The Child’s Play franchise is unique in that every single film to date has had the same writer. While the original film wound up straying far from Don Mancini’s original concept and script, he wound up being the sole screenwriter on every single sequel up to 2013’s Curse of Chucky and is already at work on developing the next film. Chucky has become a horror icon and while the films in the franchise are all very different, by and large they actually have a strong degree of continuity when compared to many other horror franchises.
A clear starting point, Chucky is one of the best (if not the all-time best) films in the killer toy subgenre. The reveal of Chucky as a walking, talking foul-mouthed killer is held off for the first 45 minutes while the film builds dread and suspense. It’s actually a very scary film, and worked because Chucky was not a scary toy to begin with. He was a toy that any kid could have in their home. That’s what made the film work so well. That and great performances from Catherine Hicks and Alex Vincent as Karen and Andy Barclay. And, of course, the sinister and darkly humorous performance from Brad Dourif as Chucky himself.
CHILD’S PLAY 2-
The second film picks up some months after the first. In order to prove nothing was wrong with the doll, the good folks at Play Pals Inc. rebuild it from the burnt remains, which obviously allows Chucky to return to life. Meanwhile, Andy has been placed in foster care and taken to live with a new family in the suburbs, where he has to deal with a foster father who really doesn’t want him there and a new rebellious teenage sister who he actually forms a connection with. The change in setting helped this film, and it has the best third act of any of the sequels, taking the action to the factory responsible for making the dolls. The results are spectacular. It’s not as scary as the original film, not as suspenseful, but it’s clear that at this point Chucky was already becoming an icon and the film did not try to shy away from that.
CHILD’S PLAY 3-
The third film in the series is definitely underrated, but it is admittedly a lot easier to watch now than when it was first released. It came out less than a year after the second film, but it is set six years later. In this film, the leftover remnants in the doll factory trickle blood down into the vat of plastic that creates a new doll body for Chucky to take up residence in. It is touted as being the “Good Guy of the 90’s” but Chucky quickly dispatches the Play Pals chairman before tracking Andy Barclay down to a military school. Once he gets there, though, he meets a new child named Tyler and realizes that if he has a new body, new Voodoo rules apply. The bodies at the school begin to pile up, Justin Whalen does a good job portraying an older Andy Barclay, and the climax is almost as good as the second film, even if it comes out of nowhere. This time it’s a carnival near the location of the “war games.” Chucky is also at his meanest in this film.
BRIDE OF CHUCKY-
Bride of Chucky is a major change of pace for the series not only in tone, but in the physical appearance of Chucky and, yes, the inclusion of a bride. The new doll’s name is Tiffany and she is a great addition, played by the wonderful Jennifer Tilly, and manages to keep Chucky on his toes. The film is essentially Natural Born Killers with a more overt, twisted sense of humor and killer dolls. But that proves to be the best thing it could be. Chucky takes the forefront in a way he never did before. This time he and Tiffany are the main characters. They barely even feel antagonistic. Like Freddy, Chucky had become an antihero by this point. The only difference is that this franchise actually tried to explore him as a protagonist. This is a very funny film with a great sense of visual style. It even feels at times like a classical romantic comedy, playing up tropes of misunderstood situations and mistaken identity to morbid effect.
SEED OF CHUCKY-
Seed of Chucky was where it all proved to be too much. Bride of Chucky struck an all important balance that a film like this needs in order to stay fresh and Seed took it too far over the line. It was a little too funny, Chucky was a little too front-and-center and in the end it just proved not to work. But there are still some good things in the movie. When it’s funny, it’s actually really funny and there are some genuinely side-splitting moments. The great John Waters has a wonderful little part as a sleazy tabloid journalist. And the gender-challenged child of Chucky and Tiffany, which seems to be people’s number one gripe with the movie, is actually the best thing about it. The child cannot decide whether it wants to be called Glen or Glenda, a reference to classic trashy B-Movie exploitation cinema and the renowned king of bad movies, Ed Wood Jr. who starred in a film based on his own transvestite nature titled Glen or Glenda.
CURSE OF CHUCKY-
This movie brings everything full circle. After all the previous exploits, we return to a simple story about a Victorian house, a family and a mysterious doll that the little girl in the group takes an immediate liking to. It returns to the tone of the first film and the Chucky of the first three. And yet, it does not break the continuity of the series. In fact, Curse of Chucky is very respectful of everything that came before, full of winks and nods to the previous films thrown in there just for the fans of the series. It’s a movie that more sequels should take a lesson from. It proves that a new film can be made in a franchise to keep it new and fresh without having to start over from square one and create a new continuity. This is definitely a movie that even casual fans of the series should see. And while there are clearly more Chucky movies on the way, this one takes things back to the beginning in a way that is wholly refreshing after the previous entry.