Tuesday, February 2, 2021

My Buddi

After more than 10 years of writing about horror old and new, I hope it's clear to my loyal readers that I have no issues at all with the idea of film remakes. They're a staple of storytelling, from Eve and Pandora to Emma and Clueless. Yes, when you make something as awful as 2009's It's Alive, I'll complain about the details, but the actual concept of re-adapting a previous property is never the problem in itself.

So why, you might ask, did Emily boycott the Child's Play remake?

Boycott is a strong word, especially in the lazy age of the internet. I never made an oaktag sign or signed an online petition. I simply avoided any kind of support or even mention of a movie that I felt was a bit of an insult to a property I cherish.

Unlike almost every other franchise in cinema, Child's Play has always been distinctively Don Mancini's. The first film (one of the most personally influential films on my development as a horror fan) was his real break into the industry, and he remained the screenwriter for every installment (unheard of in horror or any genre). With Seed of Chucky (my personal favorite, probably because its campy sensibilities seem custom-made for my humor), Mancini moved into the director's chair and has been completely in control of Chucky's destiny from that point on. 

Until 2019.

Look, I understand any film studio dusting off its records to see which properties it still owns and can generate a few quick bucks. But unlike Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhes, Chucky was never Orion's; it was Don Mancini's. John Carpenter may have created Michael Meyers, but I'd bet a few packs of cigarettes that he never even saw most of its sequels. Mancini was (and thankfully, is still) working on a Chucky television series when Orion decided to throw the title at a new writer/director team. 

In a business that never pretends to value loyalty, it still felt dirty, and from my own sense of morality and diehard devotion to all things Don Mancini, I vowed to never give 2019's Child's Play any kind of money.

It's on Hulu now, and having heard many a critic or friend whose film opinions I deeply respect give the film hearty endorsements, I figured I could finally watch Child's Play without feeling too dirty.

Quick Plot: The Kaslan company is in high production on its first generation Buddi, an interactive doll that connects to all Kaslan-branded smart devices while also imprinting on your family. As you might imagine, conditions for the Vietnamese factory workforce are less than ideal. When one of the production workers is fired, he uses his last minutes on the job to disable the safety filters in a Buddi before it hits the US market (then promptly throws himself off a building).

Back in a Canadian city standing in for Chicago, young mother Karen is struggling to acclimate her moody son Andy to his new surroundings. When an unsatisfied customer returns a Buddi doll at the department store where she works, Karen gives Andy an early birthday present.

Naturally, said Buddi is that lucky product we saw in the prologue. It's not that Chucky is bad; he's just a sociopath with no sense of right or wrong. Throw on a little Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, bitch about your mom's jerk boyfriend, and before you know it, you're cutting class to cover up his decapitation. 

Kids really do have it harder in the era of smartphones.

Directed by Lars Klevberg from Tyler Burton Smith's fairly clever script, Child's Play was definitely more enjoyable than I was prepared to admit. The tone is consistently snarky without falling down the "is this movie insulting me for watching it?" wormhole so many self-aware films often just can't escape. Sure, Aubrey Plaza brings a very specific eye-rolling energy, but it works for both the character and overall feel. 

As for Chucky, it's hard not to be disappointed when one of our favorite villains of all time is reinterpreted in such a way that loses the very essence of your character. Mark Hammill is one of the most talented voice actors working today, but he's playing a robot, one that almost feels like a weird riff on autism. I don't mind the decision to cut the Charles Lee Ray persona in the name of a new story--in fact, I welcome a fresh take--but it just doesn't quite yield the full zany gold the setup promises.

That being said, I'd be lying if I said Child's Play 2019 wasn't a fun watch. At under 90 minutes, it wastes little time, and has a grand ol' time setting up elaborate, fairly ridiculous murders. I can't deny it points for having a good, mean time, even if I still feel wrong about enjoying it.

High Points
Bear McCreary has become the go-to composer for genre film and television over the last few years, and he delivers yet another quirky score that has its own point of view 

Low Points
While the final act's department store massacre is a joy, the actual ending has a certain rushed abruptness that feels lacking, even with a brief sequel-suggesting but low energy stinger

Lessons Learned
Efforts towards inclusivity onscreen should always be appreciated, but when watching a horror film, always remember that a character with a hearing aid exists solely for said hearing aid to eventually be used against him

Those who wait too long to take down their Christmas lights have no choice but to face the consequences of their inaction

As we learned from Furbies and Bratz, Americans sure do love their ugly dolls

Try as I may, I still feel wrong offering any kind of official endorsement about this Child's Play, but hey: it's fun. There's a point of view with some satirical thought behind it, and the movie manages to provide a few surprises along the way. 

It just...shouldn't have been made under its circumstance. 


  1. I haven't seen the remake, but typically don't even bother with those. Are you a fan of horror anthology series? We caught something from 1980 called "Hammer's House Of Horror" recently, on Amazon Prime - never heard of it, but this was an extremely well done series. Unfortunately, it only lasted one season. But that's the best stuff I've seen recently.

    1. I love me a good anthology! Shudder has a nice selection, including a few new ones that I've heard good things about but have yet to watch.