“Hi I’m Chucky and I’m your friend to the end.”
Charles Lee Ray may be dead in human form, but his soul has a place in the Good Guy Doll. Child’s Play terrified audiences when it was released in 1988 and brought with it a considerable amount of controversy. It told the story of a serial killer who cast his soul via voodoo into an innocent looking child’s doll. Six sequels and numerous comics and merchandise later, it’s no surprise that Chucky has become a household name in the horror genre. So, with the remake now out, does Chucky still have a place in the horror market? How does this remake compare to the thirty-year-old original? And is it worth a new vision despite the fact that a TV series is being released next year by the franchise’s creators?
A child’s best friend is the one he talks to all the time, whether it’s make believe or one of his toys. Little Andy Barclay got a bad deal when he received a doll from his mother, unaware of the sinister evil hiding behind its eyes. Child’s Play wasn’t just an effective horror film, but also unique enough to stand apart from the sleuth of slashers released during the 80s. So, by comparing these two films (original and remake/reboot) we’re going to explore what’s the same and what’s different. Which one is better to watch and why? And which Chucky is the more horrifying?
Child’s Play (1988)
It’s little Andy’s birthday and he’s excited for his presents, especially the new Good Guy Doll whose commercials are constantly on television. In fact, he’s so excited he wakes up extra early and makes his mother a special breakfast in bed treat. Unfortunately, Karen (Catherine Hicks) couldn’t save up enough money to buy her son the doll, but when she learns a homeless peddler is selling the doll, Karen manages to purchase him. Little does she know that the doll she purchased has the soul of a serial killer inside of it!
You can pretty much guess the rest of the plot. Chucky becomes alive and starts creating havoc for everyone close to Andy. What’s wonderful about this movie is how funny it is to watch today. I think the movie has aged quite well and the filmmakers did a great job creating the doll and making his movements seem convincing. But if you think back to 1988, this was new for the movie-goers; the idea of seeing a doll attacking people and even going after little Andy was a terrifying concept, one that angered a lot of people.
There were people boycotting the film and even stating that Child’s Play would inspire children to engage in murderous behavior if they saw it. It’s bewildering to think of such a thing but sadly there were two homicides committed in the United Kingdom between 1992 and 1993 respectively, and both cases seemed to have been inspired by the Child’s Play films. The violence in these movies did increase as the series continued, but the first film is pretty tame when compared to other 80’s slashers.
What I appreciate most in the film are the actors, all of whom do a really good job. Typically, horror movies feature characters that are either poorly written or so underdeveloped that the audience don’t care about them once they are in danger, but Child’s Play is different. The characters are fleshed out, given personality and when the danger arrives, we want them to survive. I think the reason Child’s Play was scary is because of how innocent the doll looks. He looks like any ordinary doll until he become alive and starts swearing.
Now, I personally really enjoyed the first film for a couple of reasons. I like the idea of voodoo as a plot device and even though it may be seen as a cheap scare tactic to use the “child in danger cliché” it worked for me because Andy fights back. Some of the best moments are when Karen discovers that Chucky really is alive, the car attack sequence and the final confrontation between Chucky and Andy where little Andy says the franchise’s best line, “This is the end friend.”
The effects look realistic, the doll’s movements are very impressive and it’s one of the enjoyable slashers where you’re not bombarded with excessive nudity and brutal violence. It’s such a fun 80s flick that even Roger Ebert liked Child’s Play, if you can believe that. It rises above other slashers thanks to the witty script, great direction by Tom Holland (no not Spider-Man), fun premise and surprisingly good acting from actors who really buy into the story. But with this fun movie, how does the reboot rank to this one?
Child’s Play (2019)
Toys are a thing of the past. Playing with our Hot Wheels, army action figures and in the sandbox were so 80s and 90s- this is the time for technology. Everyone is online, people depend on computers and apps for entertainment and running household items, so why not create a doll that can assist in making the best of both worlds. Now they’re called Buddi Dolls and are a hot ticket item on the market. This movie not only looks great with its cinematography, but also incorporates technology into the slasher genre.
Child’s Play is violent, bloody and a surprisingly good time. The doll looks just evil, has big eyes and displays nothing from the original films. This is mostly because everyone involved with the original film wasn’t involved in this new vision. We start from scratch and what ensues is a well-thought out take on this franchise. Instead of the voodoo angle, the doll malfunctions due to its safety protocols being disabled by an angry worker at the Buddi factory plant. It’s seems like an odd choice to include safety features in a doll, but this feels like it was written as way to justify the “what if” scenario.
I do like the idea of Chucky being able to learn from his environment and adapt to his surroundings, which turns him into a more effective killer. Speaking of kills, there are some plenty unique ones in this film. While the film didn’t scare me per se, it did keep me on edge. I don’t mind if a scary movie doesn’t scare me, but it should at least bring some suspense and Child’s Play embraces the thrills.
The plot is basically the same, albeit with some major differences, but being a slasher movie there’s little surprise plot-wise with the exception of some kills. Now, in my opinion, no one can ever replace Alex Vincent as Andy but I was surprised by Gabriel Bateman. He gave us a new Andy to root for and his performance made me enjoy the film more than I expected. Bateman and Audrey Plaza, who plays Karen, do good work together but I didn’t feel the mother-son connection that was present in the original.
As mentioned before, this film brings technology to the forefront. Chucky can connect to any device powered by the Buddi system. Think Alexa or Siri on your iPhone, but instead the interface is your toy doll. Chucky is voiced by Mark Hamill this time around and does a great job. He manages to be menacing one second, then make you laugh with some funny lines, especially when Chucky records a character’s own words and plays them back at pivotal moments.
My biggest problem with the new film, however, is Chucky’s design- it doesn’t fit. His eyes are very big and makes the doll look creepy from the start. It was more of a surprise when the average looking Good Guy doll came to life and attacked people, but with this movie we almost expect it. This contributes to one key part missing from the film, and that’s Chucky’s lack of personality. He’s just an artificial intelligence and there’s nothing about him that manages to stand out. Sure, he says a couple of funny lines, but I think we’re missing that iconic Chucky talk that made the character so unique in the first place.
Overall, I enjoyed this new Child’s Play quite a bit. Sure, it’s not a great movie but it’s far better than other horror remakes over the past several years. I was on edge for most of the film, I laughed and I wondered how the victims were going to die. The violence in this movie is far more intense than expected and even the audience was surprised at what they were seeing. The actors do just fine but it lacks that 80s charm that I loved about the original.
Original or Remake?
After watching both films, I have to say that nothing beats the original. I love the actors, the witty script and just how much goofy fun it is. Plus, who can’t forget Brad Dourif’s vocal performance as Chucky? This remake isn’t half bad and, if you’re interested in seeing it, then I recommend you go. It’s better than recent franchise entries but one must question why this remake was made in the first place? The original team who created Chucky, including the writer Dan Mancini, are currently involved in a TV series set for release next year. This could be a fun new way to bring Chucky back to spotlight. Remember that Friday the 13th was a tv series as well, and it was quite fun!
I think that if someone were to watch Child’s Play they wouldn’t feel scared, especially with the original film. The idea is unique and the execution for both films are done very well. The setup is clever, the acting is actually good for a slasher film, and who can forget the concept of a doll that comes to life and wreaks havoc on people’s lives. Of course, we’ve all wondered to ourselves how is a doll capable of being so strong and powerful? You’d think he’d be taken down a whole lot easier? Chucky is a great character, perhaps not as iconic as say Freddy or Jason, but still recognizable.
Of course, there’s been talk of a Freddy vs Jason 2, but, if we’re seriously going down this path, why not have a little bit of fun? Why not Chucky vs. Leprechaun, or an Avengers-type movie where all the horror icons must work together? Horror isn’t dead but instead of constant remakes and sequels, why not have a little bit of fun with what you have? Chucky’s back and I don’t think he’ll stay dead for very long.