Betrayal is a peculiar emotion to equate with a film. Betrayal suggests we were owed something. That we expected something good from a faceless corporation that cares. How foolish it was to believe an industry we love loves us back. Any mistaken camaraderie between the audience, the creatives and the business has been well and truly butchered with the creation and release of the Child’s Play reboot.
If you’re not committed to the horror community, you may be confused by this disdain-filled opening paragraph for a film that appears to be a harmless, fun slasher flick. So, let me explain.
The Chucky franchise is one of the most popular and instantly recognisable film series in horror. The blood-thirsty, Garbage Pail Kid inspired toy with wild red hair and equally wild eyes is infamous for his murderous ways. Although Chucky begins as an antagonist, the narrative perspective soon shifts through the series as he becomes the star; this shift was natural thanks to how darn charismatic and wildly entertaining that little psychopath was. So, watching a distorted, faded shadow of the original star be thrown up onto our screens in the new reimagining of the series is, in short, a betrayal to both the audience and the original franchise.
Don Mancini – writer of the original Child’s Play series and later director of Seed of Chucky, Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky – was the life blood of the series. He just got it. Thanks to him, Child’s Play was the campiest, goriest fun-filled murder-spree on screen. Chucky was his weird, plastic baby and that’s why it was so indecorous for MGM and United Artists productions to go over him and remake his series without his consent. Regrettably, MGM and United Artists studies still owned the rights for Chucky and were legally in their right to ignore Mancini’s protests and reboot his creation for their own fast cash-in.
While on the Post Mortem podcast, per Flickering Myth, Mancini said, “Obviously my feelings were hurt […] They just wanted our approval, which I strenuously denied them.” Other cast members of the original agreed, with the fabulous Jennifer Tilly – who played the equally fabulous and chaotic Tiffany in the original franchise – tweeting “New “Chucky” movie? Ummm…no. Tiffany and I are gonna sit this one out. #NotMyChucky”. The original production team had to watch their baby die a slow and boring death on screen and that’s just plain disrespectful.
The Child’s Play reboot may not have been a terrible film, but it was terribly disappointing. Without even getting into the debate over the non-existent necessity of modern remakes for classic films, there was plenty to pick apart in this revival. The main draw of the film is of course the starring doll – Chucky – except in this revival he is far from the dazzling ray of murderous joy we’d come to love.
To go from the despicably evil and wildly entertaining horror darling that was the original series’ Chucky to a neutered doll in the remake is unsettling to say the least.
In this 2019 remake, Chucky is no longer Charles Lee Ray, voodoo gifted, mass murderer who possess’ a doll to continue his murderous spree. Instead, he’s just some faulty AI in a toy no one outside of a horror film would buy. Instead of vengeance, his motive is friendship – he’s the care bear of horror, which is a description that doesn’t exactly invoke pant-wetting fear. The concept by itself is a cute idea for a different film – not this beloved franchise. The original Chucky shone for his electric personality whereas this Chucky had none. Not only did this make for a boring character but it completely wasted the wonderfully manic voice acting potential of Mark Hamill who barely had a chance to show off his talents and go fully crazed.
The entire tone for this remake was unfortunately unremarkable also. Don Mancini created a wonderfully camp and manic atmosphere to his original series, achieving a perfect balance between silly and scary.
The 2019 reboot seemed to be trying to cash in on Stranger Things fame with a film narrative lead by a misfit team of kids, creating a bloody after-school special kind of vibe. Though a horror aimed at a younger audience isn’t necessarily a bad idea – with TV shows like Goosebumps proving to be wildly popular, and the upcoming Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark adaption looking to be a promising addition to the industry – in the Chucky franchise this perhaps unintended alteration just seemed a bit odd.
Although it can be argued that new perspectives of classic tales can be a fun addition to cinema (at least that’s what Hollywood is so desperately trying to persuade us despite our continued protest), this revival couldn’t escape being tainted by the underhand acts of studio heads. It was a gamble MGM and United Artists took, usurping their rights over the original creators, and it is one that didn’t even pay-off with an entertaining product.
An average film could not stand beside a brilliant franchise, and now this film exists as yet another bad example held aloft by reboot-protesters. Let the unneeded reboots die and hope they aren’t resurrected by any dodgy voodoo.