‘Child’s Play’: Gory and Humorous Remake Taps Into Modern Fears

A murderous doll gets a makeover for 2019 in “Child’s Play,” a remake of the terrifying 2009 slasher film of the same name. Newcomer Gabriel Bateman takes on the role of Andy Barclay, who in this version is a lonely tween that gets more than he bargained for after his mother, Karen (Aubrey Plaza), brings home the hot new toy, Buddi (voiced by Mark Hamill), a lifelike doll who comes to be known as Chucky.

While in the previous film Chucky was just an ordinary doll who acquires his evil powers after the soul of a serial killer comes to inhabit his body through voodoo, in this updated version, he’s a product of technology, a “smart doll.” Originally designed to help out around the house and provide companionship to kids, the Buddi who ends up in the Barclay home has a few wires loose, so to speak, as his safety features were disabled by a disgruntled Vietnamese sweatshop worker.

Plaza injects some off her trademark wit into what could have been a thankless role as an overworked singler mother. After Chucky ends up being returned to the big box store at which she works, Karen convinces her sleazy manager, Gabe (Trent Redekop), to let her take him home to her son. The demonic doll becomes possessive of his new friend almost immediately, plotting against those who would harm him and/or interfere with their friendship, starting with the cat. But the main antagonist is Shane (David Lewis), Karen’s jerk boyfriend who makes fun of Andy’s hearing impairment. Andy does what he can to curb his new pal’s violent impulses, but the suspicious behavior of the boy and the neighbor kids he befriends peaks the interest of Mike Norris (Brian Tyree Henry), a detective whose mother, Doreen (Carlease Burke), lives down the hall from Andy and Karen.

Just like a psychotic clown, a murderous doll can never not strike terror into the hearts of horror film viewers. However, as much of the original “Child’s Play” is rather passé to 2019 audiences, director Lars Klevberg and screenwriter Tyler Burton Smith had to tap into contemporary fears, and they succeed for the most part, and the final result is a darkly comedic and bloody ride. Capitalism is skewered here, as the Buddi dolls are created by a Kaslan, a conglomerate run by a creepy white guy, Henry Kaslan (Tim Matheson). The film also plays with the terrifying idea that death is just a few swipes away on a smart phone, as not only are the Buddi dolls controlled by apps, but there’s also such a thing as Kaslan Cars, self-driving Ubers that are just as disastrous as they sound. Chucky gets points for creativity this time around when it comes to his killings, which are equal parts tension, gore and laughs.

Hamill, who is best known for playing Luke Skywalker in the “Stars Wars” franchise, doesn’t seem to get enough recognition for his voice work, which also includes his portrayal of the Joker in the animated “Batman” series. Here, he is delightfully wicked and shows off his comic timing as the lifeforce behind Chucky.

Child’s Play” opens June 21 nationwide.