In the Limelight

Childhood is a time of vivid imaginations and epic adventures. Whether you’re transforming the backyard into a wild rainforest or imaging the living room as a lava-filled obstacle course, the early years in a child’s life can be a magical time. Well, unless you are gifted a doll possessed by an infamous serial killer, then childhood take’s a different turn. 

Originally debuting on November 9, 1988, the slasher film Child’s Play not only served to introduce horror icon Chucky, but it also helped reinvigorate the creepy dolls subgenre. After 30 years, the Chucky franchise has spawned six additional films, several comic books, a video game, with a television series and reboot currently in the works. The first installment in the series was directed and co-written by Tom Holland, produced by David Kirschner and adapted from a story by Don Mancini. It stars Catherine Hicks as widowed Karen Barclay, Alex Vincent as her son Andy, Dinah Manoff as the babysitter Maggie, Chris Sarandon as Detective Mike Norris, and Brad Dourif as Chucky.

On a November night in Chicago, serial killer and fugitive Charles Lee Ray finds himself on the run from homicide detective Norris. After suffering several fatal shots, Ray runs into a toy shop where he uses a Haitian Vodou spell to transfer his soul into a Good Guys doll. A bolt of lightning causes the shop to explode, leaving nothing but Ray’s dead body surrounded by dolls. The following day, Barclay unknowingly purchases the doll as a birthday present for her six-year-old son. Thus begins a series of strange going-ons that leave the young Andy a suspect for his babysitter’s murder and eventually placed in a psychiatric hospital. Slowly, his mother begins to realize the sinister nature of Chucky and enlists the help of Detective Norris. 

Around this time, Chucky discovers that he needs to transfer his soul to the first person he revealed his true identity to, which is Andy. An intense battle ensues that leaves a burning Chucky presumed dead. Child’s Play 2 picks up two years after the first film and follows Chucky’s continuing pursuit for Andy, who has since been placed in foster care. While the series originally started out as a straightforward slasher film with elements of dark humor, the subsequent films became increasingly more satirical and campy. The third installment occurs eight years later and sees a now 16-year-old Andy still troubled by the events of his childhood. As one would be. 

By the fourth installment, 1998’s Bride of Chucky, the franchise became more of a horror comedy and veered away from the Chucky/Andy storyline. This film centered around Chucky and Ray’s former girlfriend and accomplice, Tiffany. After stitching Chucky’s remains back together, Chucky kills Tiffany and transfers her soul into a bride doll. The end of the film sees the Tiffany doll give birth to a new form of life, which is further explored in Seed of Chucky.

In 2013’s Curse of Chucky, the film returned to the series’ horror roots with Chucky slowly revealing himself, first to a child and later to his adult victims, with whom he shares a connection. After framing new character Nica for multiple murders, Chucky is reunited with his longtime nemesis Andy, once again played by Vincent, during the movie’s stinger. Despite shooting the murderous doll point blank with a shotgun, Chucky has never been one to go down easy.

The subsequent film, Cult of Chucky, was another full-fledged horror film reminiscent of the original movie. Multiple Chucky’s are seen terrorizing the mental institution where Nica is being treated based on her conviction for the murders in Curse. A now vigilante Andy breaks into the institution in an attempt to disrupt the dramatic rampage. By the end of the film, Andy is locked inside a cell after destroying most of the Chucky dolls. But, one doll is able to transfer his spirit into Nica and is seen driving off into the preverbal sunset with Tiffany as the credits roll. 

Since his initial debut in 1988, Chucky has gone through several transformations. Now, the planned reboot from MGM is restoring the character to the misleading innocence of the first film. No longer covered in scars, the first teaser image for the film shows Chucky sporting wide blue eyes, freckles and his iconic fiery red hair. Written by Tyler Burton Smith and directed by Lars Klevberg, the reboot stars Gabriel Bateman, Aubrey Plaza, and Brian Tyree Henry as Andy Barclay, Karen Barclay, and Detective Mike Norris, respectively. 

Across the entire franchise, Chucky has been voiced exclusively by Brad Dourif. While the upcoming reboot has yet to announce who will voice the serial killer, Dourif confirmed his return for Child's Play: The TV Series. This 8-part television series is being helmed by franchise creator Mancini and producer David Kirschner. The show will share continuity with the original film series and be a continuation of that story. 

Even after all this time, the voodoo-practicing, serial killing Chucky continues to pervade the horror landscape. As the franchise expands into even darker and creepier elements, one thing is for sure: we’re well past child’s play now.