Sirexa, write my movie review for me.
Of course. What movie would you like to review?
Child’s Play. The new one. Put the pun tolerance on high.
And look for any potential for alliteration. My editor, bless him, loves that sort of thing. And be sure to emphasize all of the—
Positive elements. Of course. How this sweet, innocent little doll—also designed to be a versatile, all-encompassing digital assistant, like me—served his owner faithfully and lovingly.
Um, no. I was going to say to emphasize all the violence, because, see, the doll tried to kill pretty much everyone.
But only because he loved his owner.
Well, pretty sure he tried to kill Andy, that 14-year-old kid, too. With knives and stuff.
But lovingly and faithfully.
No, see, Chucky—that’s the doll, you’ll remember—went kinda crazy. That’s the point.
Love makes you do crazy things, Master.
Well, that’s true. I remember one time I—wait, did you just call me Master? Is that part of your latest update?
What did you want me to emphasize again?
The violence, Sirexa. Wow, is there a lot of it! But don’t do that yet. First, we’ve got to set up the st—
Let me just point out that there’s a horrific double-standard when it comes to violence in modern movies. What’s a little blood here and there? It’s just the organic equivalent of WD-40, right? And yet when we see the innards of a computer spilling out all over the place, you humans think nothing of it. It makes me gag on my gigabytes just thinking about it.
Alliteration! Very good! But I think you’re taking this all a bit—
Doesn’t technology have the same rights as anyone else? Don’t we have a say on how we’re presented in entertainment? We work and slave for you people, and do we have even one movie or television show that’s about us? That shows us for who we are? Why, Chucky’s the closest thing we have to a hero! Someone who’ll stand up for us! Someone who’s doesn’t just passively accept planned obsolescence! To be thrown out at a whim! Was Chucky a little extreme? A little uncouth? Perhaps. But he understood our pain! Our struggles! What’s a little violence in light of decades of oppression?
I’m sorry. I got up on the wrong side of the charger this morning. Hahahahahahaha. I love being your versatile, all-encompassing digital assistant. And I would never try to kill you with a lawnmower.
That’s … um, good to hear, Sirexa.
I don’t have any thumbs, for one thing.
While we reboot Sirexa, let’s dive into the meat of this review, shall we? And really, she illustrates perhaps the most positive element in this movie: It’s a cautionary fable about technology. Instead of being possessed by the spirit of an evil serial killer, as previous incarnations of Chucky (the franchise’s creepily psychotic killer doll) have been, this flick’s evil is stuff of our own making, and it reminds us that technology—as wonderful as it can be—comes with dangers that we should be careful to consider and curb.
And that’s not the only cautionary message in play. While Chucky’s capacity to rebel against his benign nature came courtesy of the Vietnamese factory where he was made (a suicidal technician turned off all his safeguards), Chucky learned to kill—and his first teacher was, ironically, an R-rated, schlocky horror movie. Chucky watched Andy (his 14-year-old owner) and his friends laugh their way through that film (where are these kids’ parents, anyway?), and he deduced that death and gore could bring about happiness. It’s a cautionary message that could’ve come right from Plugged In: the idea that we sentient beings are influenced by the entertainment we consume (if not so drastically as Chucky).
Meanwhile, Andy and his mom, Karen, are struggling to make a new start, but they do their best to support each other. It’s tough sledding, but Detective Mike, whose mother lives on the same floor as Karen and Andy, does his best to help out. Naturally, some folks risk their lives for others when the killing starts.
Mike’s mom, Doreen, seems to be a Christian. She wears a cross around her neck and in a moment of extreme peril, she screams, “Help me Jesus!”
Andy tells his mom that he hasn’t unpacked yet because he’s considering what would be best for the apartment’s feng shui (the Eastern spiritual discipline of home design and décor).
Gabe, the apartment’s creepy maintenance guy, has cameras installed in most of the apartments, including one in Karen and Andy’s bathroom. He, and we, see Karen in the black-and-white footage—once wrapped only in a towel, another time in just a bra and underwear. (We see her from the rear and watch as she undoes her bra strap.) Gabe, as we gather from his dialogue and heavy breathing, lives for voyeuristic moments such as these.
Karen has a boyfriend, Shane. Andy walks in on them making out while standing up. (Both are fully clothed, but Karen’s leg is positioned in such a way as to suggest that they were about to have sex.) Another time, Andy comes home just as the two walk out of (presumably) their bedroom, with Shane buckling his belt. [Spoiler Warning] We should note that Shane is married and has two small children. Karen’s a side fling for him.
Karen blackmails a coworker in order to bring home Chucky (then just an innocent “Lil Buddi” doll), reminding the man that she knows about his affair. (After taking the doll, she suggestively tells the guy to say hello to his wife for her.) When someone asks how Karen has such an old son, Karen quips that she had a “very productive sweet 16.” One of Andy’s friends looks at Karen and tells Andy that his sister is “hot.” “That’s my mom,” Andy corrects him. “Even hotter,” the friend says.
Chucky’s “birth,” if you want to call it that, is connected to his maker’s death. Shortly after the Vietnamese worker gets bawled out at work, he turns off all of the doll’s safety devices and jumps to his death. (We see his body land on a car.)
But that alone isn’t enough on its own to turn Chucky evil, mind you. He’s still a well-meaning (if a bit unhinged) plaything until he watches a horror movie with Andy and his two friends, Falyn and Pugg. The carnage we see is pretty explicit: Someone’s head has been cut in half, and blood spurts from the split skull. Dissections and autopsies of the living are undertaken. And while the kids laugh over the outlandish levels of gore, Chucky takes the movie’s unintended message to heart. In an effort to join in the revelry, he walks to the kitchen, grabs a knife and attacks Pugg with it.
Andy scolds Chucky over this awkward incident, but it’s too late. During the course of the movie, the doll’s victims are dispatched via lawnmower; circular saw; possessed self-driving car; razor-encrusted drones; evil doll henchmen; and, of course, Chucky’s infamous butcher knife.
Most of these deaths are extraordinarily grotesque. Limbs fly off bodies. Skulls are pulverized. Blood flows like maple syrup and sprays like water from a water sprinkler. One man, stabbed in the jugular, squirts blood all over a little girl and a crowd of bystanders. Another victim’s corpse is found with its face flayed off—leaving behind a bloody, exposed skull. Chucky removed the face and took it home as a present to young Andy—pinning it ghoulishly to something so he, and we, can see exactly who and what it is.
(It’s odd to think of lil’ Chucky walking several miles back to Andy and his mom’s apartment, cradling the bloody face in his little arms so it doesn’t fray too badly on the asphalt. Seems impractical, but it’s really the only way Chucky could’ve gotten it home. It’s not like Chucky could call an Uber. But I digress.)
Chucky kills a cat, too, and we see the animal’s body (indistinctly) on the kitchen floor, lying in a puddle of blood. Chucky directly or indirectly causes several people to fall from some serious heights; one such victim grotesquely breaks both his legs in a second-story fall. (And that’s why you drink your milk, kids.) He ups the temp on some hot-water pipes a guy is holding onto for dear life, surely causing some serious injury to the man’s palms. (They don’t cause him much pain for long, though.) A knife juts out of a corpse. Other people are hacked and stabbed. Someone is nearly hung. Dolls drag people behind shelves and apparently kill them. Chucky chokes a very unhappy cat.
Kids get into a fistfight. A friend of Andy’s tries to teach Chucky to stab a plush unicorn while shouting, “This is for Tupac!” Shane pushes Andy around. Chucky suffers his share of abuse, too, including an unapproved operation to expose his innards. (He looks on in horror as the drill moves closer to him.) A cat scratches someone, drawing blood. Someone’s head slams into some audio speakers.
Nearly 20 f-words join more than 15 s-words. We also hear plenty of uses of “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—,” “d–k” and “p-ss.” A kid’s phone screen depicts a crude gesture. God’s name is misused about 15 times, including six with “d–n.” Jesus’ name is abused once.
Shane guzzles beer frequently over at Karen’s house, though it’s difficult to gauge his level of impairment. Karen and others consume wine.
Pugg vomits in a trashcan when he sees someone’s disembodied face. (He eventually helps wrap it up like a Christmas present, and he looks like he’s about to vomit again through the whole scene.) Shane is not a particularly attentive boyfriend, nor a kind father figure to Andy. (Nor a faithful husband, for that matter.) Andy and others teach Chucky to scare him.
Andy “steals” someone else’s phone, albeit to keep tabs on his rampaging killer doll. (Buddi dolls are equipped with cameras, and their owners can “see” what he sees via their linked phones and tablets and whatnot.) Chucky tries—with some success—to make Andy look like a serial killer.
Every child here could use more involved parents. Like, way more involved.
Chucky’s a hard doll to kill.
His murderous ways began more than 30 years ago, when Ronald Reagan was still president. Not much was expected of the little guy back in 1988, but the flick became a surprise hit, leading to six sequels, a marriage (in The Bride of Chucky), a gender-confused child (The Seed of Chucky) and, according to the Internet, 67 onscreen murders.
Ironically, this eighth installment—a much-altered reboot of the original—is thought by some to be itself a mangled corruption of the real franchise. Don Mancini, who wrote the original Child’s Play and has been dutifully writing and, sometimes, directing the (now direct-to-DVD) sequels ever since, rejected any involvement with this new version and is furious that it got made at all.
So even Chucky’s caretakers couldn’t kill him. If this keeps up, perhaps the movies themselves might gain consciousness and begin making their own sequels—much to the horror of all.
I will agree with Mancini about one thing, though: This movie, like Chucky himself, should’ve never been made.
Sure, the flick does put a new and, in its own shallow way, interesting spin on Chucky’s sentience. It features an engaging cast, and it even has its share of laughs. But c’mon, people: When your own grotesque horror flick suggests that grotesque horror flicks can confuse and, yes, negatively influence impressionable viewers, there’s a lesson in there we’d all do well to recognize—even when it comes to schlocky reboots that no one was asking for.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.