‘Chucky’ S1X01: “Death by Misadventure”
Back in 2013, creator Don Mancini did something that I didn’t think could happen: he brought the ‘Child’s Play’ series back from the brink of franchise damnation with the surprisingly excellent ‘Curse of Chucky’; a film that ditched the meta, ultra-tongue-in-cheek style from the previous two movies, ‘Bride of Chucky’ and ‘Seed of Chucky’, and rightfully returned this franchise back to its horror-centric roots with a fresh story that also remained in continuity with everything that came before.
Mancini proved that one bad sequel doesn’t mean game over. ‘Seed of Chucky’ wasn’t the final nail in the coffin, but rather a minor bump in the road.
He followed ‘Curse of Chucky’ up in 2017 with the slightly-inferior-yet-still-enjoyable sequel ‘Cult of Chucky’, which ended on a cliffhanger that promised an interesting and unpredictable future for the films to come. But then, much to my surprise, the television series was announced – a series that would be set in Charles Lee Ray’s hometown of Hackensack, New Jersey – and that it would center around a whole new set of characters. Although it was confirmed that Andy (Alex Vincent), Kyle (Christine Elise), Tiffany (Jennifer Tilley), and Nica (Fiona Dourif) would be making appearances in it, it would seem that Mancini was be going in another direction rather than dealing with the consequences from the previous film’s cliffhanger. This coupled with a bit of skepticism towards the TV format – along with concerns that said format would be too tame for a character like Chucky – I once again had some doubts about the future of this franchise.
After viewing the first episode, I think it’s time I stop doubting Mancini.
The show centers on Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur), a 14-year-old outcast who must deal with bullying from his peers, as well as his sexuality and the friction it creates with those around him, in particular with his father Lucas Wheeler (Devon Sawa), an angry drunk who does not approve of his sons’ lifestyle. Jake distracts himself from his troubles by focusing on his art project, a sculpture made up of severed dolls. At a tag sale he purchases a very familiar good guy doll with the intention to add parts of it to his sculpture, but quickly learns that it’s not as easily destructible as the rest. As Jake’s home life and school life progressively get worse, Chucky makes his presence known – only this time the foul-mouthed ginger has taken an investment in Jake and plots revenge on behalf of him.
The thing I’m really loving with this story so far is Chucky’s so-called friendship with Jake. Clearly Chucky is manipulating Jake for an agenda that will unravel over time with each episode, but what really makes it work is the fact that the majority of the supporting characters are so intentionally unlikeable and treat Jake such like shit to the point where I oddly want Chucky’s intentions to be genuine – even though we all know that Chucky isn’t sticking up for him out of the kindness of his heart, Jake is effectively portrayed as sympathetic and so when Chucky lashes back, slightly defensively as if protecting a close friend, it just feels awesome.
Since this is a serialized show with new episodes released weekly, and the full first season hasn’t aired yet, I’m going to hold off on commenting on the story any further than the set-up above, as this episode, and I suspect the next few, will continue to lay the groundwork for the bigger picture. Many mysteries have been introduced – ranging from Chucky’s childhood/origin; to his true intentions and motivations with Jake; as well as the alluded-to secrets that some supporting characters may have; and finally, of course, to how the legacy characters and the pre-existing storylines will emerge by the end. There is only one kill in this episode, but the foreshadowing has been interesting enough to keep me invested despite that. There’s a patience to it reminiscent to the patience that ‘Child’s Play’ and ‘Curse of Chucky’ had in regards to the building of suspense leading up to reveal of Chucky in action, which is refreshing in an “instant” world. And as far as the one kill goes: it’s part gross, part hilarious. Regardless of whether or not you liked it, it’s at least a creative effort.
The effects are surprisingly good, with the Chucky doll looking the best since the second film. But because this episode is primarily about the set up, there’s not much else to talk about with the effects aside from the fact that Chucky and his movements look movie-quality and I can’t wait to see what Mancini has in store for us as the show (presumably) gets bigger and more insane.
The acting is pretty solid in this too. Zackary Arthur does very well as Jake; likewise, Alyvia Alyn Lind is terrific as the extremely unlikeable bitch Lexi, and then there is Devon Sawa, who gets to show his acting chops by playing twin brothers; middle-class Lucas, and upper-class Logan. All I’m going to say is that I’m fully onboard with Sawa’s career resurgence and he gives it his all here. Lastly, there’s Brad Dourif’s voice work as Chucky, which is as brilliant as always.
If there’s anything negative to say about this episode, it has to do with the writing. As great as it is to hear the science teacher Miss Fairchild (Annie Briggs) to tell a student to “shut the fuck up”, I know that wouldn’t fly. Likewise, the talent show scene would be cut in half if done realistically; I just can’t buy into how some of the adults and teaching staff are portrayed. Another issue I have is with how the detectives introduced in this episode are drawing connections that would only be made if they were aware of the previous films; in particular the questioning of Jake about the doll missing from school, which is done following the death of a certain character. That said, I’m remaining open about that plot point, as it’s always a possibility that Detective Evans (Rachelle Casseus) may have a yet-to-be-revealed association with a previously established character or characters; could she have a connection with Andy or Kyle? Or what about former detective Mike Norris? I’ll wait for the end to fully judge this plot point. As of now I can’t see the relevance between the two incidents and how they could possibly relate to each other from that character’s perspective.
Overall though, I’m really enjoying the foundation that’s being laid down here. What excites me as a life-long fan of this franchise since back when “My Buddy” dolls were a thing, is the shift they took to keep it fresh; ever since Chucky declared “I’m chucky, the killer doll, and I dig it!” in ‘Seed of Chucky’, we’re seeing a different, more calculating and sinister side of the character who’s not only scheming, but has been winning ever since. Seriously, both ‘Curse’ and ‘Cult’ end with Chucky being victorious – not only with getting the one-up on the protagonists, but also with achieving the goal set for him with the earlier films.
Once again, I’m hopeful for the future of this franchise.
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