Chucky. Picture: Supplied

The mythology of horror franchises tends to unfold like a game of Telephone.

The story starts simply say, man in mask slashes teenagers and ends up somewhere ridiculous, the result of film-makers and actors ducking in and out of the series, villains killed and resurrected, and market trends.

The first Child’s Play movie arrived in 1988, as the slasher cycle that dominated the ’80s was tapering off.

It was a twist on the Cabbage Patch Kids craze a few years before: What if, instead of consumers fighting one another for a doll, the doll would be a menace to anyone who bought it? It could be a slasher film underscored by a sense of the absurd. 

Over seven films and nearly three decades, including, most recently, the 2017 straight-to-video entry 'Cult of Chucky'', the series has been under the care of its creator, Don Mancini, who scripted all seven and directed three.

The new Child’s Play reboot, which hits the big screen in SA next Friday, was produced without Mancini’s approval, and without the contributions of Brad Dourif, the voice of its evil doll Chucky, and Jennifer Tilly, who’s played Chucky’s partner-in-crime.

Child’s Play has faced an uphill battle for respectability. On top of slasher-movie fatigue, the prospect of a killer doll never seemed all that
scary. But he’s got a nasty bite, he’s nearly impossible to kill, and he has the versatility to thrive in different situations. He’s a toy built to last. Child’s Play has gone through three phases, each adapted for its era. 

The first three, from 1988 to 991, were a case of a studio seizing on a novelty hit. The original is a straightforward horror-thriller.

The two quickie sequels offered diminishing returns. The second phase found Child’s Play adapting to a post-Scream era of self-awareness and in-jokes by transforming itself into lurid camp comedy, flush with references to horror classics and a progressive appeal to the LGBT community. 

The two most recent sequels,'Curse of Chucky' and 'Cult of Chucky, were slipped into the videoon-demand market.

The new Child’s Play updates the series to peel off fans of Annabelle, the latest in killer-doll sensations, and modernise it with technophobia. Chucky is no longer a serial killer confined to a plastic shell, but a “smart toy” that links to the cloud and marshals the demonic force of interconnected devices. 

It’s a satirical conceit, preying on the fear that the technology we rely on will eventually turn on us. 

Washington Post