Bring on the CHILD’S PLAY remake

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A few years ago, I wrote an article for Dread Central praising Don Mancini’s stewardship of the Child’s Play series. While the last two installments were direct-to-video, neither 2013’s Curse of Chucky nor 2017’s Cult of Chucky suffered for it. If anything, Mancini’s recent sequels are superior to some of the more classic installments, proving that Don is wholly adept at finding new and interesting ways of keeping his series fresh.

In the article, I argued that every franchise might benefit from a similar kind of “showrunner.” Someone to ensure that Friday the 13th never gets back to hellbabies and hostages, for example. The “showrunner” is a model proven right in the age of Kevin Feige/Marvel dominance. I meant every word of that article written in the wake of Cult of Chucky’s release. Mancini deserves his props and is a hero from where I sit, steering a long-running franchise into consistently uncharted waters without ever abandoning the series’ core principles.

Mancini has been understandably vocal about this year’s Child’s Play remake. It’s a movie that has absolutely nothing to do with his continuing universe (which is currently in production as a weekly television series). At best, MGM’s remake feels like a superfluous cash grab. Something born from a studio opening its draw of intellectual properties and deciding which titles have the most cache. At worst, this remake is an outright detriment to Mancini’s project, something that both threatens and challenges the upcoming television series. And both of these things are probably true.

In this Age Of Social Media, there is no more nuance. Our brains rush to compartmentalize things in a way that casts one side as the, uh, good guys and the other as buddis (I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist). The money people at MGM were always going to remake Child’s Play. And some writer and director out there had to take the jobs. So why not root for them to hit it out of the park?

Following along on social media is enough to give you a headache. Some of the old school cast and crew have joined Mancini in voicing their displeasure and resistance to this new version of Chucky. And a lot of fans are right there with them. But then you have others who are interested in putting Chucky back on the big screen and seeing what this new spin is all about.

Usually, I’m entrenched firmly inside one camp when it comes to matters such as this. But not this time. I am of course empathetic to Mancini’s position and will continue to support his franchise for as long as it runs. I grew up on his Child’s Play and it’s become such an iconic series of films that I adore. But I’m also sympathetic to the cast and crew of this new Child’s Play, all of whom are people simply trying to earn a living. Some of this sympathy is because I’ve recently begun dipping my toe in the screenwriting pool. I’ve interviewed for gigs, pitched stories, and can’t help but feel for the people who know the Internet’s got its proverbial knives out for them from the very beginning of such a loaded project.

I have no idea if Child’s Play 2019 will be any good, but I like what I’ve seen so far. If there’s one thing I lament about the original series, it’s that the movies have long since abandoned the notion that Chucky is scary. Menacing, yes. But not scary. It’s the reason Tom Holland’s 1988 picture is still my favorite in the series. It’s confidently built and invests heavily in the idea that we, the audience, will find this Cabbage Patch from Hell terrifying. And the 2019 movie seems to be channeling that sort of energy. That’s how I was introduced to Chucky and I’m excited to see if the new movie gets him back to his roots.

It appears this new Chucky is no longer the spirit of an undead serial killer. Good. We’ve got three decades and seven films-worth of that story and I’m actually glad this aspect of the character is a ground-up reinvention. And while it was never going to happen, I wish the creators had been more aggressive with Chucky’s design. Longtime Twitter acquaintance Brett Gallman made the very good point that in their effort to tweak Chucky “just a bit,” they made him look “a little off.” There’s something to that, though I think the strength of the movie will ultimately decide this Chucky’s success.

I also like all the technological updates and the possibilities that come with them. I don’t know if they’ll actually integrate into the movie beyond window dressing, but there’s some real potential here. Lots of ideas to play with. New Chucky can control home security systems and other smart products, and it’s a great way to reinvent the original film’s softly satirical roots. No take is more modern than one positing the idea that we’re killing ourselves for convenience. Mancini’s Child’s Play was written as a wry take on the rampant consumerism of the Cabbage Patch craze, and it’ll be interesting to see if this remake has equally timely ambitions.

It also looks like the new Child’s Play will have more Buddis than just Chucky. The original Good Guys had different names, but were generic beyond that. I glimpsed a “Buddi Bear” in the trailer that makes me hope they go all Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich and give Chucky a few different guises–something this franchise hasn’t previously attempted.

This remake has been marketed well so far. The studio knows they’ve got an uphill battle to fight in terms of winning its core audience over. They earned some serious goodwill a few weeks back with the announcement that Mark Hamill would be the new voice of Chucky. The second trailer doesn’t give us much to go on. Chucky speaks one line and Hamill’s delivery isn’t different enough from Brad Douriff to earn any serious distinction. But Hamill is a brilliant voice artist and I’m incredibly curious about the spin he’s going to put on this character.

There’s criticism of this Andy being too old to play with a doll. I kind of agree with this assessment, though I do recall reading how this Andy is an introvert with an inability to relate to people, leading to the necessity of a Buddi that helps alleviate social anxieties. The trailer spoils that Andy eventually makes real friends, so who knows how believable any of this is. I’m willing to wait and see how this plays out before I cross my arms and shrug this off, but it’s something the new movie needs to really sell.

All due respect to Don Mancini and his upcoming Chucky television series, I am also open to the idea of seeing what somebody else does with this material. The remake was always going to happen, and it feels like this is a serious attempt to give the series a modern spin. Why not hope for the best?

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