective Buddi, which is quickly baptized as Chucky in a funny way, as the name comes out as purposely forced out in an evident act of just quickly get over this. The way in which Andy receives the toy emulates the way this happened in the original version and there is no need to develop it further.

We know from the original version that this toy will end up becoming a killer and instead of trying to create doubt in the audience as if to the killer is Andy or Chucky, as what happened in the original version, they chose to develop how Chucky learns evil form humans, but at the same time has in its nature being a toy to make a kid happy, recognizing that the old formula would not have worked this time. This obsession from the toy to make Andy happy and it unmeasured learning is what gives birth to a plot based on the original version, but very different from it.

Something that made this character popular in horror cinema is its excessive violence and this is something fans wanted to see. In this “Child’s Play” does not disappoint and we have enough violence and blood to back-up Chucky’s reputation. The violent scenes are graphic and original and I liked how the capacity of the toy to interact with other tech objects was integrated to develop tense moments and creative deaths, very different to what we have seen from this character, but being faithful to its essence. 

The protagonist cast composed of  Gabriel Bateman (“Lights Out”) and Aubrey Plaza (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) as Andy and his mother and Brian Tyree Henry (“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”) as detective Norris do a great job, as well as the rest of the cast. The story moves at a good pace and part of it is because of the chemistry between the cast. Only some dialogues came out as cheesy and some characters were underdeveloped, but these are weaknesses of the script rather than from the actors, but it does not affect the development or enjoyment of the movie. The visuals also hold some importance in maintaining the rhythm and creating tension and this is worked well, except for a few scenes in which Chucky is evidently put in by CGI and looks a bit weird.

This new version of “Child’s Play” is an example that it is not necessary to imitate every scene of a movie to homage it. Different shots and ideas serve as homage for fans looking for the nostalgic factor of the original, using comedy and horror without being campy. Besides the influence of the 1988 version, other classics are also paid homage, as it was “E. T.”, which served as inspiration for the special effects and which have clear references in some scenes. I wouldn’t even call this a remake, but rather inspired in Holland’s 1988 version and a new take on an iconic character in horror movies, which personality has been altered much during the sequels, but that in this version is more in sync with its original essence.

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