The 2019 adaptation of Child’s Play had a tough act to follow. The killer doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer had been a horror icon for decades. Now the reboot aimed to write him as a case of smart technology minus safety protocols.
In doing so, they may have just given the character more of a new spin than they expected. Warning, spoilers ahead.
Sure, now it’s science, not magic, that’s causing the mayhem. It’s also about a machine’s capacity to learn instead of a killer’s quest to claim a human body as his new vessel.
Sure, the creep factor is different. However, the writers may have also given Chucky a new layer of substance. While the doll lacks the cunning and charisma of Charles Lee Ray, he has something else going for him – the will to be a protector.
The remake drove home the idea that the doll wanted to be Andy’s best friend. This urge, coupled with the fact his safety features had been deactivated by a disgruntled worker, caused him to do some terrifying things. This includes strangling a cat and recording the noises, then making a skin-mask craft of Andy’s mom’s jerk boyfriend.
So, it’s not that the creators didn’t make Chucky creepy. The fans who walked in expecting horror and gore got both, in very generous servings. But they also got the odd scenes where a baffled Chucky reminds Andy that both the cat (who scratched him) and Shane (mom’s boyfriend who berated Andy) had hurt him.
Rather than looking to transfer his soul into Andy’s body, he’s looking to protect Andy at all costs. This unrelenting obsession comes from a place of good. But the doll’s disregard for the lives and wellbeing of others in that quest is what makes him truly unnerving.
A relatable antagonist is always welcomed when it is pulled off properly. If the bad guy has done too much and the fans would never want to cheer them, relatability isn’t the best idea. But for a bad guy like Chucky, whose evil was the acts he carried out, making them from a place that’s (sort of) respectable creates a compelling dilemma.
Add in the fact that the dilemma is all about the doll trying to learn, and realize what he’s doing wrong, and it piles on the tragedy. It isn’t until the end of the movie until the doll threatens Andy directly, and this is after he’s been destroyed, and rebuilt with custom programming.
The original Chucky had no redeeming qualities. He was a good villain, but he was firmly stuck in that category. Even if fans empathized with his desire to get out of the doll, the fact he was trying to transfer his soul into a child’s body reaffirmed his evil.
Maybe smart technology is out to help us after all. Let’s just hope it doesn’t mangle the cat or worse in its quest to be a good protector.