Through sequels, reboots, re-imaginings and remakes, they simply refuse to go away. They are characters as everlasting as James Bond.
Through six films, Chucky from “Child’s Play,” carved out a place for himself among these horror franchise villains. Voiced by Brad Dourif, the killer doll is as indestructible and box office friendly as his bloody peers.
There is, however, a big difference between Chucky and the rest of his brethren – the “Chucky” franchise trumps them all. That’s right. You heard it here first. Alert the media.
The “Chucky” franchise is better than the “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween” franchises. In fact, allow me to go a step further- the “Chucky” franchise is the best horror franchise. Period.
While other horror sagas have slogged through less than stellar sequels and repeatedly changed creative hands, the “Chucky” films have always been under the watch of original writer Don Mancini. What’s more, even the worst “Child’s Play” installment has its merits.
“Chucky” has never been rebooted. Mancini and company have found ways to reinvent the killer doll without ever giving up chronology and their original character. No matter whether Chucky is making us laugh or scared, the franchise has used each and every one of its six movies to dramatically push forward an existing story.
That alone sets the “Chucky” films apart from other horror franchises. Sure, Mancini has never made his very own “Halloween” or “New Nightmare,” but he’s kept his creation fresh through more than two decades of creation. Let’s run down the films that make up the body of Chucky’s work.
“Child’s Play” remains a popular horror film for good reason. On top of taking full advantage of the doll coming to life trope and introducing an unforgettable villain in Charles Lee Ray aka Chucky, the Mancini penned film is a perfect ’80s thriller.
Director Tom Holland (“Fright Night”) balances the camp and frights for a film that is equal parts kooky and terrifying. The concept is simple, yet Holland takes full advantage of its potential.
A serial killer’s soul inhabits a doll given to a little boy. Andy notices his doll is coming to life and wreaking havoc, but no one believes him.
Using a child as the main character is a smart decision. A great Alex Vincent works to play on our childlike fears of creepy dolls. Chucky and Andy strange chemistry leads to great fun, mostly thanks to Dourif’s wonderfully lively line readings. There’s plenty of frights to be found in a concept that could have gone way off the rails in the wrong hands.
Child’s Play 2
“Child’s Play 2” is a perfectly suitable follow-up to the original film. Still following Andy as he moves into a foster home, Chucky exacts his revenge on both toy manufacturers and Andy in clever ways.
Sneaking into Andy’s new home and attempting to still take control of the boy’s body, Chucky manipulates his kills and actions to pin the blame on Andy, a child everyone already thinks is off his rocker.
FAST FACT: Dourif wasn’t the origin actor assigned to voice Chucky. After having to pass up the opportunity to participate, Dourif was brought in during post-production to voice the infamous killer after another actor didn’t work out.
While the potential for the concept is not fully realized in the 80 minute film, it’s still a fun sequel that acts as a perfect double feature pick with the first outing.
Child’s Play 3
The second sequel is a good, not great installment. Even writer Mancini has admitted in interviews that it’s where the franchise began to feel stale.
Chucky is after Andy yet again in this one, though Andy is now a teenager (Justin Whalin). Actor Vincent is missed and the film truly loses itself in a second half where logic is thrown to the wind. Chucky nearly becomes the campy cliche Freddy Krueger became in the “Elm Street” series.
Making the setting a military academy seems like a unique choice, but much of the film misses the mark. It’s not terrible, just a bit dusty after two better installments featuring the same basic premise.
Bride of Chucky
After taking some time off, the franchise returned strong with the installment that many fans still rave about as their favorite Chucky adventure.
“Bride of Chucky,” an obvious play on the “Frankenstein” sequel, is where the franchise’s campy comedy is taken to the next level. Luckily, director Ronny Yu never lets the funny overtake the frights a killer doll can instill in the primal part of the mind.
Jennifer Tilly is the best addition to the series as Charles Lee Ray’s old flame and his soon to be doll-bride. Like the first film, “Bride of Chucky” does a wonderful job of balancing the campiness and frights of the franchise. Things are just a little more tongue in cheek this time, which adds to the fun.
Seed of Chucky
The fifth “Chucky” outing is, without a doubt, the franchise’s low point. It’s a surprise the series didn’t require a reboot in the following years. However, for a letdown, “Seed” is actually pretty interesting and certainly has its fans.
FAST FACT: Mancini has teased fans that he would like to make a thriller with Chucky onboard a train. It could be the possible story for the seventh installment, which he has announced through Twitter.
The first installment to find director Mancini wearing the director’s hat, “Seed” took a meta approach to its material. The film double casts Tilly as herself and contains far more humor than any other entry.
While not entirely successful, it deserves props for daring to take the franchise in a fresh and comedic direction. There are some funny moments and gags that work, but “Seed” came close to putting the “Chucky” franchise in jeopardy.
Curse of Chucky
“Curse” is perhaps the best proof of this franchise’s sustainability and greatness. At a time when other horror sagas had moved into remake or reboot territory, Mancini decided to take Chucky and make a reintroduction that incorporated all of the previous installments.
Brad Dourif returns in the more serious sequel, which is filled with the most scares of any “Chucky” movie. Beautifully shot and well paced, the slow burn horror story works in the old, creaky house trope while making Chucky scarier than he’s ever been before.
Dourif hasn’t lost a step as the voice of the irreverent doll. Dourif’s daughter, franchise newbee Fiona Dourif, glows as Chucky’s new adversary – a paralyzed woman living alone. That leads to wonderful and unique set-ups between her and our favorite killer doll.
Instead of deciding to hit “re-do” on the franchise after “Seed,” the filmmakers instead decided to let the Chucky evolve. “Curse” is a surprisingly dramatic push forward for the entire series. It works as a standalone film, but also grows in a wonderful and organic fashion from the previous installments.
There’s even handful of scenes at the end that will inject hardcore fans with nothing but pure glee.
“Curse” not only proved Chucky’s durability among other franchise’s reboots, remakes and reimaginings, but it also showed Mancini and company can be trusted to find unique, twisted, and scary ways to push this franchise forward.
“Curse” is arguably the most well made and scariest “Chucky” film. Bring on “Chucky 7.”