Wow, what a pleasant surprise! Before I get into the new Chucky series, I think it’s important to confront my biases. Since going in as a very recently self-anointed fan of the Child’s Play films. Don Mancini is a legend of the horror genre. As a co-writer of the original Child’s Play; the sole screenwriter for Child’s Play 2, Child’s Play 3, and Bride of Chucky; the screenwriter and director of Seed of Chucky, Curse of Chucky, and Cult of Chucky, it is certainly appropriate for Mancini to take on this new project for SYFY, Chucky. Still, there was a lot of reason to be skeptical.
While Mancini is a very talented stylistic director, from a writing standpoint he can be hit or miss. Seed of Chucky was a disappointment, especially as a sequel to the horror-comedy classic Bride of Chucky. A lot of the decisions that Mancini made in that film such as the character arc of Tiffany Valentine, Glen/Glenda, as well as just Redman being in the movie were odd. And unlike Bride of Chucky, there wasn’t really a balance at all of horror and comedy, it was just comedy. Resulting in one of the worst films of the Child’s Play franchise.
However, Mancini’s second feature film, Curse of Chucky was one of the best films of the franchise. Reverting back to its classic roots of the mystery behind a homicidal living doll, this film introduced us to one of the best characters of the franchise in Nica Pierce. Played by Fiona Dourif, the daughter of the voice of Chucky, Brad Dourif. Aside from the actual design of the Chucky doll, there are very few negatives to take away from this film. Which completely reinvented a franchise that seemed to be on its last legs.
Now Cult of Chucky was definitely a visually interesting film. But from a plot standpoint was a mess in regards to all of the rules of this universe that we’ve come to learn over the years. Seeing Chucky being able to implant his sole in any doll did not make sense. Especially after hearing the killer doll’s justification, that he could put his soul into anything because of what he learned from a Voodoo for Dummies website. So, Don Mancini. Definitely the heart of the Child’s Play universe, but still very much evolving as a director. And fortunately, Chucky showcases the best of Mancini and this legendary cast of characters.
Especially if you have prior knowledge of the Child’s Play universe, you will have a ton of fun watching Chucky. The series is like a love letter to the franchise, with endless easter eggs throughout. Such as a young Charles Lee Ray mentoring a young Eddie Caputo in a foster home. But, whenever there’s a Chucky there must be a source of good to combat him. And we see that in a young Jake Wheeler, played by Zackary Arthur. Who’s as conflicted as ever when he comes face-to-face with the Lakeshore Strangler.
Jake Wheeler is a young kid living with his abusive father, who’s bullied for being an outcast as well as a young aspiring artist. He purchases a good guy doll at a yard sale to help build his art sculpture. He’s also tormented for his sexuality, which very much strains his relationship with his recently widowed, alcoholic father, played by Devon Sawa, star of the original Final Destination movie. Mancini notes how this series is somewhat biographical, as a young, gay aspiring artist himself who was bullied growing up. And Zackary Arthur effectively showcases his depth as an actor as there are multiple sides to Jake.
At times, because of the events happening around him, Jake is reclusive and sad. While at other points he’s hopeful, especially through his interactions with fellow student and true-crime podcaster Devon Evans, portrayed by Björgvin Arnarson. Mancini often has an LGBTQ storyline in his work, but this is definitely his most effective one in Chucky as Evans and Wheeler’s relationship is shown as one of the saving graces for Wheeler. Especially as he experiences some of the worst forms of bullying.
Much of this torment comes from Lexy Cross, the girlfriend of Jake’s cousin Junior Wheeler. Portrayed by Alyvia Alyn Lind, Lexy is a vicious bully who torments Jake to the point where he wishes she was dead. This is exactly where our titular antagonist, the legendary Charles Lee Ray/Chucky comes into play. While we all know what Chucky is about, at certain points during the show, he comes off as the only friend Jake has. Or at least the only living entity for Jake to turn to especially after his father destroys the sculpture that Jake has been working on for weeks.
However, Chucky is grooming Jake to be the killer he was and still is. This is where Mancini ties the origins of Charles Lee Ray into the plot. While not perfect as we don’t necessarily need a Charles Lee Ray origin story, Mancini and his crew are very creative in these segments. Recreating the 60s and 80s in various scenes as a young Charles navigates his hometown of Hackensack, Illinois, and the greater Chicago area. Hackensack, Illinois which happens to the setting of the Chucky miniseries. Leading us and the characters to question what is Chucky doing here and what’s his endgame? And why is he trying to get Jake, and soon after, his other friends to kill?
Anyways, I need to wrap this up. Mancini, along with Dermott Downs, Jeff Renfroe, Leslie Libman, Samir Rehem, who each direct a few episodes, bring us some of the best of the Child’s Play universe through Chucky. Sure there are some flaws. Lexy turning into a protagonist does not feel seamless at all. Especially after all she and Jake do to each other. The adults, especially the multiple characters that Devon Sawa plays, are ok but not all that compelling. And some of the voice dubbing for the Charles Lee Ray origin scenes are a bit off. Even though Fiona Dourif masterfully plays a young Charles Lee Ray in one of the flashbacks.
In addition, we get the return of Andy Barclay played by Alex Vincent and Kyle played by Christine Elise! Having two of the most beloved characters of the universe is always welcomed, even though Mancini doesn’t quite use them to their fullest potential. Bringing me to the final episode which… you be the judge. Jennifer Tilly also reprises her iconic role of Tiffany Valentine. Or is it Jennifer Tilly playing Jennifer Tilly? Since she possesses her body. It’s a bit confusing but she’s back with a Charles Lee Ray possessed Nica. And the ending of this season for the two is one of the darkest climaxes I’ve seen in a while.
Anyways, while a lot is exposition, there are very few negatives that I have brought up, especially for an eight-episode series. That’s because Chucky is a terrific addition to the Child’s Play universe with everything coming together and beginning to make somewhat sense. At least a lot more sense than it did in Cult of Chucky and in an entertainingly gory fashion. So, especially if you are a fan of the Child’s Play universe, I could not recommend this enough. Chucky is a must-watch and will be getting a season 2!