A creepy doll, a cold-blooded killer and a voodoo spell: that’s all it took in 1988 to create a cult figure in the horror genre. It’s almost 35 years since “Chucky – Die Mörderpuppe” first grabbed a knife with his little plastic hands – and so effectively that the uncut version of the film was on the index in Germany until 2011!
The spiritual father of the eight-film “Chucky” series is Don Mancini (58), who only didn’t have his fingers in “Child’s Play” in the 2019 remake “Child’s Play”. This is certainly the case again with the brand-new series about the world-famous killer doll, which celebrates its German premiere every Wednesday at 8:15 p.m. from January 19 on pay-TV channel SYFY and on-demand on Sky, among others. Why is the eight-part first season not only worthwhile for old “Chucky” veterans?
Between bullying and murder – that’s what it’s about
High school student Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur, 15) works on an art project for which he disassembles and reassembles countless dolls into their individual parts. The teenager can hardly believe his luck when he finds a well-preserved “Good Guy” doll at a garden flea market in his tranquil hometown of Hackensack and buys it immediately.
Jakes’ soft spot for dolls particularly annoys his father Lucas (Devon Sawa, 43), who makes no secret of his homophobia and also has a severe alcohol problem. And at school too, Jake mostly experiences dislike and bullying because of his sexuality. But ever since the doll aka Chucky came into his life, the haters around Jake suddenly seem to be losing theirs one by one.
No second-hand horror
Innovatively reviving the killer doll Chucky after eight films was no easy feat. The horror figure comes with the latest trick technology, fortunately a lot has happened in the past 35 years. Mancini also chose an interesting approach for the series: The exaggerated charm of the original, including vulgar one-liners and outlandish murders by Chucky, he brings the series into a classic coming-of-age story – slasher meets search for sexual identity . A mix that has delighted audiences and critics alike in the USA. There, “Chucky” was prematurely extended for another season before the final episode of season one.
“Chucky” shows that everyday life for a homosexual teenager can be pure horror even in 2022 and without any supernatural killer doll. Especially in sleepy small towns, where everyone knows everyone and – loosely based on David Lynch’s (75) “Blue Velvet” – the supposed idyll and cosmopolitanism is only an illusion. Ironically, Chucky holds up the mirror to the hypocritical residents of Hackensack (the city really exists) and turns out to be surprisingly liberal. The killer doll doesn’t give a damn about the sexuality of its victims.
For viewers, the clash between bully and killer presents a refreshing dilemma. Mancini drew inspiration for this conflict of conscience from his work on the critically acclaimed Hannibal series, as he revealed to Entertainment Weekly last year. As is well known, some viewers caught themselves in the series adaptation with Mads Mikkelsen (56) while keeping their fingers crossed for the title cannibal.
Past meets present
Those familiar with the Chucky franchise will come across a multitude of references and easter eggs throughout the first season. Various stars of the films also belong to the cast of the series: once again Jennifer Tilly (63) embodies Chucky’s equally crazy bride, while actor Alex Vincent (40) slips back into the role of Andy Barclay – Chucky’s first owner from 1988. And the murderer doll itself is, how could it be otherwise, spoken in the English original by Brad Dourif (71).
However, newcomers do not necessarily have to catch up on all the films. Charles Lee Rays alias Chucky’s series of murders is described again via a true crime podcast within the series. In flashbacks, both young and old viewers learn new facets of Charles’ deeds, who became a murderer as a child and finally ended up in the doll’s body.
On the other hand, the new faces are primarily responsible for the proper body count of a horror series. In addition to leading actor Zackary Arthur (“The 5th Wave”), the cast consists of other young stars such as Alyvia Alyn Lind (14, “Overboard”) and Teo Briones (17, “Wind River”). Meanwhile, horror fans know Jake Wheeler’s father from another famous series: Devon Sawa starred in the first part of “Final Destination” in 2000. From January 19th, there can only be one terminus on TV: Hackensack, everyone please get off.