Gays n’ Dolls
“A classic coming of rage story.”
Directors: Don Mancini, Dermott Downs, Leslie Libman, Samir Rehem, Jeff Renfroe / Writers: Sarah Acosta, Kim Garland, Don Mancini, Nick Zigler, Harley Peyton, Mallory Westfall, Isabella Gutierrez, Rachael Paradis / Cast: Zackary Arthur, Bjorgvin Arnarson, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Teo Briones, Brad Dourif, Devon Sawa, Fiona Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Lexa Doig, Rachelle Casseus, Alex Vincent, Christine Elise, Barbara Alyn Woods, Michael Therriault, Carina Battrick.
Laughter Lines: “You’re pathetic. You’re nothing. You’re Teddy Ruxpin with a knife.”
While the TV series adaptation of I Know What You Did Last Summer was doubling as a cure for insomnia on Amazon Prime, the SyFy Network was raking in viewers with an eight-part continuation of the Child’s Play series that, excluding the 2019 reimagining, had sat dormant since 2017’s straight-to-DVD Cult of Chucky, which had left a lot of unanswered questions. Unavoidable spoilers must follow.
We should be thankful original creator Don Mancini has stayed with his property through its controversies, critiques, and general lack of visibility, despite easily having the best continuity through any of the major horror franchises that came out of the 80s.
Cult left us hanging after Chucky finally managed a successful possession of a living body, in this case poor Nica, who had been blamed for murdering her family. Escaping the clinic with Tiffany, as Andy Barclay was too late to rescue them, they also left behind a number of walkin’ talkin’ stalkin’ Good Guy dolls.
In the now, one such doll turns up at a yard sale in Hackensack, NJ, hometown of Charles Lee Ray. Awkward teenager Jake picks it up, intending to turn it into one of his homemade art pieces, constructed out of doll parts. When his alcoholic father intervenes, shy Jake finds companionship in Chucky, who quickly does away with his dad, making it look like an accident. Jake is sent to live with his rich uncle’s family, including his sporty cousin and secret-wielding aunt. At school, Jake is tormented by nasty mayor’s daughter (and girlfriend to his cousin) Lexy, but finds solace in the company of true crime podcaster Devon, son of a Hackensack PD detective.
Chucky plays the long game, trying to get Jake to don the knife and start slicing, committing murders of his own when he feels like it: The maid falls face first into the upturned knife drawer of a dishwasher, a detective is stabbed to death with syringes, the junior high principal is decapitated…
Tiffany and Nica later come to town and move into the childhood home of Chucky’s, while Nica slips in and out of consciousness, battling for dominance over her body. Hot on their heels, Andy and Kyle are hunting down and destroying the remaining possessed Good Guy dolls before they can convince more kids to kill.
There are a gazillion more plot threads to Chucky, ranging from neglectful parents, secret cancer diagnoses, an unlikely kinship between Jake and Lexy once she too discovers Chucky’s evil. At the forefront though is the brave decision to make our 14-year-old lead openly gay. Expectedly, dark corners of internet chatter moaned and whinged, seemingly unaware the ‘series they loved’ was created by a gay man, one who has clearly waited almost 35 years to be able to inject some of his own experience into the story. Chucky attempts to leverage this, providing sympathetic commentary about Glen/Glenda (where are they?) and also his own boyhood, with flashbacks showing his first murders and meeting Tiffany. In these scenes Fiona Dourif stands in for her father to great effect.
The series ends with the door more than slightly ajar for an evident second series, which slightly compromised the big finale set piece, set during a screening of Frankenstein and featuring a unique spin on the concept of a pain in the ass. Things don’t unfold the way you might think they will based on how the penultimate episode ends, but it’s still fun stuff, with Dourif Snr on form as the voice of Chucky, spewing some excellent lines throughout. Any B-movie series that succeeds in bringing back so many alumni should be applauded. There are only maybe a handful of other surviving characters they could possibly even dredge up at this point.
One overlooked point of contention is the legend of Chucky himself. In Seed, Hollywood was producing a movie about him, but everyone acts oblivious to the presence of the sometimes-prolific doll that keeps turning up at murder scenes. You’d think there’d be no way any parent would trust one of these things with a six-year-old.
Blurbs-of-interest: Devon Sawa was the lead in Final Destination; Lexa Doig was the lead in Jason X; other than Bride, Seed, Curse, and Cult, J-Till was also in Far from Home and The Caretaker; Brad Dourif’s other slasher appearances include both of Rob Zombie’s Halloween films, Color of Night, Chain Letter, Trauma, Urban Legend, and Dead Scared.