Suburban Melon Farming: Dr. Lauren & Darren Review “Child’s Play” (2019)

Dr. Lauren McIntyre is a horror obsessive, tattoo connoisseur, natural Goth and cat wrangler. Lauren is currently spending an inordinate amount of time playing cute Japanese farming RPGs (today she upgraded her duck shed). Say hi to her on Twitter: @noddinggoth

Darren Gaskell is a horror obsessive and “enthusiastic” karaoke performer. Never get into a conversation with Darren about the list of Video Nasties – it will go on for hours. Say hi to him on Twitter: @darren_gaskell

CHILD’S PLAY (2019)

*** WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS AND SOME SWEARY BITS ***

Darren: The 2019 version of Child’s Play, which is a reboot of the franchise that doesn’t involve Don Mancini, who was behind all of the other movies. I know people who were pissed off that it was a Mancini-less reboot. I’m not sure the guy himself was too impressed.

Dr. Lauren: Before we get into the film, to give some context, what is your history with the Child’s Play franchise?

Darren: I’ve seen them all. I thought the original was pretty good and I remember revisiting it at the flicks. Did Celluloid Screams* show it at one point?

Dr. Lauren: Er, yes. I think the first one was a Celluloid Screams selection because I have seen it at the cinema.

Darren: I did like the first one a lot even though it’s a bit hokey and it’s a studio horror pic. The sequels are of varying quality. Some of them are fine, some are just plain ludicrous even by the standards of the franchise. I don’t know if you’ve seen the later ones like Curse Of Chucky, Cult Of Chucky…well, they’re okay. I know some people really love them. The movies are taken in quite interesting directions. I’m not the biggest Child’s Play fan but as a franchise it’s fine.

Dr. Lauren: The first one I saw was Bride Of Chucky…

Darren: Oh, right!

Dr. Lauren: I remember there being a lot of talk about the controversial nature of the films because of the Jamie Bulger case but it took me years to see the first few because you could never get hold of them and they were never of TV. So it took me a long time to see the first two and I don’t think I’ve seen anything after Bride.

Darren: It was the third one that caused all the controversy and tainted the previous ones. I thought Child’s Play 3 was good. I don’t want to get in any sort of political thing about it and the whole thing was horrific but the connection to what went on seems tenuous.

Dr. Lauren: I liked the first two. The first one is probably my favourite but I’m not into it enough to seek out the others to be honest. If it was one, I’d watch it but it’s not like I’d go out of my way.

Darren: The sequels are perfectly serviceable but when you get up to Cult Of Chucky I was like “This again?”. As for the later ones, Jennifer Tilly’s pretty good.

Dr. Lauren: Jennifer Tilly’s the best thing about Bride, for sure.

Darren: I’m not as vehemently against the reboot as some others were. Maybe they should have given Don Mancini some input into it but they decided to go a different way.

Dr. Lauren: Is he not on the credits in any way, shape or form?

Darren: I think there’s a credit for the original characters.

Dr. Lauren: Not an executive producer or anything?

Darren: No. I don’t think it was made with his blessing. It was more or less “We’re doing this”. I know some people were dead set against that but some were okay with treating this as a separate entity. I don’t hate this movie but I don’t think it’s a particularly great piece of horror cinema either.

Dr. Lauren: I was expecting it to be utterly shit. I know a lot of people that saw this in the cinema when it first came out and I don’t think I remember any of them having a good thing to say about it. More recently I’ve heard one person we know say they really enjoyed it. In the end, I didn’t overly enjoy it but I didn’t hate it. I think I said to Steve that I hated it when I finished watching it but my attitude to this has mellowed over the last couple of days. For context, I watched it on Friday as part of a watch party and it is now Monday.

Darren: I went to see it at the cinema and having watched it again my view of it has not changed at all. I got the same experience out of it on Netflix. All the bits I liked from the cinema viewing I still liked and all the bits I didn’t like still didn’t do anything for me so I haven’t shifted one little bit.

Dr. Lauren: My absolute favourite bit was the circular saw death. I really enjoyed that. One of my friends on the watch party had to leave the room because she said it was too gruesome.

Darren: One thing about this reboot, it’s got some pretty good kills.

Dr. Lauren: The kills are pretty ace. And the bit at the end in the shop with the guy who’s the Buddi bubble head on who gets stabbed in the neck and he’s staggering around and then he bleeds all over that child.

Darren: The kid getting splattered with the blood, I pissed myself laughing at that in the cinema. I was probably the only one. You know that moment when you burst out laughing at something and you’re the only one in the cinema that has? There you go.

Dr. Lauren: That happened three times to me on that watch party.

Darren: As soon as I saw the guy with the Buddi head on I thought “Oh yeah, the bit with the kid’s coming up now”. Still made me laugh the second time. The lawnmower killing’s pretty nasty too.

Dr. Lauren: Yeah, the lawnmower bit’s hilarious. I couldn’t figure out if it was meant to be funny or not. It was outright funny enough to class it as a comedy horror but it did make me laugh in several places.

Darren: You get the lawnmower death but then it leads to the guy’s face being stuck on a melon.

Dr. Lauren: There was an extensive conversation about the melons while I was watching this. I was thinking “Hang on, why’s this man got loads of melons in his garden?”. I wonder what the growing season is for watermelons or if you can legitimately grow them in North America. It just struck me as a really odd thing for someone to have lots of in his garden and probably the only reason they were there was so they could put a man’s face on one.

Darren: The running gag about the face on the melon that’s wrapped up – it’s all right but they really overdo it.

Dr. Lauren; Yeah, it’s pretty laboured, isn’t it?

Darren: Yeah. Either discover it or throw it away. They stretch it out to ridiculous length. There’s a couple of other things I do want to say about this movie. One’s in a scene early on with the guy who returns the Buddi doll because it’s got red hair. He doesn’t want, and I quote, “this ginger piece of shit”…

[Dr. Lauren starts laughing]

Darren: I’ve had enough of this fucking gingerist nonsense in movies. There’s a movie I’m reviewing elsewhere and there’s a plot point about how red-haired people curse sea voyages as well.

Dr. Lauren: Oh yeah.

[Dr. Lauren knows the movie he’s talking about as they’ve both seen it previously]

Darren: I’m sorry, I’m not having it. There are certain sections of society they really shouldn’t be having a go at and, yes, they shouldn’t, so they somehow think it’s okay to have a pop at the poor ginger bastards now. So for that, fuck off Child’s Play!

Dr. Lauren: Can I say that being ginger is the least of that doll’s problems?

[Darren cracks up]

Dr. Lauren: That doll. What the fuck is going on with its face? Who designed that? What did the other reject dolls look like? That was the one that they went with? It’s hideous! I know it’s supposed to be a scary film but I would not buy that doll for a child. When it’s talking to Andy later on and he’s making it pull that rictus grin, it’s awful. The only thing that’s more awful that Buddi is that fucking werewolf-bear.

Darren: The Buddi bear?

Dr. Lauren: Yeah.

Darren: That’s absolutely fucking nightmarish. It does look like a weird cross between a werewolf and a bear. You’d think that if you were going to market a bear you’d have something that was at least a little bit cute. This looks like Paul Naschy in one of those Spanish werewolf movies.

Dr. Lauren: Have you ever seen the Mexican werewolf men that were in Victorian freak shows? People that have got some sort of congenital condition that means hair grows on their faces, like the Lon Chaney werewolf make-up. And the bear’s got blue eyes. so it’s fucking terrifying.

Darren: It’s just sitting there in the shop glaring at customers. What would possess you to think “Oh yeah, I’m gonna have one of those”? Okay, they’ve ironed out some problems with the Buddi 2, like they’ve made him blond. How come he’s all right now he’s blond? He still looks fucking weird. That bear thing, though. Imagine you waking up and that fucking thing’s staring at you.

Dr. Lauren: I grew up in an age of Teddy Ruxpin and I never had one but if Teddy Ruxpin had looked like that he would have been out of the fucking window.

Darren: This movie expects you to accept that people think this doll is perfectly all right.

Dr. Lauren: Is it meant to look cute? The original Chucky doll does look cute, it looks no worse than something like a Cabbage Patch Doll and it’s only when it comes to life that it pulls these faces that makes it look fucking awful.

Darren: From the kick-off this one looks weird. And we’ve also got some nefarious IT going on at the start with the Vietnamese bloke reprogramming the doll. They’re all speaking Vietnamese but the program code is in English.

Dr. Lauren: I didn’t notice that!

Darren: And it’s the kind of code that you see in Hollywood movies where it’s just lines of stuff that would do absolutely cock all. And then all of a sudden, it’s “let’s not look at the code, let’s go straight to the operating system” and you see him disabling all the safety features on it because it’s that easy to do. Then he programs it on to a chip and puts it in because again it’s that easy to do.

Dr. Lauren: Whereas in the original Child’s Play the doll comes to life because it’s possessed by the ghost of a serial killer called Charles Lee Ray.

Darren: Yes.

Dr. Lauren: Which was a question on the Celluloid Screams quiz last night and I got that right! Hooray! But I digress. In this one, it’s a messed up, safety feature disabled Alexa type of situation. Does the doll become sentient because of the AI and the safety features being disabled or is it just learning bad stuff?

Darren: It’s never really made clear as to how much it can learn. They do connect it up to the Cloud at one point so it can download stuff.

Dr. Lauren: And it watches some of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 so that’s why it cuts somebody’s face off.

Darren: Yes. I don’t know which cut of TCM2 they saw but it’s all out of order. They’re watching the guy about to get his face taken off but then they’re watching the guys on the bridge. That’s the opening of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 where the guy gets the top of his head lopped off in the car. So either they’re just running back the highlights or they’ve got a really fucked up copy of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Some bootleg where all the reels are in the wrong order.

Dr. Lauren: Now I thought the whole thing was okay but I wish they’d made more of the fact that it could tap into to the WiFi and the Cloud and so on. There’s some of that in it but they could have taken it further.

Darren: They take a few liberties with that. At some points he’s controlling pretty much everything. In the basement he’s controlling the heating and turning the lights on and off and all of that but at other points he controls very little.

Dr. Lauren: The Buddi doll had ended up with a family that didn’t have much money and that meant they weren’t all connected up to the hilt so he couldn’t control everything there but I thought that was a missed opportunity. It would have been relatively easy to get a defective doll into the house of a rich family or an IT-savvy family where everything was connected up. There’d have been a lot more scope there.

Darren: When Buddi goes after Shane, the boyfriend of the Aubrey Plaza character, at the point where Shane goes back to his family…I mean, you thought he was a piece of shit to start with but as soon as you see him go back to his family you think “Well, this guy’s gonna die” and he does. As it’s a more swanky place, I originally thought the doll was going to get in the house and mess around with the gadgets inside but instead it stays outside and bumps him off in the garden. It sets up this thing where it can connect to other devices but doesn’t do a huge amount with that until it gets to the shop at the end. Considering he could have controlled a lot there he limits himself to a remote-controlled car and some attack drones.

Dr. Lauren: He films some stuff through his video camera eyes and puts it on the TV.

Darren: That’s more or less it. What I did notice about the movie is that it’s from Orion Pictures. Orion Pictures also did RoboCop and there are a couple of nods to RoboCop in it.

Dr, Lauren: What?

Darren: When Buddi is switched on the view is very much like the RoboCop view. Also, when the remote-controlled police car is driving around at the end, it says “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me” which is a line from RoboCop. That’s how sad I am.

Dr. Lauren: I would have quite enjoyed it if the Buddi doll had been a bit passive-aggressive. Like turning the heating up by two degrees to make everyone feel uncomfortable. Or turn up the television so it’s just a little bit too loud.

Darren: Or just as you’re getting to the last scene in Game Of Thrones he turns it off.

Dr. Lauren: He misses the last 30 seconds of every TV show you’ve got recorded.

Darren: There’s not a huge amount I have to genuinely complain about here but one thing I really do have to complain about is the cat.

Dr. Lauren: Oh. Yeah. I wasn’t happy about that. The worst thing about the cat is the way the little boy just threw it away.

Darren: I know the cat’s supposed to be a little bit aggressive towards the kid and I know it steps up from Buddi killing the cat to killing humans that get in his way but it’s such a lazy trope and it’s just unpleasant. There’s no need for it.

Dr. Lauren: Do you think it’s a nod to stereotypical serial killer behaviour or do you think it’s literally just a lazy trope?

Darren: I think it’s a lazy trope in this one. To me, it’s as if they were thinking “How are we going to get one more death in this movie? What’s he got? A cat. Let’s kill the cat off”. If it was a more serious movie and you’re showing how someone starts off by being cruel to animals, well, it’s still not massively acceptable but it’s more acceptable. This just seems to say “We can’t have him start slaughtering people 20 minutes in so what can we do? Oh, we’ll get him to kill the cat”. I thought it was completely unnecessary. That and the ginger thing had already got me stoked up. There are good things in it though.

Dr. Lauren: Aubrey Plaza is good in it. I don’t think the kid who plays Andy is anything to write home about. I can’t remember who plays Andy in the original…

Darren: Alex Vincent?

Dr. Lauren: I know he’s a younger kid in that film but there’s a point where he’s crying when he’s telling his mum that it wasn’t him that did something, it was Chucky and that kid is so sad and so believable you just want to give him a hug.

Darren: You get the same thing in this movie where no one believes him but it doesn’t work as well as it does in the original.

Dr. Lauren: Part of that, I think, is that they decided to go with an older kid. You don’t sympathise with him as much, maybe. And also, I didn’t find him particularly likeable.

Darren: They try their best to make you feel as much sympathy for him as possible. He’s got a hearing aid and his family doesn’t have much money and they do trowel it on a bit. They spend so much time trying to force you on his side that it gets a bit grating. You should be sympathising with him because of the character, not because he’s got a hearing aid. Again, it’s a bit lazy. It’s leading you down a route rather than getting you to make your own mind up. The problem is, then, you think “Well, okay, he’s not got the best of circumstances but he’s also a bit of a dick”.

Dr. Lauren: I think overall as a package it was okay but it just stank of a studio horror where someone said “We can get the rights to this, we can make a relatively cheap reboot” and they know they can get a financial return on it. Nobody was really that invested in it, nobody really gave a shit about it, it’s another of these “get a script written, churn it out, we know we’re gonna make some money off it” things.

Darren: I agree. It does seem like it’s a bit of a studio horror template. This is what we need to tick off, we need so many people dying, we need this at the end. Even the climactic showdown between Buddi and Andy isn’t that great. Aubrey Plaza, to use a Strong Language and Violent Scenes phrase, is in a state of some distress at the end. To a point where I thought “After all of that, how could she just get up?”.

Dr. Lauren: I did think that actually. During that, I was also thinking if there was any tension in the film at all, Maybe the bit with the circular saw, that was a little bit tense but you knew what was going to happen.

Darren: Even the bit where Buddi’s got control of the taxi because it’s an automated car – they could have made quite a decent suspense sequence out of that. In the end it’s just ridiculous. I thought the car was going to be really trashed but he knocks it about a bit and the person in the car doesn’t even die from the car crash, Buddi appears in the car afterwards and stabs them. Couldn’t he have just stopped the car and jumped in straight away instead of all that fucking about with the stunt driving?

Dr. Lauren: Another thing I wondered. How the fuck did he get there so fast? He’s got really small legs.

Darren: True.

Dr. Lauren: Has he got a speed button? Did he remotely control a drone to whizz him there? How did he get there? Did he clip himself on to the bottom of the car? I’ve got no idea. He’s in the flat, she’s off in the car, ten minutes later he’s in the bloody car park waiting for her.

Darren: That’s a good point. I’ve seen it twice and not really thought about that. He might have called his own Uber. If they’re automated cars it’s okay but if he called a taxi and the taxi driver pulls up and a fucking doll gets in…I’m thinking about this too much. The one thing I can say about it and the one point of genius in this movie is getting Mark Hamill to do the Buddi voice.

Dr. Lauren: Although I didn’t think he did anything particularly special with it. He was fine but knowing how good Mark Hamill can be at doing character voices it wasn’t anything to write home about.

Darren: The fact they’d cast him. Someone had their eye on the ball there. That was guaranteed to at least give it some cred.

Dr. Lauren: They probably spent quite a lot of their budget getting Mark Hamill as well.

Darren: I hope they did. It doesn’t elevate the movie much but it does elevate it some. Also, if you let the credits play out you get to hear the Buddi song twice.

Dr. Lauren: Oh my God!

Darren: You get the normal version as the credits start, then you get some incidental music, then you get a second version which is really fucked up. It gets more and more creepy as it goes along.

Dr. Lauren: I did notice they got a Han Solo joke in at the beginning.

Darren: Yes.

Dr. Lauren: Should have been Luke Skywalker.

Darren: This is how referential it gets. When Shane is killed with the lawnmower there’s a very brief shot of the front of the lawnmower and it says “CP88” on it. I didn’t notice it at the cinema but saw it this time. It’s the kind of thing where half of me was “Oh, Child’s Play ’88!” and the other half of me was like “….[long sigh]….REALLY?”

Dr. Lauren: I never notice things like that in films. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the Indiana Jones trilogy. There is no fourth film.

Darren: There never was a fourth film. I’m not really sure they should ever make a fourth one.

Dr. Lauren: No, I don’t think they should at all. It stops at three. Anyway, I only just noticed in The Temple Of Doom that the club they’re in at the beginning is called Club Obi-Wan.

Darren: It is!

Dr. Lauren: Apparently one of the planes in Raiders has C-3PO written on the side and C-3PO and R2D2 are on the hieroglyphics behind the bloody Ark of the Covenant.

Darren: I did notice Club Obi-Wan because I went to see it at the cinema and afterwards I spent a good five minutes boring the shit out of everyone I’d been to see it with going about the fact that it was Club Obi-Wan. Again, I’m that sad.

Dr. Lauren: I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it but I saw it again last weekend and that is the first time I noticed. That’s how seldom I notice these details.

Darren: There’s just enough referential stuff in Child’s Play for it not to be annoying. It’s a level that’s acceptable without it prodding you in the face with it every two minutes. As for the rest, I can’t see it being anybody’s favourite movie. It’s fine. It does what it needs to do as a reboot. I didn’t hate it but I really didn’t love it either. I was fine with watching it again but it was never going to blow me away.

Dr. Lauren: It wouldn’t be something I’d rush back to at all. If we’re talking scores, I think I’m going to go for a solid two out of five.

Darren: I’m going to give it more because I probably did enjoy it as much as I did at the cinema and I’m going to give it a three. I can’t give it a higher mark than that. Aubrey Plaza is good in the lead. She makes up for a lot of the wonkier stuff that’s going on.

Dr. Lauren: It wasn’t terrible but there was a lot about it that made me feel like there was a studio that wanted to make a reboot so they could make a certain percentage and that’s all they gave a shit about.

Darren: It’s a bit tired, there’s nothing particularly innovative about it and all the half-decent ideas they did have aren’t developed.

Dr. Lauren: Someone could have done a lot with the idea. They could have done so much more with it and they didn’t.

Darren: They’re getting away with three out of five especially with that “ginger piece of shit” reference. I’m sorry but NO, Child’s Play, NO! You’ve crossed a line there.

Dr. Lauren: I’d say that if you want a decent “inanimate objects becoming sentient” film I’d check out The Drone.

Darren: I haven’t seen this. All I’ve heard about it is there’s no middle ground. Everyone either really gets a kick out of it or thinks it’s absolutely fucking abysmal.

Dr. Lauren: Steve fucking hated it. I thought it was hilarious. One of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. I’m assuming it was meant to be funny because I laughed my arse off at it.

Darren: So if there’s anything I can take from this Child’s Play review it’s that I probably need to watch The Drone.

Dr. Lauren: Yes. You should definitely watch it. I watched it at the beginning of lockdown with Faye, Chris and Mercer from the I Spit On Your Grades crew and also Mitch Bain [from the Strong Language and Violent Scenes podcast] and some people I hadn’t met before. A good time was had by all.

Darren: Sounds like I might have a better time with The Drone than I did with Child’s Play. Not that I had a terrible time with it but I don’t think I need to watch it again.

Dr. Lauren: No, neither do I. It’s not something I’d particularly recommend either. If someone is interested in Child’s Play, watch the original one.

Darren: Yeah, same here.

Dr. Lauren: There is nothing for you in the reboot.

Darren: If you’re stacking the 1988 one up against the 2019 one, the 1988 one has more charm and it’s scarier.

Dr. Lauren: Unless you like everything Mark Hamill does or you’re into suburban melon farming.

Darren: Yeah, you do get to see a bit of the melon patch. It’s like Gardener’s World for horror fans. If you want a bit of insight into melon cultivation then give it a shot.

THE SCORES

Dr. Lauren: 2 / 5

Darren: 3 / 5

*CELLULOID SCREAMS – If you don’t know by now, Celluloid Screams is Sheffield’s own horror festival which is held every October and showcases the best new horror movies from around the world. If you’ve been you’ll know how great it is. If you haven’t, please come and join the horror family, you’ll love it. You can even say hi to Dr. Lauren and Darren (or tell them how much you disagree with their reviews).

About celluloiddeej

Film fan, horror festival goer, karaoke enthusiast, cat whisperer, world traveller, complete idiot. Invite me on your podcast if you can stand the Yorkshire accent.

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