By: Kayla Caldwell
What a great year it’s been for people who like balls to the wall, campy horror. We got James Wan’s deliciously disturbed Malignant, David Gordon Green’s ridiculously fun Halloween Kills, and now, Syfy’s new CHUCKY series.
CHUCKY follows the demented doll (inhabited by the spirit of the murderous Charles Lee Ray, voiced by Brad Dourif) as he is picked up by Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur) at a yard sale. Jake is a 14-year-old queer artist, who lives with his struggling single father, Luke Wheeler (Devon Sawa). We learn early on that Jake’s mother is gone, and Luke is not emotionally equipped to handle that. He drowns his sorrows in brown liquors and veiled insults and threats directed at Jake. Like most depictions of parents with children who aren’t like them, Luke makes it very clear that he doesn’t support Jake’s art - or sexual orientation - and wishes he would be normal, or at least more like his athlete cousin, Junior (Teo Briones).
Things aren’t any easier for Jake at school, where he is mercilessly bullied by classmates, like Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind), Oliver (Avery Esteves), and his cousin, Junior. Lexy appears to be a particularly ruthless breed of blonde bully, spouting nauseating faux concern as she creates a gofundme-type site for Jake, after hearing he was selling his CHUCKY doll. Attempts by their science teacher, Miss Fairchild (Annie Briggs), to get Lexy to feel remorse for her cruel actions only results in flippant remarks like, “Don’t worry about me, Miss F. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to end up teaching eighth grade biology.”
Though Jake has many antagonists in CHUCKY, it appears Lexy is his primary nemesis - something the infamous Good Guy doll quickly notices. CHUCKY sets his sights on her from the jump, but you’ll have to tune in yourself to see if he succeeds in his homicidal mission.
Jake doesn’t know what he’s getting into when he first purchases the “retro” doll, but midway through the first episode we already see him receiving a mysterious phone call warning about Chucky, and advising he check the doll’s batteries. It should come as no surprise when Jake discovers Chucky doesn’t have any.
Of course, by then it’s too little, too late. CHUCKY has attached himself to Jake, like Jacob imprinting on Renesmee in Twilight. “Hi, I’m Chucky, and I’m your friend to the end. You get that now Jake, right?” the doll says, after he instructs the nervous teen to storm the stage at the school talent show.
Though that lands Jake in some trouble with the school (and his father), this is the least of his worries, as far as Chucky’s antics go. Things are about to get a whole hell of a lot worse before they get better. For fans wondering if the series will hold up to the original bonkers movie series, fear not. CHUCKY has all of the bizarre, foul-mouthed energy of the film series, with a host of brutal, over-the-top kills to boot.
CHUCKY is campy, and certainly overdramatic, but above all else, it’s fun as hell. Everyone’s 90s crush, Sawa, is captivating as the character you love to hate, whether he’s playing Jake’s alcoholic father, Luke, or Junior’s attractive and charming, yet emotionally abusive father, Logan. Arthur’s Jake is earnest, emotional, and absolutely exhausted from the constant abuse he gets for just wanting to be himself. You can’t help but feel for him. At one point, there’s a brief mention of medications Jake takes for anxiety and depression, and it made my mentally-ill heart soar, because, yes, let’s talk openly about mental health meds so we can work on disbanding the stigma.
Bjorgvin Arnarson is fascinating as a teen true crime podcaster with an interest in Jake, who also happens to be the son of Detective Evans (Rachelle Casseus), the officer tracking Chucky’s myriad crimes. He starts thing off on the wrong foot, when it comes to Jake, but it seems like he’s got more going on beneath the popular middle school boy persona.
CHUCKY manages to harness the energy of the film series, while focusing on new targets, like the children of Jake’s middle school, and their respective parents. Expect ridiculous kills, lots of swearing, and middle school cringe. Note that if bullying is a trigger for you, this may be a bit difficult to watch.
All in all, CHUCKY is a blast of a ride, and a worthy addition to the Child’s Play franchise. It's nonstop horror fun, from every word out of Chucky's mouth to the creative (and creepy!) intro, which features different items each episode that combine into a sort of mosaic, to form the CHUCKY logo. I’ve seen the first four episodes, and I’m already hooked. It’s going to be agony waiting for them to air each week, so I can catch what happens next.
If you want to get in on the fun, check out CHUCKY, airing Tuesdays at 10pm on Syfy.