M.L. Miller here! Because you and I love the horror so much, I’ve decided to post a “Worth Noting” pick along with each of my Horror Countdown choices each day through October. The same rules apply. The film must have been released before September 30th, 2019 to the masses (no festival picks). This means that is available to view in theaters, On Demand, DVD/BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films.
How did I compile this list? Horror is such a broad and varied genre that sometimes, while these choices may not represent the best—something about the film is worth taking notice. Some of these films have similar themes to their counterparts in the main countdown. Some just missed the countdown by an inch or two. Others were just squozed in because there’s nothing like them out there. Others because they have been made available for the first time. One way or another, it’s more horror to enjoy!
I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Worth Noting – CHILD’S PLAY 2019!
Not only did we get a new HALLOWEEN this past year, but our favorite killer doll made a comeback as well…sort of. While a lot of what made Chucky – Chucky was rewritten, CHILD’S PLAY still managed to be somewhat entertaining. I don’t think it is one of the best of the year, but Aubrey Plaza and some truly unnerving moments make this one better than I thought it would be, so I wanted to make sure to give this one a Worth Noting spot. Released on June 21, 2019, here’s my review of CHILD’S PLAY 2019! Available on BluRay/DVD, digital download, and On Demand!
CHILD’S PLAY (2019)
Directed by Lars Klevberg
Written by Tyler Burton Smith, based on characters created by Don Mancini
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Tim Matheson, Brian Tyree Henry, Trent Redekop, David Lewis, Beatrice Kitsos, Ty Consiglio, Carlease Burke, Amber Taylor, Zahra Anderson, Kristin York, Marlon Kazadi, Mia Bella, Amro Majzoub, Nicole Anthony, Ben Andrusco-Daon, Anantjot S Aneja, & Mark Hamill as the voice of Chucky!
The reimagining of CHILD’S PLAY was a film I didn’t think I really actually wanted to see. I know I was going to eventually have to see it, but being a fan of the previous installments and knowing that a series is being made for ScyFy focusing on that timeline was coming, I kind of wanted to protest this obvious cash grab launching from the success of last Halloween’s HALLOWEEN relaunch. So when I eventually did go see this one in theaters, it was under protest. I went into this film not wanting to hate it, but with some wary feelings about the intentions behind the making of it. Having seen CHILD’S PLAY 2019, I didn’t hate it. I found many issues with it—minor and major. But in the end, found it to be surprisingly effective in some parts.
Ditching the Charles Lee Ray voodoo angle and went for a more tech-savvy premise, you know, for the kids. CHILD’S PLAY begins as a Korean programmer is shamed and fired for a mistake. He happens to be programming a new Buddy doll during the termination, so as payback, he enters in a sort of virus into the doll—removing his inhibitor chip or whatever, so that the doll’s views of right or wrong are skewed and ethics are thrown out with last year’s toy fad. With everyone mobbing stores for the new Buddy doll, single mom Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) has given up trying to get her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a new Buddy doll. But when a customer returns a Buddy doll because it has “creepy ginger hair,” Karen convinces her manager to let her keep it. Though he is a little too old to be playing with dolls, Andy is without friends in his new neighborhood, so he reluctantly accepts the doll and begins to bond with it. The programming allows the doll (named Chucky and voiced by Mark Hamill) to bond with Andy. Soon the two are inseparable and Karen is happy Andy has a new friend. But Chucky’s attachment to Andy intensifies and as Andy begins making new friends in the neighborhood, he decides to leave Chucky at home. Meanwhile, Karen is in a somewhat abusive relationship with a red-haired man named Shane (David Lewis), who in turn shows signs of being abusive to Andy as well. Feeling neglected and eager to please, Chucky begins taking out basically anyone Andy has an issue with and thus a new iteration of the 80’s slasher is born.
Let’s begin with what I dug about this movie.
First and foremost, there’s Aubrey Plaza. I’ll watch her do anything. Now I know she doesn’t guarantee a hit, but having her in it will at least make her parts in the film watchable. In CHILD’S PLAY she plays a young mom struggling to have a life on top of taking care of her child. She’s believable in this role, playing more of the best friend to Andy than the maternal role. This is a relationship that she makes work. It could be a type of role that makes you dislike her because she bucks responsibility at times, leaving Andy to be more of a latch-key kid, but it is a realistic take on the role and Plaza does a great job with it.
I also think the best part of the film is the initial 45 minutes where Chucky forms an uncomfortable bond with Andy. There is a great scene where Andy leaves for school and Chucky wants to come. Andy says no and for Chucky to stay, so Chucky stays in the exact spot waiting for Andy to return hours later. It’s that same kind of uncomfortable level of dedication you feel in the first hour or so of Spielberg/Kubrick’s A.I.; that feeling you have when you are away from home longer than you’re supposed to and your pet has been waiting for you to feed it, walk it, show it attention. It’s that over-powering guilt of being neglectful and still getting unconditional love that this film is able to convey extremely effectively. The unnerving aspect added to it is that this is a machine and not a living thing having these feelings. It’s all developed rather well, and young actor Gabriel Bateman who plays Andy does a fantastic job of conveying this emotional maze of feelings. In fact, Bateman really is great the entire movie as he has to juggle so many conflicting emotions from beginning to end.
As much as I disliked the look of the new Chucky, I think it works in the film itself. They’ve made the eyes bigger (most likely to convey more emotional connection—thanks Spielberg), but for the most part, it’s still Chucky. The thing is, if you squint your eyes and mind, you might be able to justify the two converging universes and connect them by saying that in the late 80’s, the Good Guy doll was possessed by a serial killer and went on a murderous rampage, and thirty-so years later the new design was programmed to be an unstable monster in an updated model of the same doll. I don’t think they want to connect the dots between the two, but there you go, I did it.
What didn’t work was the technological aspects of the film. Drones, cars that drive themselves, and advanced tech simply isn’t scary. The film turns into science fiction when Chucky develops the ability to connect with all of the other products from his manufacturer and turns them into weapons. Someone is killed in a car that drives itself and it simply isn’t scary. Maybe it’s the way it is filmed and staged, but the entire scene lacks any type of ominous presence or anything. A lot of the scenes that are supposed to be scary simply aren’t. The massacre at the grand unveiling of the new version of the Buddy doll lacks the same kind of emotional grip that makes things scary. It’s just a big, obnoxious action piece with bloody people screaming and running into displays in a department store. Again, it’s chaotic and explosive, but not staged in a way that provided any scares.
The other odd thing about CHILD’S PLAY is that it is oddly “ginger-phobic.” In the opening scene, someone returns the doll because it has “creepy ginger hair.” Plaza mumbles that she doesn’t think people can say that anymore, for a nice chuckler of a line. If that were it, then I wouldn’t have blinked. But the main antagonist, other than Chucky, is Karen’s boyfriend Shane (David Lewis)—also a ginger, also an asshole, also something bad and gruesome happens to the top of his head—specifically his hair. Later, the work creepy ginger is again assigned to the Chucky’s red-coiffed noggin. It seems, in this sensitive time we live in, it’s still OK to malign red-haired people. Being one of the copper-topped myself, I took notice and didn’t appreciate it.
The film knows its audience. Mark Hamill has a lot of cred in the geek community and it was a stroke of genius to cast him to combat the backlash of replacing Brad Dourif. I’m not putting down Hamill’s voice talents, but it really isn’t shown well here. Hamill is simply aping Dourif’s voice. I was hoping for more, but am not surprised at this decision. It’s a no-win situation, had Hamill used too different a voice it would have been panned. So instead they played it safe.
It does offer up some gory scenes and nicely choreographed sequences of mayhem and violence in the first hour. There’s a nicely paced scene involving a severed head wrapped as a gift that proves to be quite suspenseful. Unfortunately, as things get bigger and the wrap-up looms, the film falls apart. The last half hour loses all of the emotional connection that was deftly made in the first hour between Andy and Chucky. Had they kept it smaller and less bombastic and explosive, I think this CHILD’S PLAY would have been much better and more in the same league as the original. Unfortunately, the film loses sight of all of the emotions in favor of explosions.
CHILD’S PLAY 2019 is decent enough to almost make me look past the yucky behind the scenes battle between Orion Pictures and Don Mancini. I prefer my Mancini version, but I can set aside that prejudice to say that CHILD’S PLAY 2019 has some effective moments and if we absolutely had to have a new version of the film, this one wasn’t a complete disaster.
WORTH NOTING SO FAR…
CHILD’S PLAY 2019
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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