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Over 3 decades later, the 'Child’s Play' franchise still has legs for a 'Chucky' spinoff series

Zackary Arthur, who plays Jake Wheeler, in a scene from the TV series, Chucky. Picture: Supplied

Zackary Arthur, who plays Jake Wheeler, in a scene from the TV series, Chucky. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 23, 2021


Thirty-three years ago, horror fans were introduced to Chucky, the possessed serial killer doll from “Child’s Play”.

Since then, there have been six sequels (“Child’s Play 2”, “Child’s Play 3”, “Bride of Chucky”, “Seed of Chucky”, “Curse of Chucky” and “Cult of Chucky”, a “Child’s Play” remake, comic books, a video game and, now, a TV spinoff series, “Chucky”.

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But is Chucky still relevant after all these years?

The answer is yes since the horror genre is no longer a niche one. Thanks to its exposure on streaming platforms, it has joined the ranks of popular culture.

During a recent Zoom interview Don Mancini, creator of the “Child’s Play” franchise who went on to direct the last three films and also wore the hat of executive producer, acknowledged that there was a shift in perception of the horror genre.

He shared: “So much of my career, I felt, sometimes anyway, the studios we worked with, while the people were helpful in guiding us through the process of making the film, they weren’t necessarily fans of this film.

“Often, you have the slight sense that this was business for them.

“Whereas now, as you say, the horror genre is not looked down upon in the way it used to be.

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“I think it’s recognised, rightly now, as a genre that can legitimately address serious topics and is just as vital at its best as any other genre.

“It’s great the genre has this newfound legitimacy certainly in the realm of television.

“I think Ryan Murphy has a big part of that with ‘American Horror Story’. It’s been over 10 years, which is hard to believe.

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“Jessica Lange and all these other amazing actors, the production value and Ryan Murphy’s brilliance brought to bear on all of that.

“It’s an exciting time for horror.”

The seed for the “Chucky” series was planted when he was working in the writer’s room for “Hannibal” some five years ago.

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He added: “I was working for Bryan Fuller, who was the showrunner and I loved the experience so much.”

And so the idea of a brains trust of like six or seven talented writers and fellow horror enthusiasts, “contributing to weave this tapestry of narrative” appealed to him for his own franchise.

Mancini continued: “And I realised that inviting such people into the process would elevate the show and make the franchise even better.

“So that was really my impetus. Plus, I really loved the opportunity of telling a different kind of story because long-form television is just a different kind of storytelling.

“Over the years, we changed it. We made it a comedy with ‘Bride of Chucky’ and ‘Seed of Chucky’ and then we went back to goth and horror, and I think that was one of the reasons it stayed fresh and relevant in the zeitgeist, so bringing it to television was another way of doing that.”

The TV series is a sequel to “Cult of Chucky”, which is the seventh release in the franchise.

Zackary Arthur. Picture: Supplied

“Well. with all the films and now the show, I’ve tried to maintain a consistent narrative.

“We’ve never started over. I mean there was one - a remake of the original film - but we had nothing to do with the remake.

“I think it is another thing that makes our franchise as unique and valuable,” said Mancini.

“I just wanted to continue in that vein. But it doesn’t preclude adjusting things slightly for what you are doing now to make it fresh, as I did with ‘Bride of Chucky’ and ‘Curse of Chuck’, which were two previous times that we did a course correction with a bit of a reinvention.

“ As with those films now with the TV show, I’ve created a new milieu, new characters and relationships and gradually start folding in the previous mythology of the franchise, we catch newcomers up so you don’t have to have seen the previous Chucky movie to understand this.”

I asked him if he ever envisioned the franchise being the success story that it is.

Mancini smiled and responded: “I dreamed of it as a young horror fan in the ‘80s.

“I was a huge fan of ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, ‘Halloween’, ‘Friday the 13th and so of course when I wrote the first script when I was at film school, I had a dreams of that happening - Chucky joining the ranks of those other monsters. But I didn’t think that was going to happen.”

He added that his first real hope was to get engagement with the script.

“Child’s Play” franchise creator Don Mancini. Picture: Supplied

“That is one of the first hurdles you have to get over when you starting a career in this business,” he said.

“I really got lucky in a lot of ways. The script got sold, it got made, it was hit, it led to a sequel. All of those things are heavy plateau so I feel like I won the lottery in that regard. So the older I get I’m more grateful for that.”

Mancini also sang the praises of the child stars in the TV series and added: “I worked with a lot of kids over the years, I was so impressed by all these kids and having them around, specifically in a pandemic, which is a really singularly challenging time to make any kind of movie or TV show with all those protocols, wearing masks and shields, but the kids, they bring with them, this completely uncynical enthusiasm every day. And the rest of us fed off that.”

As for Zackary Arthur, who plays Jake Wheeler, he offered: “He does such a wonderful job. At times, he reminds me of Fiona Dourif.

“He registers intense emotions and trauma very well and I don’t know where that comes from because Zack is a very happy kid from a very happy family.”

In the series, Zackary is a quiet gay kid who purchases a vintage Chucky doll at a yard sale. And that’s when the idyllic town is thrust into the throes of terror.

By the way, keep an eye out for familiar faces from the franchise in the spinoff.

“Chucky” will be available for streaming on Showmax from October 27.