God bless this golden age of television. Not only did we manage to squeeze three extra years of Bruce Campbell as Ash in Ash Vs. Evil Dead, but we also managed to get a continuation of Don Mancini’s truly deranged and continuing adventures for Chucky the killer doll in his very own series. Why is this so important? Well, firstly the seventh installment, the brain melting weird Cult Of Chucky, ended on a killer cliffhanger that’s almost too complicated to relate and secondly, decidedly odd remake aside, the Chuckster is one of the only horror icons left whose story still hasn’t been altered or discarded by soft reboots or legacy sequels. It’s a continuing storyline that’s been unmolested since 1988 and it’s rare as balls for a long running horror series to keep its tangled continuity intact, let alone glory in it.
It’s Chucky, baby – wanna play?
In the town of Hackensack, New Jersey, bullied teen Jake Wheeler spies an old Good Guy Doll (retro, not vintage) at a yard sale and gets it for a bargin at 10 bucks. But a good deal aside, it isn’t much to stop his life from continuing to be a miserable grind as he’s dealing with his drunken father’s inability to except Jake’s homosexuality and he’s retreated into a world of collecting doll in order to make art with them. Things are strained even further after a meal with his uncle’s “perfect family” goes sour and the school time bullying at the hands of spoilt mayor’s daughter Lexi (girlfriend of Jake’s cousin, Junior) continues to escalate and it seems like the vunerable 14 year old is about to snap.
Eager to take advantage of this is the soul of Charles Lee Ray, a notorious serial killer who’s personality is still nestled in the body of the unwitting Jake’s Good Guy doll and soon the ginger little shit starts murderously meddling in the poor kid’s life which involves everything from entering his new pal as a ventriloquist act into a talent competition to publicly humiliate Lexi to outright killing his father. It seems that after all this time, Chucky hasn’t lost a step.
Despite the metric ton of backstory that comes included with Chucky nowadays, Death By Misadventure take great pains to not splurge early and confuse new or curious viewers with multiple dolls or any of the “legacy” cast members. Instead it wisely takes it’s time building up this brand new universe and focuses purely on the new faces that are about to enter the orbit of the infamous killer doll.
The cast contains some familiar faces with Devon (Final Destination, Idle Hands) Sawa making a welcome return from the acting netherworld in a dual role as Jake’s father and uncle while Lexa Doig (who once squared off with a futuristic Jason Voorhees in Jason X) plays his aunt. However, the main spotlight is rightly on Zackary Arthur’s Jake whose struggle with his sexuality takes the franchise even deeper into its themes of gender identity and sexuality after the body swapping of Cult Of Chucky and the presence of the gender fluid Glen from Seed. You can tell Jake’s plight is something extraordinarily personal to Chucky creator and episode director Don Mancini who himself is gay and he takes great pains to highlight the character’s growing alienation from the world even though true crime podcaster Devon is showing interest in him.
However, while the character building is strong, this is still a 45 minute build up episode where everyone goes about their day and only we know Chucky’s alive – and that’s fine – but as a fan, I’ve sat through seven other movies featuring the character that all, more or less, start basically the same way.
What I’m saying is that while the first episode is a good, solid start to the series, it’s not anything I haven’t seen numerous times before and I eagerly await the inevitable escalation. Plus, with a massive clutch of returning characters waiting in the wings such as the Chucky possessed Mica Pierce, original adversary Andy Barclay, fellow Chucky hunter Kyle and, of course, Jennifer Tilly’s show stopping Tiffany, long time fans may be a little impatient to see these promiced appearances take fruit. Also there’s the fact that Chucky himself is defiantly static for most of the episode – although Brad Douriff’s trademark larynx is allowed to cut loose during the talent show – and my impatience to see the vicious little turd do his thing was in the back of my mind.
That being said, Mancini keeps the visuals tight (a shot where the strobe light of some arcing electricity reveals Chucky gradually getting closer to a possible victim is a doozy) and a parallel plot involving a seeming docile childhood for Charles Lee Ray (Hackensack is his hometown, after all) has massive promise, but for now, Chucky’s premiere episode is an enticing teaser as to what chaos is to come.