This article debuted last year on The Classical Mess, a newsletter I was creating on Substack until I found out they were doing bad stuff.
Chucky get iPad? No, Chucky is iPad. That’s the long and short of the 2019 Child’s Play reboot, a movie that drags the homicidal moppet into the 21st Century by turning him into a Siri-style smart device. It’s a keen and plausible route. Less plausible is the new Chucky’s visage — more Willem Dafoe than Cabbage Patch. Would consumers really go apeshit for a toy that looks like it’ll bust you in the stones even before it turns evil?
Well, Child’s Play is also a film that tries to pass off Vancouver for Chicago and winds up with something resembling Dayton. Any true Chuck head will tell you the problem here is that no one from the original Child’s Play films was involved with this remake. And yet the god Mark Hamill still agreed to speak the new Chucky’s voice.
Hamill excels at sounding diabolical (he’s been voicing the Joker for 30 years) but Chucky 2.0 doesn’t call for that. This isn’t the spirit of a convicted killer trapped in molded plastic, it’s a corrupt operating system that can’t grasp why you should never rip out a cat’s stomach. So Hamill’s “doll” has a measured cadence with just a trace of emotion, remaining placid even as the gruesome stakes are raised. That’s nothing like original Chucky, who carries on like Nicholson after a snootful of downstairs coke.
There are plot threads that don’t go anywhere in Child’s Play and a handful of character moments that fail to ring true, but nobody was expecting Scorsese level craftsmanship from the eighth Chucky movie. We came to see a toy kill people with drones and self-driving cars. In that sense, Child’s Play delivers, fully realizing the violent techno-terror haunting luddites in their sleep.
Only time will tell how heavily Willem Dafoe factors into the inevitable AI uprising. My guess is not very heavily at all but he’s surprised us before.
Arrested In Time: The Life & Death Of Andrew Koenig
Yes, the kid we called Boner only worked sporadically after his initial fame and landed in jail at least once. His journey was a far cry from that of the average child star, though, and we may never fully understand his death.
On February 2, 2010, filmmaker Lance Miccio returned to his Venice, CA, home after a brief Florida jaunt to discover a small bag of miscellaneous items slung over the front doorknob. The bag was from Lance’s friend and fellow filmmaker Andrew Koenig and contained several video tapes of projects the two had worked on over the years, as well as a few personal affects Miccio had previously gifted Koenig. Miccio was confused by the presence of the bag, but didn’t think much of it at the time as there was no note attached offering explanation.
Two days later, Lance contacted his pal Andrew about an upcoming editing gig upon which the two could once again collaborate. Koenig flatly refused the job and also declined an offer to join Miccio for drinks later that evening. Andrew was leaving for Canada within hours, he told his friend, taking a vacation to visit acquaintances in Vancouver. Unbeknownst to Miccio or anyone else in Andrew Koenig’s circle was the fact Andrew had spent the previous weeks clearing out his own Venice residence. According to neighbors, what the genial, doe-eyed actor couldn’t sell he eventually ended up giving away. Again, Andrew Koenig had cited his trip to Vancouver as the motive for this sudden casting off of possessions. He was merely looking to start over in a new country, most assumed.
Eleven days after flying to North America’s third most populous city, Andrew Koenig vanished, which seemed doubly odd as Vancouver was hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics at the time. The games brought an estimated 15,000 temporary residents to British explorer George Vancouver’s namesake in athletes, Olympic officials, and members of the international media. Alas, this brief population boom did nothing to aid location of Koenig. For two weeks, Andrew’s friends and family agonized over the missing writer, director, and performer, and a significant chunk of TV viewers who came of age in the 1980s paid rapt attention. Andrew Koenig was, after all, best known to audiences at large as Boner Stabone, wacky teenage neighbor from the family-oriented ABC sitcom “Growing Pains.”
The situation was sad and slightly surreal in that it seemed to echo the requisite joke about actors who don’t manage to stay in the limelight. Where was Boner Stabone? He had been missing from our popcorn-munching couch potato lives since exiting “Growing Pains” in 1989. Now he was literally gone, another soft face (with unexpectedly long, rock star-ish hair) staring at us from hundreds of missing posters, disappeared in an age where Facebook and Twitter are supposed to be keeping society more firmly connected than an air-tight block of Legos. How can anyone disappear when Google has nearly every inch of the planet photographed and available online for three-dimensional viewing? There’s no hiding anymore, is there?
Statistics would seem to vaguely support that notion. The annual number of missing persons cases entered into the National Crime Information Center’s files has been on a steady decline (coinciding with the rise of technology) since 1995; that year, the NCIC took on 969,294 new cases. In December of 2009, the agency reported a significantly lower 719,558. That’s a 26% drop, which probably will never be trumpeted from the mountaintops because several thousand disappearances every year is still a hell of a lot of missing persons. And can we unequivocally say the various gadgets spewing forth from Silicon Valley are really helping to bring those numbers down and humanity closer together? Of course not. Do you really know all of your Facebook friends?
Our “Age of the iPhone” rings hollow. If a person really wants to go completely off-grid (or, more frighteningly, if a person really wants you to go completely off-grid), no Apple-approved app or innovative location technique is going to stop them.