Hollywood’s continued fixation with classic ’80s horror has certainly produced some variable results - from the nostalgia-rich, wisecracking charm of Andrés Muschietti’s IT through to the blandly characterless butchering of Poltergeist back in 2015. With many such remakes proving to be as lifelessly uninspiring and plastic as the vacant-eyed, mass manufactured ‘Buddi’ dolls infesting this box-fresh new adaptation of Child’s Play, tracking down genuine creative spark in an industry riddled with sterile, corporate clones is always a real pleasure. Happily for us, director Lars Klevburg’s freshly released re-imagining is one such riotously entertaining shocker.
Let’s begin by first addressing the question of the movie’s fidelity to the 1988 original. For starters, it’s got a decidedly sadistic streak coupled with a seemingly unquenchable and gratuitous bloodlust, mercilessly ratcheting up the body count via a wealth of inventive and impeccably orchestrated death sequences. One choice scene in which Jack Black’s voyeuristic janitor meets a sticky demise courtesy of a strategically positioned buzzsaw, together with another ingenious sequence involving a lawnmower and some Christmas fairy lights, is guaranteed to leave you oscillating wildly between wincing disgust and laugh-out-loud hysterics. But beyond these brutal and fondly nostalgic slasher trappings, there’s no mistaking the grain of something infinitely darker.
With its intelligently penned plot being anchored in the solidly tangible realities of frighteningly sophisticated robotics and AI, there’s an uncommon, all too realistic bleakness about this brutal but subtly thought-provoking title. And where the original movie’s source of terror resides in supernatural territories largely divorced from ‘the real world’ as we know it, Klevburg’s darkly pervasive overtones of technophobia make for an altogether more inescapable and invasive breed of horror; a paranoia already firmly hardwired and embedded into our primitive, easily manipulable reptilian brains. Look beyond the Itchy and Scratchy-esque cartoonish slaughter and great, sloshing bucketloads of gore, and it’s all there: mobile phone addiction, stupifying over-reliance on technology, mindless material consumption and the progressive cheapening of genuine human interaction in exchange for the unblinking, coldly impersonal electronic glare of the SmartPhone screen. Inevitably, the mindlessly gratuitous bloodshed that dominates the movie both limits and rather undermines this somewhat underexploited social commentary, but Klevburg does a nonetheless more than capable job of sowing the seeds of this darkly prophetic concept.
Pairing its sharp-as-a-straight-razor screenwriting with a cast who brings the movie’s characters to life with easy chemistry, likeability and heart, Gabriel Bateman's troubled and tragically isolated take on adolescent loner Andy is consistently affecting and organic throughout. Crucially too, as with all well-crafted horror films, its characters are more than just flimsy stereotypes and mere fodder ripe for butchering. We’re driven to care and connect with them; even to vilify, mock and detest on occasion. .
Put simply, there’s plenty to like about this title. Fast-paced, gory and silly enough for mass, popcorn audience consumption but with sufficient underlying intelligence and vision to excite the imagination, Child’s Play 2019 is a fun and, in places, genuinely chilling slab of ultra-modern horror.
Catch Child's Play now at a cinema near you