Spoilers follow for Season 1 of Chucky, which is now available to stream on Showmax.
Chuck y may stand in the shadow of other horror giants like Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger give him a break he three feet tall but his movies have arguably been the most consistent in quality. What started as a clever take on the slasher in Child s Play has morphed over the years in line with creator Don Mancini evolving tastes and sense of self. After two increasingly tongue in cheek sequels, the series moved into more slapstick territory in the 90s before Curse and Cult of Chuck y brought the series more in line tonally with the first few movies. While always experimenting with new ways to delight horror fans, the movies always felt true to what Mancini wanted to say as a filmmaker at the time. After over 30 years it feels like the Child s Play franchise has found its equilibrium Syfy and USA Chuck y works both as a celebration of the many faceted doll s history and a fresh take on what he can represent going forward. This newest chapter in Mancinis long running continuity picks up with the residents of Hack en sack N J as they become the latest victims of Chuck y bloodthirsty.
The doll resurfaces at a yard sale and gets purchased by artistic loner Jake Wheeler Zachary Arthur who working on a piece made of doll parts, thereby meeting the criteria of being a strange enough boy for this series to follow. Snarky and emotional Jake may be intense but hes also very endearing.The kid’s clearly terrified of reaching out for the connection he wants a fact complicated by his struggle to accept his sexuality. Arthur handles the teenage angst nicely but romantic scenes with crush Devon Björgvin Arnarson are where he really shines, with both Arthur and Arnarson making their pair of weirdos vulnerable as they navigate first love. Its the only port in the storm for Jake with queen bee Lexy Alyvia Alyn Lind making his life hell at school on top of his already life changing circumstances at home. Lexys mean popular girl who learns humility arc has been done a thousand times, but Lind seriously plays up the obliviously cruel elements of the character early on making both her eventual redemption feel significant and giving her lots of latitude to deliver some hilariously tone-deaf moments throughout the season.
Brad Dourif doesn’t miss a step as Chuck y at various times called upon to be funny, menacing comforting and dangerous sometimes in a single scene. Dourif handles these aspects of Chuck y capably as ever, and his performance is aided by the delightful mix of puppetry and practical effects that brings the Good Guys savagery to life. And it’s not just one-liners over throat slashes as Chuck y pushes Jake towards violence, he also connects with Jake based on his own childs queer identity yes Glen Glenda is referenced multiple times. These scenes call on Dourif to give Chuck y a measure of gentleness which he gets across in a way that still feels natural to the slasher maybe down to the early flashbacks convincingly setting up a mentor mindset for him in youth. These are the standout interactions between Jake and Chuck y as they probe and challenge each other philosophies. That it’s all manipulation on Chuck y part just helps to add dimension to a screen slasher whose depths apparently know no limits with Chucky consistently effective when using the evil little bastard as a metaphor for the darker impulses of those he comes into contact with.
Jennifer Tilly returns as Chuck y partner Tiffany a character Mancini and company clearly adore challenging with increasingly unhinged material material Tilly has no problem delivering with over the top verve. But for as critical as Chuck y is to the series its actually Brad Dourif daughter who emerges as the standout Childs Play veteran. Much is asked of Fiona Dourif who tasked with playing three roles imprisoned Chuck y victim Nica Pierce Nice but possessed by Chuck y and Charles Lee Ray himself in flashback. Dourif is able to make each of these characters unique and readable that latter quality becoming increasingly important as Nice is eventually a primary vehicle of exploring Chuck y soul splitting abilities.
Chuck y ambition sometimes outreaches its tiny plastic grasp, parsing out its drama effectively throughout the season. The story feels distinctly split into two halves, with the first four episodes squarely focused on the mystery of who s perpetrating the murders plaguing Hack en sack. Most of the major tension for the new characters is resolved by the second half of the season, which is right when the legacy Child Play actors enter the picture, calling for more flashbacks and explanations of events past to set up Chuck y plans of wreaking havoc across the country.
Chuck y got a strong sense of visual identity.
Part of this problem comes from trying to service both old and new fans with a mix of new faces and Child’s Play veterans that all bring their own considerable histories to the table. New characters like Bree Wheeler Lexa Doig and Detective Evans Rachelle Casseus really just serve to introduce conflict in their kids’ lives and don’t have much personality of their own. Genre stalwart Devon Sawa fares better in his dual roles as Jake’s dad Luke and his twin brother Logan, as he gets more time to play the darkness that seems to plague the Wheeler family. And for as much was made about their return, Child’s Play 1 & 2 heroes Andy Barclay Alex Vincent and Kyle Christine Elise don’t leave much of an impression. The Chuck y hunters spend most of their time traveling to Hackensack and, by the time they get there, they’re too late to have a major impact on what follows.
Charles Lee Ray pre doll history looms large over Chuck y first season and while the expanded sense of his past actually does add some great new elements to that backstory its unevenly executed. Often, these vignettes from Ray origins thematically tie into Jake s struggles to overcome his own darkness and so feel integral to the story. They also provide the series a natural, unobtrusive place to wink at Child’s Play diehards, with references to Chuck y past that wouldn’t distract more casual viewers. Once the flashbacks follow Ray into adulthood they feel a lot less vital mostly becoming a recap of Charles and Tiffany relationship prior to Ray dollification.
While Fiona Dourif physical performance of Charles Lee Ray is spellbinding thanks in no small part to the uncanny father daughter resemblance the decision to dub in Brad Dourif and Jennifer Tilly voices over young Charles and Tiffany feels more ill informed as the flashbacks recur taking away from the fidelity of Fiona Dourifs turn as Charles Lee Ray as the scenes go on. For a show clearly not working with unlimited HBO cash Chuck y got a strong sense of visual identity. Shot compositions are often interesting and expressive and many locations are washed in colorful light that would otherwise seem out of place but feels befitting of the supercharged reality Chuck y takes place in. Chuck y first season features a number of impressive, unique set pieces that carry forward the franchise tradition of creative kills.
From the macabre electrocution of a lead character parent to the gleeful campiness of a detectives death by a thousand needle jabs Chuck y knows that, new or old fans want to see this doll mess some people up real good. And boy does he. Some of the death sequences suffer from not having the same buildup time as a movie may allow for the housekeeper s death early in the season is a miss but for as lighthearted a tack Chuck y takes towards violence, one character s mutilation in the finale serves as a reminder that though Chuck y and Tiffany s antics are fun to watch they come with very human consequences that the show doesn’t always intend to ignore. Chuck y first season cements Child s Play as one of the most venerable horror franchises of all time.Though it suffers from structural issues that become more prevalent as the season continues Chuck y overcomes any growing pains with engaged and engaging performances creative and gruesome kills, and an earnest desire to raise queer visilibity in the horror genre that gives the show a lifeblood all its own.