The Child’s Play franchise may be the most interesting of the major horror franchises. Created by Don Mancini, the Child’s Play movies have never achieved the same level of love or reverence as the Halloween or Elm Street series. Poor Chucky has always been tucked firmly somewhere in between smaller horror series, like the Hellraiser movies, and major players like Friday the 13th.
Yet the Child Play’s series has a very unique trajectory. For starters, it’s undergone some unique tonal shifts over the years. From straightforward horror to campy satire and then back to its horror roots, the Child’s Play franchise has taken some interesting twists. Arguably, it’s also a horror series that has maintained a pretty consistent level of quality. Some entries are weaker than others, but there’s no outright stinker. You can chalk this up to the constant presence of series of creator Don Mancini and Chucky himself, Brad Dourif. It makes the decision to boot Mancini to the curb for a remake all the more questionable.
Where does your favourite Chucky movie rank? Check out my personal rankings below.
7 – Seed of Chucky (2004)
Following the franchise correction that was Bride of Chucky, Seed Chucky veers a little too far off course. If the presence of oddball filmmaker John Waters wasn’t enough of a sign, Seed of Chucky is full camp. The balance between camp fun and horror found in Bride of Chucky is largely absent in this sequel. That’s not to say that Seed of Chucky doesn’t have some fun moments. It still has some inspired kills and gore. Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, and new addition Billy Boyd are all having fun with their roles. And some of the meta-humour is on point. Seed of Chucky is watchable, but it’s clearly the worst of the franchise.
6 – Child’s Play 3 (1991)
Child’s Play 3 was not necessarily a bad movie. But it’s the most derivative slasher sequel in the franchise. Alex Vincent was aged out of the series with Justin Whalin replacing him as Andy Barclay. The setting was also switched out to a military school. The ‘Chucky’ effects were improved and Dourif injected more of the same dark humor into his performance. Nonetheless, Child’s Play 3 still felt like an idea running out of steam. For the third film in the series, it’s still remarkably watchable. But the series needed a big change if it was going to continue.
5 – Child’s Play 2 (1990)
If you had to make a sequel about a killer doll possessed by a dead serial killer, you could do much worse than Child’s Play 2. Too much of the movie does re-hash the original movie. Andy sees Chucky, but no one else does. Other characters blame Andy for crimes committed by Chucky. To some extent, Child’s Play 2 is the standard 80’s and 90’s horror sequel in this regard. Fortunately, Dourif is still wickedly sharp as Chucky. The sequel is also book-ended by two incredible scenes in the Good Guys toy factory. As a bonus, Chucky’s murder of a cruel and stern teacher is a franchise stand-out. Child’s Play 2 is a clear step down, but not so much as to make it unwatchable.
4 – Cult of Chucky (2017)
Few film franchises can claim to still be introducing fresh ideas seven films into a series. In spite of some fan criticism, Cult of Chucky continues the series revival kick-started by Curse of Chucky. There’s some fun narrative juggling with the parallel stores of a now adult Andy Barclay and the institutionalized Nica Pierce. In addition, the asylum-setting and winter backdrop provide an entirely different atmosphere from the rest of the series. Mancini even introduces the idea of multiple ‘Chucky’s’, a concept he had wanted to include as far back as Child’s Play 3. It’s a fun twist that keeps you guessing, something most later horror sequels can’t claim. Though some fans will complain about the CGI, the skylight death scene is one of the best deaths in the franchise. It’s absolutely beautifully filmed by Mancini.
3 – Bride of Chucky (1998)
How do you inject new life into a stale franchise? You take it in a completely different tonal direction from past entries. Friday the 13th did it successfully with Jason Lives. Similarly, series creator opted to fully embrace the silliness inherent in the Child’s Play concept. Gone is the dark humor of the first three films, replaced by an entirely campy and self-aware approach to the material. Jennifer Tilly is a wonderful addition to the franchise, playing well off of Dourif. Director Ronny Yu adds a fun cartoonish zip to the series. Bride of Chucky does drag a bit in the middle. Some serious editing was probably needed. But this a fun sequel that shakes up a franchise that needed a facelift.
2 – Curse of Chucky (2013)
Curse of Chucky had no business being a good movie. It was an extremely belated sequel to a franchise that seemed to have run its course. But Curse of Chucky is actually quite a good little horror movie. Like Bride of Chucky, Mancini re-directs the series, stripping it down and opting for a more straight-forward horror approach. For the first time in the franchise, Don Mancini also takes over directing duties. The result is a Child’s Play movie that feels refreshingly original. In addition, there’s some element of mystery and surprise. Chucky is used much more sparingly in this sequel, which makes the character feel a little more menacing again. Fiona Dourif, as Nika Pierce, is a fantastic addition to expanding series’ mythology. Mancini even manages to bring the franchise full circle with some welcome retconning. Simply put, Curse of Chucky was an unexpectedly fantastic addition to the Child’s Play world.
1- Child’s Play (1988)
There are very few examples in film history of a sequel improving upon the original movie. To date, the first Child’s Play still stands as the best in the franchise. Created by Mancini and directed by Tom Holland, United Artists released Child’s Play well past the slasher sub-genre’s expiration date. But similar to Elm Street, Child’s Play put enough of a twist on the slasher film that made it feel unique. In the wrong creative hands, the concept could have fallen straight into laughable camp. To his credit, Holland films Chucky in a way that never allows the concept to feel as silly as it should. In fact, Holland conjures up a few good scares. The scene where Andy’s mom discovers that Chucky never had his batteries installed still delivers a good jolt. Much of the concept works thanks in no small part to Brad Dourif’s performance.