Child’s Play functions as both a reboot and a deliriously silly homage to the 80s horror classic. Chucky, the grinning, dead-eyed doll-monster from that film, gets uploaded to the Cloud in this one. It’s a clever play on our collective fear of being smothered by technology: Chucky (voice of Mark Hamill) ports his mechanical rage to TVs, tablets, and phones, haunting and taunting his kills with a maniacal, cackling fury. Child’s Play is a gory, goofy horror film that never tries to take itself too seriously.
Fans of the original will find this one thoroughly familiar: A single mom (Aubrey Plaza) gifts her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) with a creepy, high-tech doll named Chucky for his birthday. (Is it me or does thing look like a shrunken, Gish-era Billy Corgan?) The little plastic devil soon deviates from its programmed behavior and starts showing a homicidal devotion to the boy. Anybody who wrongs Andy will prompt Chucky to see red and embark on a feverish kill-spree. Chucky’s anger will soon broaden to cartoonish levels of destruction, as blood-soaked bodies pile all around him.
What keeps this Chucky grounded are the performances of all the lead actors. Bateman is solid as the boy who hides his loneliness in plain sight, and finds a guileless confidant in his new Chucky doll. Plaza imbues her single mom with just enough brittle spirit to keep her character a notch above the typical horror heroine. But the real star of this slasher shindig is Hamill, who voices Chucky with the perfect amount of nihilistic glee. Hamill, no stranger to putting a voice to unhinged psychosis, picks up this material and runs off with it.
While the first two acts of Child’s Play unfurl in fairly straightforward fashion, the final 30 minutes blast completely out of the circus tent altogether. Chucky turns into a pint-sized Skynet, and his malevolent jealously grows apocalyptic in scope. This sudden upshift might jolt a few viewers, but I was more than down for a few steeper hills on this weird, wild roller coaster. Child’s Play has its share of genuine scares, but its best moments flaunt a cheerfully wicked sense of humor. This is cinematic junk food at its absolute finest.
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