CHUCKY is the newest entry into the Child’s Play franchise that has been produced as a television series rather than a film this time around. I saw the pilot episode as part of Beyond Fest and, while I had faith that creator Don Mancini would do well, the episode exceeded my expectations.
I’ll just say it upfront, dolls don’t scare me.
But, Mancini has created a very interesting and beautiful-looking show. He’s made the characters in the show and the Chucky doll itself appealing to the viewer in a way that absorbs you. He’s also brought the sly and idiosyncratic style of the films to television. It’s funny, murderous, and weird. The kills are really good and one that might be too upsetting is left off-camera but, and this is important, this particular character was not spared. The show has a leading cast of children. It’s set mostly in a high school with a young lead, and doesn’t suffer from HELLO FELLOW KIDS syndrome. The cast members are all memorable. Even the look of the Chucky doll is perfect. It’s friendly, but just creepy enough.
CHUCKY stars Zackary Arthur (The 5th Wave, Mom and Dad) as Jake Webber, Brad Dourif (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Child’s Play franchise) returns as the voice of Chucky, Teo Briones as Junior Webber, Bjorgvin Arnarson (The Seventh Day) as Devon Lopez, Alyvia Alyn Lind (Coat of Many Colors) as Lexy Taylor, Devon Sawa (Final Destination, Casper) as Logan Wheeler, and Jennifer Tilly (Liar Liar, Bride of Chucky) as Tiffany Valentine.
Jake Webber is a burgeoning artist with a critical and alcoholic father. His work as an artist is using found doll parts to make sculptures. His father does not approve. At school, he is bullied and mocked and seeks solace in a podcast about murder. When he finds the Chucky doll at a yard sale, he can’t believe his good luck, but things soon start to take a turn for the odd and frightening.
The show, at least in its first episode, sets up the lead as a misunderstood artist who is struggling with life and its cruelties. The subject of bullying is becoming a very popular topic in horror right now and I think that Mancini and his writing and directing team have approached the topic well. Mancini uses humor in a lot of his work and I think that helps. The mordant tone is harmonious with the basic themes of the episode and the issue of bullying. It keeps the tone of the show light while dealing with heavier subjects and, well, a killer doll. From what Mancini said at the Q & A, television is giving him the time to explore the characters in the show more fully than the format of a film would allow and I already see some of that. Even bad people, usually, have their reasons for doing the things that they do. It will be interesting to see how Mancini and his writers room, Kim Garland, Sarah Acosta, and Nick Zigler, and directors, Dermot Downs and Samir Rehem, will work with this idea. Most importantly, they make the character of Chucky believable as a sentient being and as a character that is imperative for the show to work.
If no one believes that Chucky is real, the show would sink. They have succeeded at this task. Based on the first episode, I think that the show is definitely a show to watch and I enjoyed it. I’m interested in seeing more and to me, that is a success.
CHUCKY premieres on October 12th at 10 pm on USA & SYFY. To learn more about the series, check out what we learned at the show’s recent TCA Panel.