Three episodes into SyFy Network’s Chucky show and it’s boring and bland. The body count is too low to make up for the hip, buzzword-y dialogue and there are no real stand-out performances to carry it. The show is created by Don Mancini, who wrote the story and screenplay for the original 1988 movie, Child’s Play, which terrified me at the time. His short resume is almost entirely Chucky-related with a smattering of other horror/thriller properties in there.
It takes place in present-day Hackensack, the birthplace of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, who has possessed the body of this doll for over 20 years. Chucky has somehow found his way back home and gets sold at a garage sale to a moody, artistic teenager who intends to chop off the doll’s head and add it to his latest art project. I think I’d be more interested in a show about this monstrosity coming to life.
LOOK AT IT!
Chucky, of course, can’t let this happen and the kid’s plans are ultimately waylaid when his drunk father destroys the sculpture in a fit of terrible parenting. From that point, Chucky is on the loose and ready to wreak havoc.
The true horror of the original Child’s Play was that this unbelievable, supernatural event was taking place in the very real world. Andy Barclay and his single, working mom were lower-middle-class city dwellers. Their apartment looked lived-in. The trains were dirty, there were traffic noises. It felt real, which made the demonic doll all the more terrifying. Nothing about this show looks or feels real. The little town of Hackensack is idyllic. Every room in the high school looks brand new and sparkly clean. All of the teens are pretty and perfect. They all look so plastic that none of the angst, anger, or fear any of them are playing comes across as anything other than ACTING! Even the main character, Jake, and his dad (played for a hot minute by Devon Sawa) — who are supposed to be “poor” — have a nice house in a good neighborhood. There is a talent show scene in the first episode that I swore was going to turn out to be a dream sequence, but it actually happened. In episode three, a fire rages out of control during a silent-rave-style house party and everybody is way too into the chill music vibes to notice it. There’s no real fear when everything feels so fake.
Brad Dourif returns as the voice of Chucky/Charles Lee Ray, but without the gravely menace of the first two movies. I know the creators of the film series decided to pivot to camp after the second movie, but this SyFy series is neither campy nor scary enough to be effective.
The first three episodes are more a referendum on high school bullying and homophobia than a horror series. In the original movie, the protagonist was a defenseless and lonely six-year-old; here we have a fourteen-year-old who should know better than to allow himself to be talked into committing homicide by a toy.
In the first episode our erstwhile hero, Jake, gets an anonymous phone call warning him about the killer Good Guy doll, begging him to check the batteries. When he does and discovers there are none, he immediately tosses the cursed object in the trash. Of course it comes back, and of course he keeps it. Sigh. I would have burnt that thing to cinders. I also feel confident that the anonymous caller will turn out to be Andy from the movie. Mostly because the show feels that formulaic. And also because the actor is listed on IMDb in the cast list.
Devon Sawa plays the dual roles of Lucas and Logan Wheeler. One of them is Jake’s doomed father. The other is his more successful brother who enjoys rubbing the seeming perfection of his own family in his brother’s face. I don’t think he’s going to have a lot to do here, so I might just watch Final Destination again until I figure out where to watch this Death Rider In The House of Vampires movie that was released (?) earlier this year. It looks more interesting than Chucky.
Ultimately, there are better, scarier things you can be watching than Chucky. Jennifer Tilly is supposed to show up as Tiffany at some point, which may inject it with the energy it needs right now. But it’s probably going to sit on my DVR, un-watched, until then.
Chucky is airing on SyFy and is available to stream on syfy.com