For those who are deeply afraid of dolls, listen up: The Child's Play remake will make you laugh if you let it. While later sequels to the original Child's Play leaned in on its absurd premise, the new movie hits the ground running, winking at the camera even as the blood and guts start flying. One person to thank for that is star and Parks & Rec alum Aubrey Plaza, who brings a comedic pedigree to the role.
Plaza plays Karen, a single mom who gifts her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a malfunctioning "Buddi Doll" for his birthday. The so-called "smart doll" inadvertently names himself "Chucky" (he mishears Andy as he attempts to name him, then can't let it go) and quickly becomes Andy's "best buddi." A friend is necessary for Andy, as Plaza's Karen is spending all her time with her new, married boyfriend (David Lewis).
Though Chucky is not a reincarnated serial killer he was in the 1988 Don Mancini movie of the same name, Child's Play reminds fans that artificial intelligence can be just as terrifying as Charles Lee Ray ever was. However, partially thanks to Plaza's famous snark, audiences will find themselves alternating laughter with screams.
Over the phone, Refinery29 talked to Plaza about her role in the new horror movie, that time Chucky malfunctioned on set, and what she thinks of those crazy Toy Story posters.
Refinery29: Why sign on to the Child's Play remake?
Aubrey Plaza: "I don’t always think remakes are necessary, but I thought this was a really clever reimagining of the character. It was a fun way to bring Chucky back into theatres and share the shit out of a whole new generation of children. The idea of having Chucky be a smart doll and connect to the Cloud and be a ‘bad robot’ was really interesting. I also really connected to my character, she was really different from any character I’ve ever played before."
Do you think your character is a good mom?
"I think she’s doing the best she can. I tried to show a mom who has a deep connection with her son. I think because she’s really young, she’s growing up alongside him, and she has a lot of issues she needs to work out. There’s an element where she’s really distracted by the men in her life, and by the end of the movie she realises 'I don’t need a man to complete my family. We’re enough.'"
What will surprise people about this version of Child's Play?
"Chucky is such an iconic character that I think people are going to be surprised to find they may feel bad for Chucky, in a way. He’s a very different character than the original. The movie does a good job at balancing tones and showing a real family dynamic, too — there’s a lot of really emotional stuff as well. [But,] people will be surprised by how gory it is. It’s pretty violent. I was pretty shocked by how far they took the gore.
Did you have any particularly scary moments on set?
"Day one for me was shooting the climax of the movie where I’m tied up, covered in blood, and being hung on a forklift. I would say that was pretty creepy. It’s a very intense way to start a movie."
What were your interactions with the Chucky doll like?
"I didn’t have as much interaction with the doll as Gabriel did, but there were definitely times where the doll creeped me out. One day one of the animatronic dolls combusted, and the head started smoking and caught on fire. The [assistant director] was like ‘Everybody get back!’ I was like ‘Wow, that is the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen.’"
You starred in the film Ingrid Goes West, which is a critique of Instagram culture and social media. Was there any connection between you signing up for this movie, which also critiques the role technology plays in society?
"I think it makes sense that this was the first horror movie I signed up for. Just the idea of technology [as the villain of the movie] was something I could get behind. I am fascinated by our culture has changed because of technology and social media. We don’t really know the impact of all this [technology] on us yet. Personally, I’m very conflicted about all of it. I’m paranoid about my phone, that it’s listening to me or watching me. It’s all kind of creepy to me. This movie was a fun worst case scenario — and I don’t think it’s too far off from what actually could happen."
Have you seen those posters where it looks like Chucky is murdering the toys from Toy Story?
"Oh yeah, I knew about that [marketing strategy] before it happened. Toy Story is such a monster of a movie. They probably have three times the marketing budget that we have. People probably don’t realise that Child’s Play is on a much smaller budget than they think, it’s even smaller than [another horror movie like] It. We’re the little engine that could, we’re the underdog. So we’re kind of scrappy, we're trying to get people to come into the theatre. I flew into LAX last night and the entire terminal is covered in Toy Story 4 marketing — like the whole airport terminal! We’re just trying to create as much buzz as possible because we’re up against a monster of a movie. The idea of Chucky trolling all those family-friendly, wholesome dolls is a really funny concept."
Do you have any interest in returning to TV, after Parks & Rec?
"I would love to be on a sitcom again. It would just have to be the right one. Parks & Rec was such an amazing experience, and I think we were all so spoiled with the cast and the material that the bar is very high for me in television. If I’m going to jump into a comedy that’s going to last forever, it’s got to be really, really good. But I definitely want to — I’m very interested in doing a comedy television show again. I miss laughing all day. I have a couple of things in development, but that’s definitely something I want to do again."
Child's Play hits cinemas on 21 June.