Retrospective On Chucky: A Look At The “Child’s Play” Slasher Franchise

For the last few Halloweens, I picked a specific scary movie franchise to “take over” the website. This year I decided to go back to the toy store with the Child’s Play film series which stars Brad Dourif as the serial killer Chucky whose soul gets trapped in a demonic doll. Thus, I watched and reviewed all seven films in the original series as well as the 2019 remake starring Mark Hamill as Chucky.

The horror franchise was created by Thomas Lee Holland (director of the first film), John Lafia (director of the second), and Don Mancini (director of the last main films).

Imagine being a parent. You want to buy your child the doll they have always wanted. You pick it up from a sketchy guy who claims he got it from a blown-up store. You bring it home and see the smile on your kid’s face.

However, strange things start to happen. Your child learns cuss words. The doll seemingly disappears and reappears. Soon people start dying and you realize… it is the toy, the one named Chucky, who first appeared in 1988’s Child’s Play.

As I said previously, it is plain to see that the first movie preys on a parent’s fear of bringing a toy, video game, or strange object into the home and having it become something dangerous to the point of possessing their child. From that perspective, it definitely nails that message, making it a horror gem that you can enjoy on a Halloween night. Sure, it has some cheesiness, but I can see why it provided genuine scares.

The movie was prime for frightening parents as it was the height of the so-called “Satanic Panic” where it seemed like something evil lurking within something as innocent as a toy could infiltrate and destroy a home.

Child’s Play 2 (1990) and Child’s Play 3 (1993) tried to duplicate it but were unsuccessful. The immediate sequel felt more like a revenge thriller that overcompensated with fake gore and screaming as opposed to a cogent plot. The third, sure, has some frightening moments, but this feature lives up to the trope that characters in horror films make the poorest choices for survival, becoming more of a “paint-by-the-numbers” story instead of something new.

These were all about Chucky’s relationship with Andy, played by Alex Vincent in 1 and 2 with Justin Whalin taking over in 3, whom the serial killer wanted to possess as a new body. At first, he could only exclusively use Andy and that made the first story special in a weird way. However, Andy’s importance slowly erodes until he disappears altogether only to return later more as a mascot, with Vincent reprising the role.

What is fascinating about several of these movies is that there were very few computer-generated special effects. Chucky’s movements were done with puppeteers, children, or small-statured adults, making his movements incredibly organic and that makes it even scarier with seeing how realistically he behaves on the screen.

With Bride of Chucky (1998) and Seed of Chucky (2004), the films leave behind their supernatural slasher vibe, becoming a campy satirical series that introduced Jennifer Tilly as Chucky’s girlfriend Tiffany and bizarrely herself. We also see them gain offspring, only for them to vanish. As “comedies” they are not funny. Just gross. There were body parts flying, people getting disemboweled, and other medical events that made me want to turn off the TV. It was a definite decline.

The final two films of the franchise Curse of Chucky (2013) and Cult of Chucky (2018) felt like they wanted to return to their roots as slasher flicks. It was a worthy attempt, but they failed on a few levels. The set up by the 2013 film was completely wasted on its 2018 sequel as it served as little more than a backdoor pilot for the television series (which did not even air until 2021).

Now we arrive at the 2019 Child’s Play remake where Mark Hamill takes on the role of Chucky. Honestly, Hamill is the only good thing about this movie. The reboot could have directed the supernatural slasher into sci-fi horror, but it failed to capture the genuine chills from the 1988 film. It also ruins the character of Andy who goes from a character anyone could identify with to a kid you would want to avoid. That somewhat ruined the impact of the scares.

Looking back at this journey, I can honestly say the original Child’s Play was the only peak of the franchise. From there it devolves into revenge thrillers, parody, inferiority, and finally a reboot that fails to capture what it had. It is a shame because the first movie pulled you into a very real fear that something as simple as a toy could bring terror to your family.

Check out this clever “unboxing” teaser from Scream Factory below:

Yes, I know that there is a Chucky television show, but I have no interest in reviewing it.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out 10 Anime Heroes Who Would Be Worthy To Lift Mjolnir. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.

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