The Child’s Play franchise, and its iconic doll Chucky, have cemented its place in the horror pantheon since it first hit screens back in 1988. The Don Mancini films managed to blend the outlandish nature of a doll killing, with a sense of fun that keeps things interesting, even for people who may not love all the gore the series is often known for. After many misadventures on the big screen, Chucky is headed for the small screen in a new series, and despite its new format, the franchise feels fresh and ready to take on a new audience.
Chucky, acts as a direct sequel to the past seven movies, taking place right after the events of those films, and apparently disregarding the 2019 remake. With Mancini returning as writer/showrunner, and Brad Dourif once again reprising his role as Chucky, all the pieces are in place to have this carry the Child’s Play charm onto the small screen. But while many of the past sequels have followed Chucky as the main focal point of the proceedings, this series instead focuses on queer teenager Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur) living in good old Hackensack, New Jersey.
I was skeptical when I first heard the series would not follow a child this time around, focusing on a teenage protagonist. There is something visceral when a kid is at the centre of your slasher. It makes their inability to be trusted or believed so much more frustrating. But despite my misgivings, this choice is one reason the series works so well. Jake is a character that is struggling in all aspects of his life, and it is easy to see how these problems leave an opening for Chucky to make his presence known.
“What could have been an overly extended slasher movie that loses steam, feels more like a well laid out Chucky romp filled to the brim with what people enjoy.”
Chucky wastes no time introducing its cast of characters, with the first few episodes working as a crash course into these people’s lives, struggles and secrets. From Jake’s first crush Devon (Björgvin Arnarson), a young true-crime podcaster, to his cousin Junior (Teo Briones), and most notably Junior’s girlfriend and bully to Jake Lexi (Alyvia Alyn Lind). Everyone brings their A-game to their characters, giving just enough camp and dread to their performances to make them believable and relatable. Everything feels very much like a typical middle-school drama, fitting for Nick Kids, or the Family Channel, at very least, until Jake buys Chucky at a garage sale and everything changes.
With Chucky now set loose on the little town, things go from teen drama to slasher quickly. Mancini uses a known concept and twists it just enough to bring something new to the formula. Jake is a strange kid, and his sexuality only makes the struggles he is facing more prominent. With a dad that does not fully accept him or his love of doll art, and his bully Lexi being all the more cruel than many bullies we have seen in a long while, it is no wonder Chucky and his murderous antics are so appealing, to Jake and the audience.
The adult cast does a good job laying the groundwork for Jake feeling isolated. His dad (Devon Sawa) does not accept him, and alcoholism and personal demons only make this worse. Even his uncle Logan Wheeler (also played by Devon Sawa) and his crushes’ mom Detective Evans (Rachelle Casseus) does not understand what he is going through, setting the stage for the events and the bodies to slowly start piling up – one kill at least an episode.
What could have been an overly extended slasher movie that loses steam, feels more like a well laid out Chucky romp filled to the brim with what people enjoy. With Brad Dourif back as Chucky, the devious doll comes to life on screen, and is given enough to let the audience sympathize with his motives, with him often feeling like Jake’s one true ally, not judging him for any of his odd nature or sexuality. It is hard to believe a murderous doll is the most open character in the series, but here we are.
“If you are a fan of horror, or love the murderous doll, Chucky is a great place to jump back into the series.
If the present antics were not enough, this series takes time to explore Charles Lee Ray’s past. With a series of flashbacks, we are given a sense of what this character went through, from his childhood to his teenage years. This is a character that has done some things and been very gleeful as he did. Feeling very much a cross between That 70s Show and Hannibal, these segments do a good job at delivering backstory, setting the stage, and being a respite from the drama happening in the Hackensack of the present.
With the first four episodes available to critics, Chucky feels like a welcome return to form for the franchise. Everyone brings their A-Games to the experience, and each episode feels like a mini Child’s Play movie, with kills, blood, and the typical one-liners the series is known for. While it may not be for everyone, if you are a fan of horror, or love the murderous doll, Chucky is a great place to dive back into the series.