There Is Literally No Good Reason To Remake 'Child's Play'

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: the Child's Play series is doing just fine, so news of a remake is straight-up bullshit.)

Let's get this out of the way: I am not anti-remake. Some of horror's most recent top-tier achievements have been remakes themselves (It or Evil Dead, for starters). Modernized technology, fresh visions, and altered perspectives can do wonders for "outdated" classics or under-appreciated gems of bygone eras. May I repeat once more that I am not anti-remake – but I'm sure as hell against rebooting horror franchises that are still VERY MUCH ALIVE.

Last week, it was announced that MGM would be remaking beloved killer doll "slasher" Child's Play with no connection to franchise controller Don Mancini and producer David Kirschner's in-the-works television show (both of whom declined remake involvement when asked by MGM). More red flags: a "technologically advanced" toy will hunt multiple children a la "Stranger Things," and no Brad Dourif returning to voice "Chucky" – if MGM even keeps that name. A "2.0" remake meant to capitalize on what's being identified as "limitations" of Chucky's current rubbery Good Guys form.

Hold up. Have any of the powers fast-tracking this remake for a September 2018 production start date even seen where Cult Of Chucky left off? Also, is MGM actually remaking Small Soldiers without even knowing it?

Gas in the Tank

In the eyes of this writer – someone outside "the business" – remakes function to repopularize a forgotten relic or unearth a franchise that might have been long "dead" and/or stuck in limbo. It's first miniseries iteration dates back to 1990 with Tim Curry's infamous portrayal of Pennywise the supernatural devil clown. Evil Dead? Army Of Darkness marked Ash Williams' previous big screen appearance in 1992. New resurrections of these titles sought to capture what made the original properties so beloved, but not as a recycled act of replication. Fede Alvarez's Evil Dead is a breakneck cabin-in-the-woods remake drenched in thicker hazes of dread to supplement Sam Raimi's still very honored over-the-top sensationalism. Andy Muschietti's It is an accomplished mainstream horror tale that gets nastier, heavier and more extravagant while still allowing Bill Skarsgård to pay proper homage towards Curry's big top theatrics. Timing aligned and creative blessings were given in a way that assured all parties wanted to see these characters and worlds revamped correctly. 

Now imagine the reverse and you should understand why I'm so staunchly against MGM's push-it-through-the-system announcement.

The Child's Play franchise doesn't check any of the necessary boxes that should necessitate remake initiation. Momentum hasn't halted. Creative tanks haven't drained. What Don Mancini has been able to accomplish over 30 years of anthropomorphic voodoo viciousness is nothing short of a miracle given how each film in the "Chuckyverse" steps forward, never back. Reinvention is at the core of each sequel. What started with simple slasher roots now incorporates hexed possessions, red-haired cults and massive doses of Jennifer Tilly (what every franchise needs). But more importantly, Mancini has been nurturing and caretaking Chucky's reign of chaos from the beginning (as a writer) and more recently as director. Universal has been hands-off when letting Mancini vigorously shake the franchise like a cocktail of splattered fluids, in-joke zaniness and tonal pinballing that somehow continues to shine without pandering to fan-service.

So how am I supposed to feel about a Child's Play remake that Mancini himself declined to executive produce?

Cult of Chucky was released not even a full year from this article's publication date and left Mancini with a sandbox full of opportunity for varied stories to snowball from. Chucky will still be voiced by Dourif – maintaining another testament to quality by the retention of actors – and Mancini's timeline would only grow more ambitiously robust. 

Except now this will happen in parallel with MGM's Child's Play remake, so there are two dueling franchise continuities – one that sounds like a 100% cash-grab backed on name recognition only.

Why Are They Even Rebooting Child's Play?

It's an honest, serious and frustrated question. Child's Play is the ONLY horror franchise from the '80s still squeezing fresh batches of juicy, creative, horror-thirst-quenching goodness. Why chop it off at the legs? What functional reason is there to restart from square one? You have no argument about Chucky's name losing notoriety – one of the horror genre's most recognizable faces – because he's still starring in new releases as of last year. Mancini's blueprints are laid with specificity, and not only that, we're still getting more of the Chucky we know coming at us in episodic form. 

On the outside looking in, this kind of announcement makes MGM's Child's Play remake appear as nothing more than competition. A sucker-punch at Mancini's accomplishments. MGM witnessed It's cultural overtaking (and profitable returns), realized they hold the upper hand given theatrical release rights and fast-tracked their own Chucky project. This sucks for a lot of reasons. Mainly because we'll have two clashing "Chucky" entities battling one another for no apparent reason. Mancini has already confirmed he plans on forging ahead with televised content and future Universal-released sequels as planned, assuring he has no desire to approach the direction MGM is testing, but MGM wants a piece of the Chucky pie again. Maybe that eats into existing market viability and earnings split, maybe it doesn't. All I know is the future of Mancini's Chuckyverse just got a whole lot more complicated for no good reason.

Why Are They Calling It Child’s Play?

The lowest form of remake is a repurposed attempt at brand recognition, which is exactly what MGM's project sounds like. Mancini's Child's Play universe uses the practiced mysticism of voodoo transference as a means to pure evil, engaging criminal madman Charles Lee Ray in spiritual realms. Smith's script sounds more like deadly A.I. AKA a robot demon toy programmed to assassinate its owners. Which...isn't Chucky. When I mentioned above about "updating technology" in remakes, I wasn't referring to altered backstories. I was referring to SFX updates and new developments behind the camera. What I'm imagining here is MGM wrongly assuming Child's Play is about a deadly doll and that's where similarities end.

Let's go a step farther with this mentality.

We know Brad Dourif will not be voicing the new Chucky doll (sorry, Jack). Why does this matter? It's true that Bill Skarsgård took over for Tim Curry to play Pennywise, but not while Mr. Curry was hunting children for sustenance. Zero overlap with decades between. What we have now is a world where the O.G. Chucky voiced by Dourif exists alongside MGM's technofied reincarnation...which is bad business. This leads me to believe that MGM's new playtime slaughterer won't resemble Mancini's as to differentiate, thus raising the bigger question: why even call this Child's Play?

If you're going to change the story, change the actor, change every defining Child's Play detail, why not just make a different movie? Killer doll titles exist outside the Child's Play realm. Puppet Master. Dolly Dearest. Black Devil Doll From Hell. Hardcore Child's Play fans will immediately reject the idea of a remake too similar to Tom Holland's original at this time, which is why MGM will need to deliver something wildly different to justify viewership. At that point, you could avoid mountains of backlash by crafting an original death-by-plaything franchise who could coexist with Chucky and, hell, maybe even crossover one day? A better look than flipping one very specific finger by going toe-to-toe with an ongoing franchise while using the same material.

But no. Instead we have a brawl. Instead we have dilution of product. Instead we have MGM effectively saying "yeah, we're gonna swing momentum" and that makes my heart break. Rights sharing be damned, Seed Of Chucky is still the last widely-distributed Child's Play film to be released in theaters. Curse Of Chucky and Cult Of Chucky were both produced under Universal 1440 (home entertainment division). If anything was going to bring Chucky back to the big screen, it'd be proven viewer statistics and financial numbers. MGM's remake adds one more hurdle now in the form of rival product awareness (even if having two Child's Play franchises doesn't sound all that bad for rational film fans).

I Don’t Want To Hear “Fast-Tracked”

A project that's "fast-tracked" isn't unmistakably doomed. Just like how reshoots aren't kisses of death and 150 minute first cuts are normal and hardly noteworthy. I'm not insinuating production will be crunched for time or pre-shooting quality may be "good enough" versus finely tuned (but, I mean, maybe). My concern here harkens back to Mancini's television show, which we don't know a whole lot about. When I hear MGM is "fast-tracking" their remake, I hear that MGM is trying to beat Mancini to the punch. Debut a "new and improved" Chucky before Dourif's mini monster is able to find a home on a TV network or a streaming service. A remake birthed from combative intentions.

One thing scares me about MGM's Child's Play and what it might mean for Mancini's evolutionary Universal run. While they're two distinctly independent entities, even using the name Child's Play still tethers the two somewhat. A rift in continuity that Mancini has not yet broken and scabbed his knuckles to maintain. Did Mancini himself ponder a reboot at one point? Of course. But that eventually became Curse Of Chucky – a darkened, back-to-basics sequel disguised as a reboot – and fandom sects rejoiced.

Don Mancini has written the book on pint-sized terror, re-written it, perfected it, then re-wrote it again a few more times.. Chucky's legacy has only ever been in Mancini's hands, and having that finally change feels...unjust. Nor does it inspire confidence. These movies aren't successful because of Chucky, it's the team bringing him to life – none of whom will aid in the creation of this remake.

An Olive Branch and a Raised Eyebrow

This goes without saying, but maybe you've puckered on account of my saltiness: I *do not* wish MGM's Child's Play remake to fail. I hope Lars Klevberg directs the hell out of Tyler Burton Smith's script and we're soon talking about yet another fantastic horror remake. My hope is that new generations can watch MGM's Child's Play, learn it's a remake, then find themselves asking Alexa "Who is Don Mancini?" and "When did Child's Play originally come out?" Let them start with "grounded" software fritzing and then stumble upon '80s horror, practical effects and serial killers who chant mumbo-jumbo before their soul inhabits a plushy Christmas gift. Best case scenario.

Honestly, none of this is coming from a place of "CHUCKY CAN NEVER BE REMADE, BECAUSE NOSTALGIA!" Quite far from it. Had Chucky laid dormant for 15-plus years, chopped up and stashed away never to bother John Waters again, remake chatter would be positive. Friday the 13th was remade six years after Freddy vs. Jason and eight years after the futuristic Jason X. 2010's A Nightmare On Elm Street came seven years after Freddy vs. Jason and 16 years after Wes Craven's New Nightmare. Halloween first got covered by Rob Zombie (major shift) and is now retooling again under David Gordon Green almost a decade later. All instances where either franchise continuity became overly muddied by numerous offshoot sequels or refurbishing made sense. But Child's Play? Franchise mastermind still in charge, last screen appearance October, 2017.

There's nothing you can say that'll calm my churning stomach at the thought of MGM's remake. Poor timing and undefined intentions suggest the kind of film that gives remakes a bad name. My assumptions and perceptions are only my own, but facts speak volumes. You blatantly speed a horror remake into production even though the original architect is still invested in furthering existing continuities from the 80s, a feat no other slasher has been able to do so successfully? I'm 100% in Don Mancini's corner, only interested in what he's still got in store for us in his one – and only – Chuckyverse. Seven films in and Cult Of Chucky still has that new car smell. Against all odds.

Amidst a cinematic sea of remakes and reboots, Child's Play and the Chuckyverse defied Hollywood trendiness and logic. Last week changed all that. An icon still fighting the good fight of originality now dealt a distracting undercut. Franchise stamina that should be protected and preserved now forced into a proprietary square-off. It's a sour note that reminds even Good Guys get dealt a bum hand, but curtains aren't drawing on "old" Chuck just yet. No matter how MGM's remake scores at the box office, Don Mancini still has one of the most ambitious, longest-running horror epics still under his control – he just needs more support than ever. Chucky's our friend 'till the end.