Sunday, 6 October 2019
Set to Evil by a disgruntled Vietnamese programmer after he's bullied out of his assembly line job, Mark Hamill's Chucky is a malfunctioning virtual assistant / nap time pal able to interpret his needy directives without having to worry about any of the plastic, mass-produced ethics synonymous with American popular culture. Rather than mess around with Voodoo spells and avenging spirits, Lars Klevberg's Child's Play posits artificial life as a sponge, soaking up information from its environment then plotting a response using the stunted, commodity framing of a toy built for children. Chucky desperately wants to be loved, a tall order since he's more Garbage Pail than Cabbage Patch; a second-hand example of an outdated model with a new, better coiffed product on the horizon.
Happily, he falls into the hands of Gabriel Bateman's Andy, a poor, lonely teenager who's more comfortable prodding at his starred-out phone screen than he is mixing in and making friends. For a brief period the pair are content, keeping each other company until the curious neighbourhood kids gather round to inspect the glitching doll. As well as stealing away Andy's affections, these bad influences also pollute Chucky's already flexible rule set with their detached, ironic stance. In particular, Pugg's gleeful appreciation of blunt trauma and evisceration while taking in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 during a sleepover ends up teaching the ever-present Chucky that, despite all evidence to the contrary, violence is actually completely excellent.
Functionally, Tyler Burton Smith's screenplay offers viewers a poverty row remix of the more painful moments from the Toy Story franchise. The bereaved, vengeful Chucky isn't that far removed from Joan Cusack's Jessie, another red-haired doll that no-one wants. The difference being that rather than accept obsolescence as a natural part of an object's life, Chucky has decided to win back his prize, using glimpses of violence and Nanny Cam abuse as leverage. The fun in Child's Play 2019 then is that, thanks to a zapped-out populace and their greedy tech overlords, the killer doll is not only morally empty but, essentially, all-powerful. He's a gig culture guru; an ambulating Alexa able to summon self-driving cars to pulverise his elderly rivals. The savagery is catching too, not only can this Chucky weather its innards being swapped out for spares but it can also infect other, similar products with its faulty coding. And if the doll's killing spree never quite scales the Small Soldiers level heights suggested by an entire supermarket teeming with other, malleable vessels, well, that's what sequels are for.