The Child's Play franchise is a near-perfect blend of horror and comedy about a cursed killer doll, Chucky, who has effectively secured a spot within the horror genre and gets a lot more right than some might expect.
With two recent movies on VOD as well as a reboot of the franchise itself, Chucky is as relevant as ever after hitting the snooze button. During this time, horror audiences were treated to reboots of other beloved 80s franchises, such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but Child's Play should have never gone out of style.
Despite its ridiculous premise, Child's Play (1988) was a hit, grossing $44 million at the box office. Child's Play 2 (1990) was less successful and the franchise suffered over time, steadily declining. However, with the fourth entry Bride of Chucky (1998), the franchise stopped taking itself seriously and became more self-aware, lacing horror with dark humor and risqué jokes, causing a surge at the box office once again. It also included the life-saving addition of a romantic foil for Chucky, Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly).
What Child's Play Always Got Right
After Bride of Chucky, the franchise leaned heavily on humorous elements alongside gory kills. The character of Chucky, a doll who is given life through the spirit of murderer Charles Lee Ray, is a smooth-talking, foul-mouthed hellion. He is unlike other killers in horror movie franchises; the only similar one is Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street. In many ways, it was this which set it apart from other successful franchises, and elements of meta humor in this new era of Child's Play was akin to what many audiences considered to be a primary element of success in films like Scream (1996).
Another factor that contributed to the success of these movies lies within how the curse was handled. The Haitian voodoo curse that trapped the spirit of Charles Lee Ray into a Good Guy doll is different than the standard demonic and supernatural possession commonly found in horror - and is handled rather fairly. Furthermore, it was less complicated thanks to Charles Lee Ray not being a victim; he was trapped by a self-inflicted curse to get revenge on cops who gunned him down.
Moving To VOD Helped Child's Play
After Seed of Chucky (2004), the franchise seemed to skid to a halt. Almost a decade later, though, fans got a new installment. Not just a surprise return, this new Child's Play would be going straight-to-video, playing not in theaters but on DVDs and streaming services. Curse of Chucky returned to more traditional horror elements, bringing back Brad Dourif as Chucky to terrorize real-world daughter Fiona. The next film, Cult of Chucky, went a step further and returned humorous gags, ultra-violence, and Tiffany to the franchise. This smart release strategy targeted the fans directly and limited the "over-hyping" which is commonplace with traditional film releases. This duology reinvigorated the franchise with a back to basics reboot that was a shocking success.
The Future of Child's Play
Despite the reimagining of Chucky for the 21st century in Child's Play (2019), original director/writer Don Mancini still plans to continue his version of the franchise with movies and a TV series that is bound to be full of his blend of horror-comedy that has always made the franchise so refreshing. While others are experiencing a similar reboot treatment, the fact that Child's Play continues to reinvent itself when competitors can't make themselves relevant to a modern audience is a sure sign of a bright future.