Remakes have become a common aspect of the modern film industry that it is now almost a given that after a certain amount of years have elapsed and it has passed its commercial peak a franchise will eventually be rebooted for a new generation of cinemagoers. This has been the case since the dawn of the medium, with classic characters such as Dracula regularly receiving regular revamps by filmmaking hoping to give their own interpretation on an iconic story. Yet while the Bond series has continued to evolve with new actors and producers without any of the canon pictures remaking a past instalment, it would seem that Hollywood studios prefer to returning to the original film and starting from scratch, even reusing the same title as the movie that started it all.
Nowhere has this become the most apparent than with the horror genre. Gun Van Sant’s 1998 recycling of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho may have been critically reviled but just five years later the unexpected success of the Michael Bay-produced reboot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre would usher in a new era of horror remakes that would be spearheaded by Bay’s own production company Platinum Dunes, resulting in new version of genre classics like The Amityville Horror and Friday the 13th.
As a horror franchise grows over the years and expands its mythology in an attempt to keep its core audience engaged this often results in the overall story and continuity becoming somewhat convoluted and ridiculous. Slasher films were perhaps the most guilty of this, introducing previously-unmentioned family members and bizarre subplots to keep a series relevant against changing trends in the industry and demands from audiences. Even when each instalment was overseen by its creator, such as with Child’s Play, it can still run the risk of slipping into self-parody.
First conceived in the late 1980s by by a struggling young screenwriter called Don Mancini and developed in collaboration with filmmaker Tom Holland, fresh from his success with another horror picture Fright Night, Child’s Play was one of several pictures released during the decade that would exploit the common fear of children’s toys coming to life and running amok, something that cult producer Charles Band would regularly return to throughout his career, most notably with the long-running Puppet Master series.
Child’s Play 3 being cited as a possibly influence for the unspeakable crime
Following the unexpected critical acclaim and commercial success of Child’s Play a sequel was soon rushed into production but the franchise would encounter controversy in 1993 when the tragic murder of two-year-old James Bulger at the hands of two boys only eight years his senior would result in Child’s Play 3 being cited as a possibly influence for the unspeakable crime. A connection between the movie and the crime were eventually dismissed but it would be another give years before the franchise and its iconic antagonist, a possessed doll known as Chucky, would return.
‘One sequel is like, okay that’s cool. And then a second sequel, lots of series end there. I think it was around the time of Bride that I had the feeling, we all had the feeling, that Chucky seems to have been accepted in pop culture and that’s great,’ confessed Mancini to Forbes when looking back on the evolution the franchise would take with the release of its fourth instalment, Bride of Chucky, in 1998. Released just two years after the post-modern slasher picture Scream revamped the horror genre, Maninci and director Ronny Yu would take the story further from its scary roots and more towards self-referential humour, something Yu would later incorporate into the long-anticipated blockbuster Freddy vs. Jason.
Mancini eventually took over the series as director with the next sequel Seed of Chucky but after the seventh entry in 2017 news rumours began to circulate around the industry that despite a television spinoff being in development, MGM were intending on rebooting the series and introducing a new interpretation of Chucky, resulting in veteran actor Brad Dourif no longer voicing the character after three decades in the role. Instead Chucky, whose prosthetic body was possessed by deceased serial killer Charles Lee Ray, would now be portrayed by Star Wars legend Mark Hamill.
While the replacement of Dourif was both a disservice to the fans and an insult to the actor, Hamill taking over as the antagonist was an interesting choice after the acclaim and loyal following he had achieved from voicing Batman villain the Joker since 1992, earning considerable acclaim for his devilish turn as the maniacal and eccentric criminal mastermind. Yet despite the potential for Hamill to bring something fresh to the role Mancini was both upset and frustrated with the studio’s decision to reboot the series without his participation or approval, with the new movie being helmed by Norwegian filmmaker Lars Klevberg.
‘Obviously my feelings were hurt,’ Mancini would admit in a 2018 podcast. ‘I did create the character and nurture the franchise for three fucking decades….It was hard not to feel like I was being patronised. They just wanted our approval, which I strenuously denied them…I hesitate to say too much about it because I don’t want to sound like I’m belly-aching too much. But the producers of that movie are the producers of It. How would they feel if there was some legal loophole that allowed David Kirschner and I to swoop in and make our own It movie with our own version of Pennywise and say, ‘Hey guys, we would love to put your names on it?’ I imagine they wouldn’t like it.’
Another veteran of the series to speak out about the remake was Christine Elise McCarthy who, having first joined the world of Chucky with 1990s’ Child’s Play 2, would return to the role twenty-seven years later for Mancini’s Cult of Chucky. ‘I think it’s an unbelievably huge dick move. I think it’s a douche move absolutely,’ she told Horror Geek Life. ‘I don’t know why they would fuck with a healthy franchise. To make a competing franchise with an existing and like you said healthy robust franchise is super douchey.’
The Child’s Play remake would Mark Hamill’s first major role since 2017’s The Last Jedi, the eighth instalment of the Star Wars saga that, while receiving critical praise, was met with a negative response from the fanbase who took issue with how his character of Luke Skywalker had been portrayed. Yet even Hamill himself had been publicly vocal with his disappointment in the treatment of Luke and how he felt it had betrayed his depiction in the original trilogy. With the role of Chucky, however, Hamill is now facing resisting from the fans of another franchise.
‘I got a letter from Lars. He already laid out his vision for the film before I read it. And then they sent me this script and I thought the crucial element that was different from the original, which I love – I’m a huge fan of Brad’s interpretation – Chucky has a different origin,’ explained Hamill at a recent press conference for the film. ‘So it’s not the soul of a serial killer but someone deliberately goes in and alters his operating system and takes off the safety measures…The interesting thing is to see them assemble it and what choices they made. It’s really like giving them jigsaw puzzle pieces that they can assemble later to their liking.’
Despite his past experience with voiceover work he found the role of Chucky somewhat intimidating. ‘I thought, when I auditioned for the Joker, there’s no way they’re going to cast this icon of virtue, Luke Skywalker, as the Joker. Forget about it. So I had no performance anxiety because I knew they couldn’t hire me,’ he admitted. ‘It’s only when they hired me that I really thought, ‘Oh no, I can’t do this because so many people have expectations of what he’s supposed to sound like’…I didn’t feel that kind of intimidation until it sunk in that I was doing this,. I love Brad. It’s a great responsibility, so I’m anxious to see how people react because it’s not the Chucky that we all know from before.’
Another trend in Hollywood alongside remakes is the small screen reboot, in which the mythology of a motion picture or film franchise is expanded upon as a television or web series. This new method of reinterpreting the themes and events of a pre-existing story into a show first found success with the release of both Hannibal and Bates Motel, who shows that were adapted from popular horror film properties that had enjoyed initial critical and commercial success but through each increasingly disappointing instalment audiences had begun to lose interest. And with the remake of Child’s Play failing to cater to either long-time fans of the series or entice newcomers, perhaps it was inevitable that Chucky would return once again.
The show will be a fresh take on the franchise
The prospect of Child’s Play being adapted into a series from Syfy was first announced on 29 January 2019, with Mancini once again spearheading the story. ‘I’ve long wanted to bring Chucky to television and Syfy is the perfect network for us,’ he announced in a press release at the time, with the events of his series ignoring the Mark Hamill-led remake. ‘The show will be a fresh take on the franchise, allowing us to explore Chucky’s character with a depth that is uniquely afforded by the television series format, while staying true to the original vision that has terrorised audiences for over three decades now.’
The series will be developed by Mancini in conjunction with Child’s Play veteran David Kirschner, who had produced the original movie in 1988 and would remain involved in the series throughout the subsequent six sequels. Also onboard to help bring the show to fruition is Nick Antosca, whose prior television work has included Hannibal and the small screen spinoff of Teen Wolf, while also creating his own show Channel Zero in 2016. Eat the Cat, the production company that Antosca had founded to help launch Channel Zero, will produce alongside Universal Content Productions.
On 11 January 2020 Syfy officially announced that they had green-lit a straight-to-series order for Child’s Play having officially obtained the television rights for the property, finally allowing showrunner Mancini to continue the franchise where he had left off at the end of 2017’s Cult of Chucky. ‘The character Don and David created has terrified audiences for over terrified years,’ stated Syfy’s Chris McCumber regarding the company’s decision to reboot the property. ‘The longevity and legacy of Chucky speaks to the creative storytelling and the loyal fans the film series has collected over the years. We are excited to once again partner with Nick and UCP on this new Syfy series, and are incredibly proud to bring Chucky to television for the first time with the original creators’