Syfy’s Chucky: Series Premiere Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
Although Lars Klevberg’s remake of Child’s Play couldn’t get fans back into the franchise, original franchise creator Don Mancini has actually been slowly building the franchise back up on the VOD front since 2013. His films, Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky have not only brought some fan-favorite characters and actors back, including Alex Vincent as an older Andy Barclay and Jennifer Tilly back as Tiffany, but they’ve expanded and worked within the original canon.
Now, Mancini returns to continue his films through a tv series for Syfy simply titled Chucky and its premiere reintroduces fans both new and old to horror’s most iconic killer doll. The series premiere brings viewers into a familiar scenario with social outcast middle-schooler Jake (Zackary Arthur) picking up a Good Guy doll as a yard sale and slowly realizing that this doll named Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif) harbors the spirit and murderous intents of prolific serial killer Charles Lee Ray. For most of the episode, we pretty much get a retread of what we’re used to seeing in this franchise – especially when it tries to reboot itself.
Admittedly, Macini going with a back-to-basics approach to this series could kind of turn off fans hoping for something a little more unique. Even for myself, watching Chucky just end up in the hands of a new kid and raise hell is getting a little old and doesn’t make for the most exciting premiere. However, there’s still some fun to be had in Mancini returning the franchise to its roots. The return of the classic looking Chucky design is incredibly welcomed and it’s great that the mechanical, practical movement of Chucky returns as well. Even though Klevberg’s Chucky doll had some solid design choices, it doesn’t even compare to seeing Chucky back in his old form. Macini even goes back to more slow-building suspense storytelling that’s much more fitting for a tv adaptation since it allows for more character-building with Jake and other characters.
It’s very refreshing that Jake really stands out amongst other Child’s Play protagonists and isn’t just a surrogate for Andy. His story is a little more mature and deals with more modern issues like being bullied for being gay. Now, I’m not going to say that this is the most groundbreaking portrayal of gay storylines, so far, but it’s a very nice addition to Jake’s character along with his artistic aspiration being super horror-centric and connected to his late mother and the strained relationship he has with his father Luke (Devon Sawa). Arthur’s performance is strong with him making Jake’s frustration and loneliness relatable and easy to empathize with considering pretty much everyone in his school wants to keep him feeling low. It’s great that there’s a lot to Jake that makes him different, and it adds to how Chucky will try to manipulate him to do his bidding.
Mancini’s more suspense-building approach also allows for other characters and dynamics to be fleshed out. Jake’s crush on Devon (Bjorgvin Arnarson) is developed well though him listening to his podcast throughout the episode, which also ends up greatly building up the murderous past of the series’ central town of Hackensack and Devon as a character. Although his attempt to get Jake on his podcast just further perpetuates how Jake is viewed as a beneficial tool or bottom-feeder, there’s definitely a strong partnership, maybe something more, brewing.
As for Jake’s bullies, mainly his cousin Junior (Teo Briones) and his girlfriend Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind), they seem to be the aim of Chucky’s murderous aggression. He’s already completely embarrassed Lexy at the talent show by going through her phone, which sets up the possibility of him going to her younger sister Caroline (Carina Battrick) if things don’t work out with Jake, and it looks like he has his sights set on terrorizing Junior based on the glare he gives. Overall, most of the episode is pretty bloodless given what we’re used to with Chucky, but that doesn’t mean that Mancini doesn’t deliver a late kill to up the ante. Chucky killing Luke isn’t much of a surprise since it seemed unlikely that Sawa was going to be pulling double duty as Luke and his brother/Jake’s uncle Logan, but damn was it brutal. It’s an electrifying turn that brings the insanity of Chucky back in a very fun way and it might be one of the craziest kills in the entire franchise.
This series premiere is a solid return to form for the franchise and Mancini’s mainstream return, but it does ignore one fact that could honestly make or break it. Chucky is not a reboot of the franchise, but actually a continuation of Mancini’s Curse and Cult of Chucky films meaning that characters like Andy Barclay, Tiffany, Nica (Fiona Dourif), and possibly even Kyle (Christine Elise) based on a post-credit scene in Cult are going to make a return. Obviously, that’s awesome because it feels like the franchise coming together and hearing Vincent’s voice as the mysterious buyer was great, but it creates this mess of storylines coming together that not everyone will really know.
Remember, Curse and Cult were not theatrical releases so if there’s no real explanation of why Nica is possessed by Charles Lee Ray or why Chucky’s soul has been split, there’s going to be a lot of people deeply confused with how these things happened. Even as someone who’s seen those films, I’m confused as to how this stuff is going to come together and adding in this other storyline of Charles Lee Ray’s childhood in Hackensack being explored just adds to the cobbled mess of stories and characters were going to be dealing with in this series.
Chucky’s premiere services as a good re-introduction to the franchise that sees the titular killer doll return along with his original creator to terrorize a whole new batch of kids, but it’s tough to say if this series will benefit or be burdened by it staying in the complicated franchise canon.