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In this essay I will prove that Child's Play 2019 reboots a classic horror story with modern fears for a new generation




This weekend I took a trip to the cinema to see my favourite film franchise about toys getting up to mischief when their humans aren't watching.

No, I'm not talking about Toy Story 4.

I'm talking about the re-booted Child's Play film, which was originally released in 1988. You know, the one with the killer doll called Chucky who was possessed by the murderer Charles Lee Ray? It's great, you should watch it. While the clothing choices in the original film give away that it's older than me, the special effects and mechanics of the killer doll hold up to this day. It's still brilliant.

While I wouldn't say the Chucky franchise is a personal favourite and I certainly don't fangirl for it (creepy dolls are not a macabre favourite of mine, generally), there has never been a Child's Play film that I've not liked and as a franchise, it has held itself together. While there are a few inconsistencies, producers generally respect the established canon.

On top of that, the Chucky films tend to successfully move with the times and reflect the horror trends of their decade. The first three films released between the late 80s and early 90s follow the traditional, yet simple, slasher set-up. Then in the 00s we were introduced to the Chucky family with Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky. These two films slid nicely into the comedy-horror genre that was popular around the millennium thanks to Scream (which is my favourite horror franchise). Then in the last few years, Netflix released their own Chucky films: Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky, both of which were weirdly aesthetically pleasing with well-thought-out colour palettes. I blame Instagram.

Despite Chucky not appearing high up on my favourite horror icons list I was still a little worried about a reboot. The re-boot trend is a risky thing. On one hand, you have to stay close enough to the source material so you don't upset core fans but you also have to do something different to ensure that audiences have a reason to actually see it. Personally, I hate Rob Zombie's reboot of Halloween as I felt the added backstory on Michael Myers's descent in madness was out of place as the whole point of Myers was that he was a hollow shell. The idea that he was once a cute kid just doesn't sit with me. But I loved the Scream television show because it took the basic premise and changed what didn't need to stay. They didn't tamper with anything too important.

I am grateful to report, however, that Child's Play 2019 hits the sweet spot of respecting the source material but re-creating it for a modern audience who belong to a different generation.

[spoilers ahead]

Within the first 20 minutes, you will notice that the creators have removed a key component of the original film: Charles Lee Ray does not exist in this re-boot and Chucky is actually the product of a disgruntled Vietnamese sweatshop worker who disables the doll's safety features in revenge. Political, I like it.

You'll notice very quickly as well that instead of Chucky being a Good Guy doll, he is now a "Buddi" who can be hooked up to your electronic devices and is effectively a doll version of Alexa for children. I did roll my eyes slightly at this, but you know what? It's relevant. Smart homes are a thing now so it was only a matter of time before film producers began working it into horror films.

But some things have remained the same. Aside from the iconic image of Chucky stabbing people with a kitchen knife, Karen and Andy make a welcomed return and their relationship in this film is similar to that of the original (though 2019 Andy is a teenager). And Chucky's outfit hasn't been altered much.

And while I personally rolled my eyes at the technology bit, I can see why the producers did it. Back in 1988 dolls were still a very popular children's toy. That's what made the film so scary to some viewers: taking something as innocent as a children's toy and turning it into a murderous killing machine. But dolls aren't what children play with now, it's smartphones and that's exactly the socio-cultural update that Child's Play needed to make it scary to modern audiences.

The cast is less white than the original which is also a nod to the changing conversation around representation in media. And while I'd like to celebrate this, the producers still handed over the key roles to white actors while the non-white actors were regulated to supporting roles. Do better.

And it was funny, in a quippy, self-aware, and sarcastic way. Which I always like. That's my humour.

Bottom line: it was a good film. Whenever you go into the cinema to see a reboot you have to keep an open mind. You can't go in there thinking it will be the film you fell in love with. Try and convince yourself that you're watching it for the first time.

I've read reviews from critics who hated it. But when I'm reading these rants I see a common theme: they aren't separating their love for the original from the acknowledgement that this is a different film. It's not meant to be a line-for-line remake; if it was there would be no point. The world has moved on since 1988 and producers have chosen to create a modern re-telling of a classic film. Is it lazy to re-boot? Yeah, a little. Is it a fresh idea? Nah. But as long as a franchise has living fans who will pay money to see it there will be re-boots, sequels, and prequels. That's how capitalism works, y'all (I am chuckling at the irony that a film that taps into anti-capitalist imagery is literally a capitalist product itself looking to make money off an established horror icon instead of make something audiences arent familiar with).

I also didn't see one person in the cinema who would have been a teenager when the original came out. I looked around and everyone appeared to be my age or younger. The 50-somethings who remember the cultural significance of the original weren't out in tow.

And maybe that's the point. Maybe it's not aimed at people who hold memories of watching the original in the cinema with their friends. It's for a new generation who have a new set of cultural and political fears.

Damn millennials and their smartphones, ruining everything.

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