[INTERVIEW] How the soundscape of ‘CHILD’S PLAY’ slays – and might win an Oscar

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Gabriel Bateman plays with “Chucky” (voiced by Mark Hamill) in CHILD’S PLAY. Courtesy of Orion Pictures.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

It’s not only the design of the “Chucky” doll that’s different about the re-envision of CHILD’S PLAY. Director Lars Klevberg’s splatteriffic slasher delivers an entirely different portrait of the creepy doll. While the skeleton of the story remains the same, the look, the feeling and the sound have changed. This new iteration includes a new vision of the doll – from his motivations, to his aesthetics, to his vocal inflections – and a disquieting score from composer Bear McCreary.

The affable auteur shared at the film’s recent Los Angeles press conference, that he didn’t have to give a ton of direction to McCreary to create the chilling compositions that provide the sonic backdrop to the killer mayhem.

We talked about patterns and how the soundscape would be. We talked about doing it in a small scale with a personal touch. It’s such an iconic voice from Bear and he used all these strange instruments.

Scoring Hamill to voice the iconic horror figure – now refurbished as a comprehensive tech controlling device in the physical form of an animatronic pint-sized doll – was a coup for this re-imagining. The actor found he was able to find a new way into the psyche of this haunted toy due to the fact the vision wildly differs from the original.

I thought the crucial element that was different from the original – which I loved and am a huge fan of Brad’s [Dourif] – but Chucky has a different origin. He was really just like an innocent child learning from what goes on around him.

Signing onto this role didn’t come without some trepidation – even for a talented voice actor like Hamill. He candidly confessed,

I felt intimidation like I hadn’t felt since I did the Joker. When I did the Joker, there was this backlash of people being mad before they even saw him. I thought, when I auditioned, there’s no way they’re going to cast this icon of virtue. Luke Skywalker as the Joker?! Forget about it. I had no performance anxiety because I knew they couldn’t hire me. It was only until they did where I thought, “Oh no. I can’t do this because so many people have expectations of what he’s supposed to sound like.” I’m anxious to see how people react, because it’s not the Chucky that we all know from before.

In addition to the score’s refurbished identity, Klevberg added an original song into the mix – one they hope to submit for Academy Awards consideration. He said,

The early suggestion was to deliver an original Oscar song. I thought that was a great idea.

“The Buddi Song” is a haunting, slightly sour lullaby Chucky sings to Andy (Gabriel Bateman), lulling him into the safety of sleep. Later, of course, the song notes morph into something far more sinister. Hamill shared that, during production, they used a temp track.

Early on, we had a placeholder. I was singing it to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine” and I got used to that. Then Bear sent me the disc with his song on it. I thought it was ROSEMARY’S BABY lullaby good, where it works authentically, but creeps you out in a way.

He picked up the catchy song rather quickly thanks, in part, to LA traffic.

I do a lot of voiceover, so I was going into the Valley from Malibu and I listened to it 18 times on the way over and 22 times on the way home, because there was traffic. It bore into my head like an earwig. I’ll never be able to get it out of my head for as long as I live.

CHILD’S PLAY opens on June 21.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is an OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.