The Child’s Play franchise is among the first horrors that I watched and introduced me to the world of horror films alongside the Final Destination films. Featuring a demonic doll called Chucky who is possessed by the spirit of murderer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) in all but the last films (the 2019 has a different set-up altogether), we see Chucky’s murderous attempts to become human again and what he will do in order to get there.
Created and directed by Don Mancini, the Child’s Play franchise are films that Mancini and Dourif are clearly passionate about. Even at their worst, the films are still entertaining and fun to watch. With the new remake/reboot out in cinemas featuring a new cast and production team and await\ning the 2020 TV show from Mancini with Brad Dourif back as the iconic voice of Chucky, I thought it would be a good idea to review and rank all of the released films from best to worst (including the 2019 film).
Without further ado, let’s begin:
Child’s Play (1988)
The franchise began in the late eighties in a decade that saw the creation of some of the most iconic slasher villains such as Freddie Kruegar and Jason Voorhees. Andy Barclay is a young boy gifted a Good Guy doll called Chucky for his sixth birthday. Murders suddenly begin occurring around Andy and his mum with Andy insisting that not only is his doll alive but he is possessed with the soul of a killer and is committing the murders. The audience views this film from the perspective of the adults as we don’t actually see Chucky come to life until halfway through the film when Andy’s mum threatens to burn the doll. The franchise has come to be ridiculed for its over the top humour but the first installment is actually underrated. The script is fantastic and well paced with Brad Dourif’s performance being the clear standout. He manages to makes Chucky truly terrifying without veering it into ridiculous territory.
Child’s Play 2 (1990)
The first sequel to the original takes place soon after where we left off with Andy’s mum being placed in a psychiatric ward and Andy is now in foster care with Joanne and Phil along with fellow foster child, Kyle, a rebellious teen who sneaks out on dates and smokes. Chucky is remade at the Good Guy factory but escapes in a quest to find Andy so he can “hide the soul” become human again. It’s a strong sequel that follows the exact same precedent as the original but that’s not always a bad thing. Brad Dourif provides a charismatic performance as ever as the evil doll and Alex Vincent delivers another great performance. The film contains some of my favourite highlights of the entire franchise such as the school scene in which Andy’s overly strict teacher meets her demise at the hands of a ruler. It also features the word “microchip” being used as an insult which I think is absolutely fantastic.
Child’s Play 3 (1991)
Fast forward right years in time and 16 year-old sent to military school after he struggles to find a suitable foster home. Replacing Alex Vincent as Andy is Justin Whalin who does a good job with what he’s given. The story isn’t as strong as its predecessors due to its attempts to tone down the humour and increase the violence, earning the franchise its first 18 rated certificate. When there is humour, it doesn’t quite land as the film takes itself too seriously to be tongue in cheek like the previous installments. This isn’t to say it’s a terrible film, there are some highlight scenes in there. One example is when the students play a huge game of paintball to practice their shooting skills and Chucky has replaced the paint with live bullets unknown to the students or officers. It also features one of the best endings in the entire franchise, taking place in a haunted house ride at a travelling carnival.
Bride of Chucky (1998)
After the negative reception to the third film, the writers decided to put an emphasis on the humour that audiences had come to love about Chucky. Introducing Jennifer Tilly to the franchise as Tiffany, Chucky’s lover when he was human, who is obsessed with the stories relating to the Chucky doll. She manages to get ahold of the doll and fixes him back up, giving him what will be his recognisable scars. Imprisoning Chucky when he comes back to life, Tiffany is killed and turned into a doll and the two aim to find a pair of humans to transfer their souls into. Watching this film after the first three is a shock because tonally, it is so different but it is an entertaining film that isn’t afraid to parody itself (cue all the slasher horror references at the start of the film). It’s definitely on the weaker end of the franchise but I do find it enjoyable to watch and it is a different kind of horror than what we are used to seeing.
Seed of Chucky (2004)
Despite the mixed reviews for Bride of Chucky, Mancini decided to push the envelope further when creating the following film, Seed of Chucky. Following the offspring of Tiffany and Chucky, Glen/Glenda travels to Hollywood to visit the set of a film based on his/her parents. It’s less violent and more camp, taking inspiration from the flamboyant horror B movies like Glen/Glenda. It’s become a modern cult film among fans and is undoubtedly the worst film in the franchise but it is fun to watch because it is so ridiculous. It also features cameos from the likes of S Club 7’s Hannah Spearritt with Billy Boyd providing the voice for Glen/Glenda. It’s a film that pokes too much fun at itself and becomes a product that goes beyond satire. It’s good fun for the audience to watch but in a “so bad it’s good” way.
Curse of Chucky (2013)
Nearly a decade on from the last film and Mancini decides to give the franchise a complete do-over. Mancini takes away the humour and brings in a new backstory. Nica (played Fiona Dourif, Brad Dourif’s daughter) is a paraplegic who has recently moved into a decrepit house with her mother. One day, Nica receives a Good Guy in the post. As ever, the doll is alive and sets on killing every person in the house bringing some extremely gory results. The film is fantastic as a standalone but also as an installment and is a welcome return to the franchise that audiences loved from the beginning. It features one of the most intense dinner scenes in any film I have seen. I think that releasing it as straight-to-DVD was a smart move as the film pleasantly surprised audiences as there weren’t high expectations for it. Much like the original 1988 film, Curse is a slow burner and we don’t see Chucky in action until later on in the film.
Cult of Chucky (2017)
Following on from the critical success of Curse of Chucky, Cult of Chucky follows Nica who has been committed to a psych ward where she is recovering. Using the same solution as the original films, Chucky tries to “hide the soul” in Nica’s body. Both Dourifs give knockout performances. The standout scenes in this film are the ones where they are able to bounce off each other. This film was made on a tiny budget compared to the other installments but it doesn’t feel like it. Like Curse, Cult is filmed primarily in one location meaning that more money can be used on the special effects. It’s a film that never lets the audience relax. There are few breathing moments as Chucky casts down terror on the patients in the ward. It’s a claustrophobic film that has you feeling trapped like the patients.
Child’s Play (2019)
Bringing in an entirely new team for this remake/reboot was always going to be interesting to watch. The first to be made without Don Mancini’s input, 2019’s Child’s Play puts the 1988 film into a 21st century context. You can read my full review for the new installment here.
So that’s 31 years of horror in one post! It’s amazing to see how the plots change with the times and how these films strive to follow trends that are seen in horrors specifically in the context of their release beginning with the slashers of the 80s, the comedies of the late 90s/early 00s and the darker, gorier inclusions in the 2010s.
Here is the ranking:
1) Child’s Play (1988)
2) Child’s Play 2 (1990)
3) Curse of Chucky (2013)
4) Cult of Chucky (2014)
5) Child’s Play (2019)
6) Child’s Play 3 (1991)
7) Bride of Chucky (1998)
8) Seed of Chucky (2004)
What did you think? What is your favourite Child’s Play film? Let me know in the comments below!