Each month, our marathon man bonds with box sets on a molec­u­lar level. Child’s play, re­ally


CHUCKY IS HOR­ROR’S Du­ra­cell bunny: he keeps go­ing and go­ing. As his 30th an­niver­sary ap­proaches, the devil doll has spawned seven movies of er­ratic qual­ity but what’s sur­pris­ing is there are no stand­alone se­quels: all the films are writ­ten by Don Mancini, and con­nect into a saga about a kid called Andy and his sen­tient doll.

A bit like Toy Story for psy­chopaths.

Un­leashed in 1988, Tom Hol­land’s Child’s Play is, par­don the pun, ‘Chucky For Dum­mies’.

Gunned down by cops in a toy store, se­rial killer Charles Lee Ray voodoos his soul into a Good Guy doll, which is gifted to six-year-old Andy. Cue babysit­ter mas­sacre and Andy’s mum sus­pect­ing her son’s to blame. Voiced by Brad Dou­rif, Chucky’s brought to cack­ling life via still-brill an­i­ma­tron­ics — much of the hor­ror is psy­cho­log­i­cal but what’s strik­ing are the bleak, stark Chicago lo­ca­tions that make its ridicu­lous con­cept tan­gi­ble.

Mum in the nut­house, Child’s Play 2 (1990) finds Andy lodg­ing with fos­ter par­ents. En­ter Chucky, re­built by toy com­pany Play Pal. A stalk-and-slash re­play of the orig­i­nal, it’s slicker and gorier, but with Chucky now crack­ing wise, he’s about as scary as a potato. Still, the fi­nale in a toy fac­tory is a nov­elty-death hoot: Chucky gets melted into soup, in­flated like a Zep­pelin then popped to smithereens. Glued back to­gether, he hunts down a teenage Andy at a mil­i­tary school for Child’s Play 3 (1991) in a truly aw­ful slasher remix of Full Metal Jacket. The act­ing’s so plas­tic the whole cast ap­pear to have been Chuck­i­fied, but arm­ing the doll to the teeth is a baf­fling clanger.

We’re only three films in, but al­ready I can’t take Chucky se­ri­ously and, seem­ingly, nei­ther can the fran­chise. Rad­i­cally re­boot­ing from stu­dio slasher to hor­ror-com­edy, and drop­ping the Child’s Play stamp, Bride Of Chucky (1998) teams him with Jen­nifer Tilly as his rub­bery doll­friend, Tiffany.

Face now a Scalex­tric of scars, the all-new Chucky looks more men­ac­ing; the tone, how­ever, is trashy splat­stick. It ends with Tilly giv­ing splatty birth, and Seed Of Chucky (2004) opens with Chucky’s gorm­less son Glen (Billy Boyd), who looks like Ziggy Star­dust on meth, vis­it­ing Hol­ly­wood to find his movie star dad. With the ‘real’ Tilly men­aced by the ‘real’ Chucky, Seed is Don Mancini’s spin (now he’s grad­u­ated to di­rec­tor) on Wes Craven’s New Night­mare — a self-aware satire that flips the bird at its own le­gacy. Tilly’s a riot send­ing up her sex­pot per­sona and the gags are crude (Chucky wank­ing off to Fan­go­ria) but the film winks so hard it breaks an eye­lid.

I can feel my brain con­geal­ing into rub­ber when, five se­quels in, the best en­try lands. It’s pretty ob­vi­ous by now that Chucky’s re­moulded ev­ery few years to fit the era’s hor­ror trends. Con­fined to one night in a haunted house, 2013’s Curse Of Chucky feels like a James Wan movie: all slow-creep, sharp jumps and a bare-bones plot that sees Chucky ter­ror­is­ing a sur­vivor from Lee’s se­rial-killing days. Okay, so it’s bla­tantly ‘Chuck­a­belle’, but, thanks to a nervy turn from Fiona ‘daugh­ter of Brad’ Dou­rif, it ac­tu­ally makes the killer-doll con­cept scary again.

Af­ter Curse’s post-cred­its st­ing yanks an adult Andy (played by the orig­i­nal model, Alex Vin­cent) back into the saga, this year’s Cult Of Chucky doesn’t just come full cir­cle: it swal­lows the en­tire Chuck­y­verse. Set in a clin­i­cal asy­lum with Ms Dou­rif’s Nica de­clared in­sane, Cult re­turns to the orig­i­nal’s mind-games, ques­tion­ing whether Chucky is real or imag­i­nary. Fea­tur­ing Andy, Tiffany, three Chuck­ies and call-backs to ev­ery pre­vi­ous en­try, if, like me, you’ve just binged the se­ries, watch­ing the saga link up is in­sanely sat­is­fy­ing. New­bies, how­ever, will feel blither­ingly con­fused. God knows where the de­mon gin­ger will end up next but here’s a thought: Chucky’s a Uni­ver­sal mon­ster. Lob him into the stu­dio’s Dark Uni­verse and set him loose on Tom Cruise.


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