'Chucky' review: Takes a winning stab at being a friend to the end

'Sheesh, just what I needed, an owner with an even more vacant stare than mine.' Photos: Handout

Once again, TV viewing/streaming brings fresh parallels along with fresh opportunities for commentary.

Stacked up next to the current (and pretty terrific) Stranger Things 4 Vol 1, Astro Primetime's limited series Chucky has a whole doll-sized fistful of similarities.

Examples of its parallels with ST4: supernatural forces that prey on emotional baggage, kids adventuring on bikes, (truly) awful school bullies, awkward crushes, an impending sense of dread and doom ... and sudden outbursts of dark/grim humour from often unexpected sources (with a Halloween night sight gag that nearly made me choke on my seaweed snack).

Chucky, of course, revolves around the titular doll, possessed and animated by the soul of serial killer Charles "Chucky" Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), who has been terrifying, taunting and amusing audiences since his 1988 movie debut in the movie Child's Play.

Progressing (some might say regressing) from psychological horror to outright horror to (almost) high camp, the series has been rebooted, retooled, expanded and now, revived with a surprisingly fresh take on doll-induced mayhem.

Finally, Jake had his crew, an entourage of one. Okay, half. Finally, Jake had his crew, an entourage of one. Okay, half.

The eight-episode first season (a second is due later this year) comes to us courtesy of franchise creator Don Mancini and it's quite superior to most of what followed the pretty-darn-good Tom Holland-directed original.

Forget the 2019 reboot which had Chucky powered by rogue AI rather than a disembodied soul (though it had a cool voice performance by Mark Hamill).

The Chucky series adheres to regular franchise continuity, and some familiarity with Curse Of Chucky (2013) and Cult Of Chucky (2017) will definitely help your overall enjoyment.

It starts with aspiring 14-year-old artist Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur, looking like he could star in an Entourage prequel) buying a vintage Good Guy doll at a yard sale. No prizes for guessing that this is indeed a doll possessed by a sliver of Charles Lee Ray's soul (hey, if you can keep track of the MCU, this should be a ... snap).

So it isn't long before Chucky worms his wicked way into Jake's head. After all, the kid seems right for his Hannibal Lecter-esque murmurings, already being made a punching bag by his drunk dad Lucas (Final Destination alumnus Devon Sawa, in a dual role as Jake's uncle Logan) and bullied by passive-aggressive cousin Junior (Teo Briones) and his girlfriend Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind).

A possessed doll ... a ventriloquist's act ... sure, it's been done before, but nobody does it quite like Chucky.A possessed doll ... a ventriloquist's act ... sure, it's been done before, but nobody does it quite like Chucky.

If not for his calming crush on classmate Devon (Bjorgvin Arnarson), Jake might very well surrender to Chucky's insidious influence a lot sooner (and then the first season would not even stretch eight episodes).

Lest you think it's all just about Chucky trying to get Jake to do his twisted bidding, though, fret not. The longer-form episodic TV structure (as opposed to a 100-minutes-or-less movie) allows Mancini and his collaborators to flesh out relationships, toy with audience expectations, throw curveballs, and jump the rails without warning.

Familiar faces and voices from earlier in the series return, ably complemented by the new members of the cast and horror/SF nobility like Sawa and Andromeda's Lexa Doig. And then we have franchise staple Dourif, whose distinctive speech somehow sounds right even when it's dubbed over the actor playing a younger Charles.

Younger? I mean of course there would be flashbacks, how else are we to witness milestones in the life of the title character otherwise? And for sure, these glimpses into the past live, and slay, up to expectations.

And that true-to-his-nature constancy is why we can always count on Chucky to be a true friend to the end, and (the great) beyond.

All eight episodes of Chucky Season One are available on Astro On Demand via the Primetime channel.

7 10


He just wants to be hugged

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Chucky , Astro On Demand


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