The Chucky Show revisited one of horror’s most controversial sequels

The first season of Chucky plausibly started independently. Although the concept and classic design of a killer doll voiced by Brad Dourif remains, the character is thrown into a new setting with a new cast. Bullied gay middle school student Jake (Zackary Arthur) is the one who finds the vintage doll at a garage sale, and chaos ensues. It feels like a soft reboot of sorts, carefully weaving in characters and other plot points from the previous seven films around the edges of Jake’s story.

After laying the groundwork, however, the show’s recently concluded second season takes a much more direct approach to the franchise’s own history, choosing to address three decades of continuity and contrasting tones directly. And it coalesces into one of 2022’s most fascinating TV shows—a whirlwind meta-horror comedy that unpacks the history of the franchise while exploring our relationships with our parents with surprising maturity and nuance.

Still overseen by creator, writer and sometimes director Don Mancini, the series has proven shockingly malleable, constantly evolving to meet new cultural moments as the birth of the ’80s slasher boom gave way to something more self-aware and comedic. Its current form as a TV show is as emblematic of the era as any of the earlier films, and the most shocking development of the second season is how Mancini and his collaborators tackle some of the franchise’s most controversial installments. It may not always work, but it’s never anything less than fascinating to watch.

Image: Syfy

In the aftermath of the first season, the series transplants the surviving teenage trio Jake, Devon (Björgvin Arnarson) and Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind) to a Catholic boarding school. Under the watchful eye of strict nuns and a self-important headmaster, they find themselves locked in an unfamiliar environment, much like the 1991s Child’s play 3. That film jumps forward in time, recasting Chucky’s childhood nemesis Andy Barclay as a troubled teenager who has moved from the care of his single mother to various foster families to, finally, the military academy that serves as the film’s main setting.

Child’s play 3 is a rather dated film, best known for how jarring its pre-Columbine school gun violence is today. Evolving with the times, the 1998 follow-up Bride of Chucky looks to the self-conscious Yell and leans into comedy, giving Chucky a comedic foil in old flame Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), who uses the book Voodoo for Dummies. Abandoning the Andy Barclay character and cranking up the absurdity, the film ends with Tiffany giving birth to an abrupt doll, the result of a flashback to the “voodoo” pregnancy that followed her and Chucky’s earlier confirmation that they were both anatomically correct and, er, functional.

The subsequent film that follows that doll child, Seed of Chucky, has long been the most controversial of the franchise. Released in the early 2000s heyday of paparazzi and South Park, the film marks Mancini’s directorial debut and is far more of a gritty Hollywood meta-comedy than a conventional horror flick. Separately treated as a boy, Glen, by Chucky and as a girl, Glenda, by Tiffany, the child’s gender dysphoria manifests as distinct personalities. Where Glen is anxious and peaceful, Glenda embodies the horror trope of the cross-dressing killer, albeit in a much more sympathetic light than other examples in the genre. The way the film resolves this plot point is complicated, to say the least. In what is the franchise’s boldest meta-casting gag, the Tiffany character played by Jennifer Tilly possesses the body of an actress she idolizes: Jennifer Tilly. She then gives birth to red-haired twins, who each harbor the Glen personality and the Glenda personality.

For Chucky’s second season, the franchise’s response to mainstream rejection of Seed of Chucky has been to leave it in the background. The direct-to-DVD sequels from 2013 and 2017 Curse of Chucky and The Cult of Chucky are essentially soft reboots before the TV series’ own soft reboot, with a back-to-basics approach that finds a Chucky doll menacing a new character, Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif), whom he eventually possesses. Tilly has a small role in the latter film, and goes by “Tiffany Valentine”. Nica notes that Tiffany bears a striking resemblance to Jennifer Tilly; at the same time, there is another wink Seed of Chucky fans and a largely redundant, ignorable detail for those who either haven’t seen the film or dislike its wide tonal deviations. There is not a peep about Glen or Glenda until the first season of Chuckywhen the killer doll tells Jake he has a gender-fluid child, he agrees because he’s “not a monster.”

Four people, including Jennifer Tilly and Joe Pantoliano, gather around a piano in fancy dress in Chucky.

Image: Syfy

In its determination to unify all aspects of the franchise, Chucky no longer moves down Seed of Chucky for a fun background reference. A significant portion of the second season is dedicated to dealing with how Tiffany has lived as long as Jennifer Tilly. Who handles her finances? Who answers her email? Are the police suspicious? These questions (and more) that no one asked are belatedly and hilariously answered, culminating in a completely muddled fourth episode devoted entirely to a murder mystery in Tilly’s mansion, where the people who knew Tilly before her possession stage an intervention. Her sister, Meg Tilly, is there, as is her friend Sutton Stracke The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. So are beloved actors Joe Pantoliano and Gina Gershon, who starred alongside Jennifer Tilly in the Wachowskis’ masterful pre-Matrix crime thriller Bound.

The murder mystery episode seems almost detached from the rest of the series, without cutting to the Catholic school plot that serves as the main story of the season. Chucky himself does not appear at all, except in humorous bookend segments as host, and the episode visits fictional deaths of several non-fictional people, the likes of which have not been seen since Seed of Chucky claimed the lives of Redman (who played himself) and Britney Spears (who did not). But most importantly, it reintroduces Glen and Glenda as non-binary adults, both played by Lachlan Watson. And in what is as much a testament to Watson’s performance as the series’ absurd ambitions, Glen and Glenda become central characters to the rest of the series and its themes.

The increased visibility of queer narratives has been at the heart of the Child’s Play series’ development. We see this metaphorically in the possession of Nica, which Chucky uses to resume his relationship with Tiffany. We also see it in the very first episode of the TV series, in the artistic Jake’s difficult relationship with his father, a struggling mechanic (Devon Sawa, wearing a big goatee) who won’t accept his son’s sexuality as anything but a phase. The return of Glen and Glenda is a natural fit, allowing Mancini to rethink the ending Seed of Chucky.

The Chucky doll is tied up with the mouth taped to Chucky.

Image: Syfy

In a 2019 essay for Little White Lies, Sam Bodrojan writes: “Mancini offers the kind of moving summary that countless seemingly serious films about gender have failed to articulate. What vices and values ​​we develop are different from, but must also be seen in the context of our parents; their relationship to our queerness may never quite match.” This is perhaps best understood Chuckyhis exploration of Glen and Glenda, and his mother’s decision to keep them in the dark about their true origins. They have never met their father and are unaware that he is a killer doll. Little do they know that they themselves were once a single doll, and they have no idea that the woman who raised them is a separate person who has possessed the body of Jennifer Tilly. To the world and to themselves, they are the Tilly twins. But the Tilly twins suffer from nightmares and an inescapable sense that something is missing – the result of a parental decision that matches the wider failings of adults throughout the series.

While Jake’s father seems more agreeable when he’s sober, his intolerance escalates to verbal and physical abuse when he’s drunk. In the second season, Jake notes that maybe they could have made it one day, but the opportunity will never come: Chucky kills Jake’s father in the series’ first episode, hoping to get Jake to murder the kids who ridicule him all by himself. For Vulture, Louis Peitzman observes, “The show is both literally and subtextually about coming out, with Jake working hard to suppress his inner urges. The series connects Jake exploring his sexual identity with Jake exploring his killer instincts, but in a 2021 -vri depicts it both without the shame that traditionally colors metaphors like this.”

While none of the other adults are as overtly hostile as Jake’s father, they’re hardly much better. Jake stays with his uncle (also played by Devon Sawa, minus the goatee), who relentlessly pushes his own son (Teo Briones) to run track and become an Ivy League college. Jake’s friend Lexy is often at odds with her own mother (Barbara Alyn Woods), the town’s narcissistic ex-mayor. There are good parents, but they end up with the bad ones, as part of Chucky’s ultimate goal to be the sole influential authority in the children’s lives. A positive adult figure needs the opportunity to step in and act, and although the kids meet a few, people like Chucky or even the school principal (Devon Sawa for the third time, now in big glasses) win by being much more assertive. in pursuit of their goals.

Even though the second season gets crowded with all the ideas, characters and personalities, Chucky is a show unlike any other. With sharp examinations of itself as a franchise and more in-depth commentary on queerness in our modern age, it takes an impressively consistent look at how children are shaped by the adults they grow up with, while remaining an incredibly funny time.

The first season of Chucky is available to watch on Peacock. The second season is available for digital purchase or rental on Amazon, Apple and Google Play.

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