Child’s Play (1988) and Child’s Play (2019) 2-in-1 review
Child’s Play (1988) and Child’s Play (2019) 2-in-1 review
Released in 1988, Child’s Play follows a single mother who buys her son a popular doll for his birthday, only to discover that the doll is currently possessed by a deceased serial killer. The film was directed by Tom Holland of Spider-Man: Homecoming fame- Oh wait, no the film was directed by Tom Holland of Fright Night (1985) fame! That makes more sense. The 2019 remake of Child’s Play follows a very similar story, with a single mom who gives her son a sought-after doll for his birthday also to discover that the doll has a very sinister nature. So here I am the weekend Toy Story 4 opened! Reviewing not one Chucky film, but two Chucky films…
When I saw that Pet Sematary (1989) was getting a remake, I was hopeful, since the original is not exactly a masterpiece. The new Pet Sematary (2019) was pretty bad though, so when I saw Child’s Play was coming out, I was a little more skeptical. But now that I have seen both the original 1988 horror cult-classic and the 2019 remake, I can say that they are both just okay! For mostly different reasons, I don’t think either is necessarily that good or that bad, just kinda fine. Overall though, if you have seen the original and you like it, the new one is probably worth checking out! If you haven’t, you probably don’t like campy horror films enough to watch either. As a remake though, Child’s Play did manage to be at least as good as the original! And that’s something!
A big difference in the two films is the treatment of the characters. In the original film, we have the mother, Karen Barclay, along with her six-year-old son Andy. Andy… Say, isn’t there another toy owner named Andy? Anyway, we also have detective Norris, as well as Maggie, a friend of Karen’s. The remake gives Andy two friends instead of having Karen have one, as well as upping Andy to thirteen instead of six. Overall, both films do fine with the characters, although the new film adds several more than the original, which feels like a few too many at times. The original also does a much better job of setting up Karen as a character than the remake, who was a character you just never really like. However the new film turns its focus to Andy a bit, making him a much more developed character. Setting up your characters is everything, and in horror films especially, you need to get behind your leads. If you don’t, you end up apathetic towards the events in the film they are involved in. The new film does suffer from this.
On the flip side, the new film’s changes really improve the story. The setups are entirely different, leading to a remake that never feels like a ‘copy, paste’ of the original. Honestly, even if it were poorly done, I’d give it props just for trying something different. Fortunately, I thought it was very well done. The original film is fairly straight forward, and it even does a good job covering a few puzzling questions, like how a doll can be a threat to fully grown people. The remake updates the setting in a creative and equally believable way, working in technology a bit to go all-out in campy horror fun. As much as I want to get on it for trying too hard like the Poltergeist (2016) remake, I thought the setup and payoff worked well! I felt that the original film dragged on when they needed to keep justifying the plot, while the new one feels occasionally aimless. So I honestly don’t know which is better; spinning your wheels in the hope of a proper conclusion, or stopping to get out of the car so you can fix it up enough to keep going until the end.
For me, the film’s story hangs in the antagonist. The original Chucky, being a serial killer trapped inside a doll, is a pretty fun villain! He’s creepy, smart, and he definitely feels iconic. What he isn’t is deep or layered. Sure, he doesn’t need to be! It’s the 80s! No horror villain has any real depth to him. What’s that you say? Michael Myers does? Well Halloween was released in 1978, so my point stands! Now though, audiences need a bit more in their horror films. Fortunately, Child’s Play really delivers! Not only do we get an interestingly sympathetic character for Chucky, he’s almost empathetic to the point where I felt bad for him! I mean, that is a complete turnaround from the original in the best way possible if you ask me! Granted, I feel this choice did take away a little from how scary the character can be, but I think it was a well-spent choice.
The quality of both films varies a bit, but neither is really bad in this sense either. While the original featured a decent score, it hasn’t aged well compared to several classic horror scores. Bear McCreary’s score in the remake though? Dang it’s good. Creepy, memorable, and orchestrated well, the overall balance in homage and originality combined with the creepy voice of Mark Hamill really makes it one of the best soundtracks of the year if you ask me! First Godzilla and now this? McCreary is on a remake roll! Oh yeah, speaking of Mark Hamill, one thing both films do very well is its cast. Joker himself voices Chucky in this remake, and he was easily the film’s best casting choice. He’s perfectly creepy, but carries that slightly misunderstood vibe that the original lacks. That said, I dare you to find a creepier voice actor for Chucky than Grima Wormtongue (Brad Dourif), who really doesn’t need to add depth to Chucky at all. Why? Cause he’s freaking terrifying, that’s why. And yea, both play it a bit cheesy. You know what, they are cheesy movies. It works.
The rest of the cast in both films is pretty decent overall. The original film features Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, and Alex Vincent as Karen, Norris, and Andy respectively, and they all do a good job. Catherine Hicks is really good at playing both scared and intense, and Alex Vincent is just fantastic for a child actor! Not only does he really steal the show at times, he manages to play a very smart and underrated horror protagonist. Aubrey Plaza stars as Karen in the remake, and if it weren’t for her, the character would be terrible. Fortunately, Plaza’s ability to balance comedy and drama really makes her performance a redeeming aspect to the film. Gabriel Bateman plays Andy, and like the first film, he’s probably one of the best aspects. His performance is a bit more layered, since he is an older kid; however in both films, the Andys do a very good job playing the relationship between themselves and Chucky. Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Norris, is also very good in the film, despite having one of the cheesiest moments near the end.
Interestingly enough, I think the effects work in the original was better. Overall though, both Child’s Play films are fairly decent. They both feature a strong cast and a very iconic feel, with two very different story choices that both mostly work. The original definitely goes out of its way to make sure it stays on track, while the remake uses its character to push the plot to a shrug-ish conclusion. The remake does a poor job setting up the mother, however knocks it out of the park with its score and visual style. The remake also does a fantastic job with its central antagonist, while the original’s is a bit underdeveloped. So whether you prefer a shallower film that aims low and scores high, offering an entertaining horror experience full of silly moments and pretty great one-liners, or the try-hard remake that often misses when it overshoots, but really scores when it lands the changes, I have just the creepy doll for you! So skip the Annabelleiverse and check out Child’s Play! Whether the original or the remake, neither are anything special, but they are both a pretty fun time! 6/10
-review by Ryan Prince
-So Child’s Play? Did you see it? What did you think? And what is your favorite horror remake? Whatever you think, be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know!