CHILD'S PLAY, US, 2019. Starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill, Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry, Tim Matheson, David Lewis. Directed by Lars Klevberg. 90 minutes. Rated MA (Horror violence)
In June 2019, three films concerning dolls and toys were released at the same time. However, two of the films had malevolent toys while the third had a whole range of lovable toys. The two horror films were Child’s Play and Annabelle Comes Home, quite a contrast to Toy Story 4.
Annabelle was the third in a series focusing on the destructive Annabelle. Child’s play is a remake of a film of 1989 which had a couple of sequels. The malevolent dolls name was Chucky, causing slashing mayhem in the late 80s, and now reprising mayhem with 21st-century updates – and using the voice of Mark Hamill, a far cry from Luke Skywalker!
The film starts moderately but moves into some ugly deaths and a slashing finale. However, it seems quite genial at first, opening with a very glossy commercial by the head of the company which produces doll-robots, just the right companion for children, a friend for life, called Buddi. But, after sunshine and smiles come grim clouds, the factory in Vietnam where the dolls are made, a supervisor who needs plenty of lessons in human resources skills and fires one of the workers. And, what is a worker to do but sabotage the doll, removing all its protective mechanisms. (Is the filmmaker implying that this is some kind of revenge from Vietnam on the US?).
Aubrey Plaza is Karen, a single mother, bringing up her young son, deaf, Andy (a very engaging and professional performance by Gabriel Bateman). Karen works at the market where the Buddi dolls are sold (and return by disgruntled customers which, of course, leads to her bringing one of the returnrd toys home for Andy).
Guess which one!
The doll is called Chucky, befriends Andy, mimics words, digitalises images and can reproduce them at will. While there are some friendly memories, Chucky acquires quite a lot of animosity, Andy’s resentment about his vanished father, his wishing that his mother’s boyfriend would disappear, and is not too happy with his cat which cuts into his arm. All for Chucky’s future reference.
There is something of a disturbing sequence when Andy and two of his friends spend time watching horror films on TV, Chainsaw Massacre and Leatherface ugly stuff but, instead of being horrified, they roar with laughter. However, the writers insert this because very soon there is going to be a particular Leatherface episode and, more gruesomely, a circular saw killing.
Andy spends a lot of time trying to get rid of the Leatherface that has appeared in his room, is friendly with a detective and his mother along the corridor of the apartment block, as well as with some of the local friends, building up a lot of tension and, finally, the Z Market with crowds arriving for the countdown for the new edition of the Buddi dolls. Where better to have Chucky take Karen as a hostage, see many of the new dolls turning malevolent, murder and mayhem, the burden of saving his mother falling on Andy.
But, that was what the fans of the Child’s Play movies were expecting!
Roadshow Released June 20th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.