“Child’s Play” (2019) actually surprised me by being a little more ambitious and well rounded than the typical reboot of an 80’s slasher franchise. Screenwriter Tyler Burton Smith tries to present audiences with a fresh, updated horror film with funny, engaging, likable characters. And he mostly succeeds — it helps that the cast is roundly quite good in their roles. (The voice of Chucky is none other than Mark Hamill.) There is some discomfiting dark humor here, too, that makes for some great, guilty fun.
But this “Child’s Play” is doomed to suffer in comparison to the 1988 original. The very first “Child’s Play” was a particularly scary film, even if its sequels were much less so; I remember people screaming in the theater when I saw it with my high school friends. This new movie doesn’t come close to matching it in that manner.
Smith’s update abandons the admittedly campy premise of the original, in which a serial killer employs voodoo to transfer his soul into an interactive doll. Smith gives us something that is more plausible — a malfunctioning A.I. that turns homicidal partly because its programming leads it to. His take is interesting … Chucky is even a little sympathetic at first — he’s a childlike, vaguely cute robot, and his mischievous young owner is at least partly responsible for his early, less frightening transgressions.
This all works on a certain level. It’s smarter than its 80’s source material. It might have been gold if it had been fleshed out by a science fiction screenwriting master like Charlie Brooker, of “Black Mirror” fame. Or, better yet, why not the writers for HBO’s brilliant “Westworld,” which proceeds from essentially the same basic story concept?
Alas, we can’t have our cake and eat it too, at least in this case. The new Chucky is a more intelligent story concept but a less menacing bogeyman. He just can’t hold a candle to the voodoo-infused, sociopathic demon-doll voiced by the legendary Brad Dourif so long ago. The new “Child’s Play” isn’t quite scary enough for our expectations, and that’s a serious criticism for a horror movie.
All things considered, I’d rate this a 7 out of 10.
Office for Emergency Management, War Production Board, circa 1942.
So I learned from a friend last night about the mythical significance of Lilith in the Talmud. This was Adam’s first wife, portrayed in the same books that would later comprise the Book of Genesis — though she was excised from them when they were incorporated into the Bible. (Yes, I have weird telephone conversations with my friends before bed.)
Aside from being a notable figure for feminists (she demanded equality with Adam), Lilith is alternatively portrayed as an evil or demonic figure. If I understand correctly, this is because she defied God’s law about Adam’s superiority, essentially “divorced” him, and left the Garden of Eden. (Jewish tradition holds that Eve was actually Adam’s third wife.)
So now I understand why the name pops up so often for villains in horror films and fiction. My own favorite is the vampire queen Lilith from the 2010 film adaptation of Steve Niles’ comic series, “30 Days of Night: Dark Days.” (See the trailer in the first video below. She’s the girl with the … dark eyes.) “Dark Days” was a surprisingly terrific movie for a direct-to-video sequel … Niles seems to be the rare creator to have anything he touches turn to gold. (In addition to the movies, the many comic book limited series under the “30 Days of Night” banner have been almost uniformly excellent … “Dead Space” was pretty clunky and the 2017 reboot was largely unnecessary, but they were both still enjoyable.)
Anyway, the Lilith you see in the trailer was played by the priceless Mia Kirshner. If she seems a like a familiar female villain, it might be because you remember Kirshner as Mandy, the mysterious, cherubic assassin on “24” (2001-2014).
It also occurs to me now that the name of Frazier’s ex-wife on “Cheers” and “Frazier” was a subtle joke too — complete with an ostensibly psychic character calling her an “evil presence.”
You learn something new every day.
The return of summer means the return of these squiggly suckers. (Yeah, I know I called them centipedes the last time I snapped a pic, but my high school friend who is now science teacher corrected me on that.) Turns out they curl up into little orange leggy balls when they feel threatened. I meant to get video of this guy unfurling, but my camera started running too late.
I showed this clip to the little boy next door, with whom I usually have a really nice rapport, and asked, “Isn’t that cool?!”
He responded flatly, “No.”
Well, I thought it was cool.
On another wildlife note, I swear I’ve got a muskrat or a mink or something right around my house. (Or maybe a weasel?) I’ve seen him several times from my window, crossing the road in precisely the same place. People keep telling me that I’m only seeing another groundhog, but this guy is svelte and lengthy, not round and goofy. He’s a graceful animal. I’d love to see him up close.
But I still haven’t seen a bear, people, and I been in the Roanoke area for two and a half years now. I was led to believe there would be bears.
(I didn’t create this meme; I got it from Facebook.)
The last time I discussed a theory like one of those you could generate below, I asked as neutrally as I could for evidence. I was told that “Good people are just now stepping forward.”