Chucky, that infamous doll possessed by a serial killer, first scared audiences in 1988 via the film, Child’s Play. The film garnered a total gross of $44,196,684 worldwide. Since then, Chucky has given birth to a film franchise that left horror-loving movie fanatics and the larger movie folk having a love-hate relationship with dolls—especially the creepy variety. After seven movies, an eighth is about to jump from the big screens beginning this June 20 in the Philippines, a day earlier than its US release. Child’s Play, the horror favorite has been reimagined for the contemporary times by producer Seth Grahame-Smith.
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Grahame-Smith was 12 years old when the original was released and remembers being absolutely terrified by it. Yet he watched it again and again. “Iʼve been a fan ever since,” he says. Understandably, when MGM and Orion Pictures raised the idea of updating the original Child’s Play, Grahame-Smith and fellow producer David Katzenberg (It, Beetlejuice 2) were apprehensive. “We didnʼt want to just remake the 1988 movie, which is a horror classic that introduced the world to one of the greatest horror villains of all time. We wanted to introduce something new to it, something relevant to todayʼs audiences.”
These intentions don’t always make for better films but the duo thought long and hard about what that reimagined version might be. They took into consideration the world at the moment, where cameras and microphones are omnipresent, where appliances talk to each other, where everything is interconnected. “We got excited by what it would mean for Chucky, if he were not just a kidʼs toy but a really high end AI product, like something youʼd see from Apple or Amazon or Google — a child companion. What would happen if something with so much computing power and connectivity went bad, what would the possibilities be?”
Grahame-Smith and Katzenberg then got excited about having something new to say, attuned to the responsibility they have to longtime fans. The upgraded Chucky is far more advanced—if you ask Grahame-Smith: “He has more ways to kill you.” The doll now possesses the ability to access other devices and look through them. He can take over thermostats, vehicles, robot vacuums. “He can use anything at his disposal to terrorize and kill you,” Grahame-Smith adds.
And so meet Chucky 2.0.
But while the original Chucky was a serial killer who terrorized its victims through the body of a doll, the Chucky of 2019ʼs Child’s Play is one that plays on contemporary fears. “We really do give our lives to these machines, everythingʼs in a cloud now and we are possessed by these belonging,” says actor Tyree Henry. “Thatʼs something thatʼs so fascinating about the reimagining of Child’s Play— even the adults are susceptible to the Child’s Play of it all…we are pretty much slaves to technology.”
He recalls a story heʼd read about a childʼs first words being Alexa because the child has heard the parents so much. “He probably thought it meant I love you,” says Henry. “I always have a weird time seeing a kid just go ‘hello google do this, ok google turn this…ʼ — they have more of a relationship with these machines than they do with actual human beings.”
One thing that Henry, who plays Detective Mike Norris, really responded to in the script was just how much the audience will end up empathizing with Chucky. “I care about Chucky a lot in this movie. Heʼs a product, but heʼs also a product of the programming and thatʼs whatʼs so sad about it. This doll has been programmed to be the best friend to this kid — itʼs kind of a love story in a way,” he says with a laugh. “Chucky has many emotions and heʼs learning —when it starts to learn things is when it starts to be terrifying.” The message of the movie hits a chord with lead actress Aubrey Plaza, too. “I have a very personal disgust of the technology and devices weʼre all addicted to,” she says.