October 13, 2021

Review: Even on the Small Screen, “Chucky” is Your Friend to the End

Few horror icons (Fredy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers) have remained substantially successful in their respective franchises since their debuts. While Chucky, of the Child’s Play franchise, has changed as a character multiple times, the direct-to-video release that plagues most franchises has actually helped to make the franchise what it was always meant to be.

Now, the next evolution of the franchise has arrived. Brad Dourif once again voices the killer doll in Chucky, a serialized television sequel to the seven-film saga from series creator Don Mancini. Unlike the latest film, Cult of Chucky, the TV series wastes no time introducing its characters and is virtually bare of exposition, despite Cult ending on an open-ended cliffhanger. Based on trailer footage, there’s no doubt that cliffhanger will be resolved, but for now we have a whole new cast of characters to meet.

Zackary Arthur stars as Jake Wheeler, a loner and wannabe artist who stumbles upon Chucky at a yard sale. Jake’s father Logan (Devon Sawa, who also plays Logan’s twin brother) has been harsh and depressed after the death of his wife, and his frequent outbursts at Jake are putting a lot of unnecessary stress on the kid’s shoulders. Not to mention he goes to school with a whole horde of less extreme Stephen King bullies, plus one podcaster who Jake takes a liking to. See, they live in Hackensack, where serial killer Charles Lee Ray (aka Chucky) is originally from. It’s strange to see Child’s Play feature average teenagers as the leads (ground it’s barely covered in the past), but the series premiere handled it pretty well so I’m excited to see what’s in store.

It seems that horror homages will be a constant in this series, which brings some new texture to the franchise, seeing as it its titular murder doll was one of the original 80s horror icons. In fact, the opening shot is a direct reference to one of the most iconic film openings of all time, which just goes to show that Chucky knows exactly the audience it’s catering to; horror fans love being reminded of the genre they’re watching, but not when it becomes too obvious and overblown. It’s a line that I hope Chucky continues to tow with the skill Mancini and the returning cast bring to it.

The end of the episode finally brings Chucky into the limelight in all his glory, and it only makes me more excited to see what the series has in store. Its presence on the SyFy channel allows it some measure of gore and explicit language, so I’m interested to see how it will handle the extreme violence of the films in the television medium. As long as the series stays original and fresh, I’ll be loving it, and it’s a good sign for the horror genre — and perhaps the sign of a franchise renaissance — to see that classic series like Child’s Play can flourish on TV just as well as in the theater. [Grade: A]

Director/Writer: Don Mancini
Starring: Brad Dourif, Zackary Arthur, Teo Briones, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Björgvin Arnarson
Rated: TV-MA (violence, language)
Available: On Demand
Fun Fact: The man who calls Jake about the Chucky doll is Andy Barclay, the protagonist of the first film, once again played by Alex Vincent.

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