REVIEW: ‘Chucky’ Brings Camp and Carnage to a New Generation

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Chucky - But Why Tho?

I hate dolls. Like, I hate them with the largest passion I can muster and it is all thanks to a little redhead named Chucky. And yet, I’ve found myself deeply in love with the Child’s Play franchise and how much they’ve leaned into camp throughout the years. That camp is what has kept Child’s Play alive and thriving in the cultural zeitgeist when other killer toy films have fallen into nostalgic memories. With CHUCKY, SYFY has aimed to bring the red-headed menace to a new generation, and at least to me, it succeeds.

CHUCKY marks the first time the infamous doll has had a television series, continuing outside 2019’s reboot of the franchise and utilizing many franchise favorites. Set in an idyllic American town prone to murders and crazy happenings,  a vintage Good Guy doll (who is of course the Chucky voiced by none-other than Brad Dourif) turns up at a suburban yard sale. Jake (Zackary Arthur) is an artist, he’s 13-years old, and he’s bullied. Retreating into his hobby which is true crime podcasts and building very creepy sculptures, the doll is the perfect addition to his collection.

Over the course of the series, a series of horrifying murders begin to expose the town’s deep hypocrisies and hidden secrets as friends and foes from Chucky’s past creep back into his world. Not only that, the series dives into Charles Lee Ray’s background, how he became the killer he is, and of course connects the series to previous films in the franchise.

Sure, that sounds like a tall order, connecting a whole series to a franchise that has brides, seeds, and cults. But with the franchise creator Don Mancini severing as the series showrunner, it couldn’t be in better hands. For the flashbacks, moving to childhood is easy enough, cast a kid and have them be themselves. But for showcasing an adult Charles Lee Ray before he becomes middle-aged or the doll we all hate to love, is tough. Utilizing voice-over work and a live actor, the series manages to make these flashbacks work seamlessly.

CHUCKY somehow manages to be a series that blends the old with the new in a way that welcomes in a Gen Z while bringing those of us who have been horrified and enamored with the franchise since we were kids into the fold as well. For new viewers, the series establishes a new story with a new protagonist and a brand spanking new Good guy doll. For franchise veterans we get to see characters return, like Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) and Andy (Alex Vincent), and of course some good guys you’ll have to watch to see.

To be honest, CHUCKY gets the balance between nostalgia and new ideas right. It’s a welcoming entry point for new fans to the Child’s Play franchise, and for existing fans, it’s an addition to the mythos that understands what made it special, to begin with. Absurdity, mayhem, blood, and adults who refuse to suspend disbelief, it all just works. I wouldn’t even say that the series takes the franchise in a new direction. Instead, it takes the franchise exactly where it’s meant to be, especially when it comes to queer representation and storytelling. Not only that, CHUCKY showcases what value an episodic format can add to a franchise. It allows a story to take risks, to grow, and to begin to bloom again. In fact, CHUCKY does what the reboot attempted, only it didn’t need to unwrite the entire franchise to do it.

While I want to go in-depth on the new characters we get to see in this series, I also want to leave you in the dark. CHUCKY should be enjoyed with little spoilers. What I can say, is that the young teenage cast holds the reins of the series firmly. Their stories are baked with melodrama done right, accentuating the harder parts of being a teen. Sure, the teens are fighting off a murderous doll, but they’re also discovering things about themselves. Jake and Devon (Bjorgvin Arnarson) are the series standouts while Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind) is a mean girl who would make Regina George cringe, making her a great human antagonist turned ally.

Overall, I can’t recommend CHUCKY enough. CHUCKY is filled with camp and carnage and young adult angst that just works. While the reboot left a lot to be desired, this series continues the franchise for new audiences while also remembering where it’s been. Somehow, a killer doll works in 2021, and we have SYFY to thank for that.

CHUCKY is streaming now on SYFY.


CHUCKY Season 1
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Overall, I can’t recommend CHUCKY enough. CHUCKY is filled with camp and carnage and young adult angst that just works. While the reboot left a lot to be desired, this series continues the franchise for new audiences while also remembering where it’s been. Somehow, a killer doll works in 2021, and we have SYFY to thank for that.