There are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and reboots. The latter, in particular, seems be the one that stirs up the most emotion and outrage from human beings. While most horror connoisseurs thought Chucky would be immune to the dreaded R word, the killer doll got his own in 2019’s Child Play.
Upon release, it was smashed by mixed reviews. For one, most fans didn’t understand why the franchise needed a reboot since it appeared to have been doing fine with well-received films such as Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky. Two, creator Don Mancini had nothing to do with the project, which he publicly denounced, nor was Brad Dourif who’d voiced Chucky since 1988 (Mark Hamill took over vocal duties here). And three, Chucky’s origin was drastically altered—no longer was it rooted in voodoo, but it was about rogue and unstable AI.
While the Child’s Play reboot made a decent return at the box office ($45 million from a $10 million budget), it appears as if any plans for a sequel have been scrapped in favour of the continuation of Mancini’s universe in the upcoming Chucky TV series. For fans of the original franchise, this is good news—but it’s also a reminder of how nostalgia is often the worst part of the entertainment industry.
Before anyone says that a reboot is also just another form of nostalgia, it’s important to understand one thing: franchises are meant to outlast films. Think of Superman. Created in 1938, there’s no way that the hero introduced in Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Action Comics #1 is the same as the character in Richard Donner’s Superman or Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. There have been developments and changes along the way, and new creatives will have different ideas for the character—as they should.
The Child’s Play reboot is a perfect example of this. While staying true to the essence of Chucky and the main narrative, i.e., no one believing a doll was capable of a murder spree, it decided to upgrade other elements, such as the origin. It felt timeous, considering the wider societal discussion about the impact and dangers of AI. More importantly, it didn’t try to become a rehashed clone of what Mancini had done before. It was a unique and fresh take—something that you expect, or at least hope for, from every reboot.
It’s also understandable to see why Mancini felt betrayed by the film being made without his involvement, as it once again highlights the rights challenges that creators experience in Hollywood. In this instance, Mancini’s legion of fans backed him and refused to accept this as part of canon, hence the largely dour reception towards the reboot.
When you look at it from a strictly artistic point-of-view, though, Child’s Play is one of the better reboots around. It stays respectful of the original in its execution, but it also understands that it is its own movie and needs to do a few things differently. Sadly, the behind-the-scenes drama and nostalgia crutch prevented it from receiving the fair reception it deserved.
Until the time when audiences realise that a reboot doesn’t erase the existence of the original, cases like 2019’s Child’s Play will be common occurrences. Sometimes, a makeover isn’t a bad idea—Chucky included.
Watch the trailer for the upcoming SyFy Series, Chucky…