If there’s one thing we can say about horror franchises and the killers that occupy them is that they have a tendency to go on and on. This year alone we’ve had movies released featuring Leatherface, Ghostface, and Michael Myers, both of which have had their franchises running strong since the 1970s. And with a “Crystal Lake” prequel on the horizon over on Peacock, it seems that Jason Vorhees too is getting new content.
And while many of these characters and storylines are still going, they’re very much a far cry from what they began as. Halloween is now in its 3rd continuity going back to the original, Texas Chainsaw Massacre has also had to scrap all previous sequels several times to refresh its own messy canon.
In fact, when it comes to maintaining continuity, only one long and still running franchise seems to be holding firm, the beloved killer doll Chucky. Starting in 1988, the original storyline that began with a 6 year old boy getting the possessed doll for his birthday is still going strong today via a hit TV series on SyFy/USA. So, in many ways, Chucky remains the “purest” horror franchise and here’s why!
The Same Story
Across seven films and two seasons of a TV show, the long-form narrative of the Chucky saga has never really ended. We’ve seen Chucky going after Andy Barclay for three movies, then spend two movies becoming a husband and father, then for another two movies, he went after Nica, just to get a new nemesis in the form of Jake, while his old nemesis Andy comes back to face him again.
At this point, the 34 years of story is a little soap opera-ish, but that’s very much part of the charm, and it’s amazing that it’s continued for this long without needing to be rebooted, or the continuity needing to be erased for a future sequel. Granted, there was the 2019 remake of the original film, which tried to cash in on the success of this franchise, but it failed to derail this continuous story.
We’ve even seen plotlines evolve and come back to pay off years later. Glen/Glenda first appeared in Seed of Chucky and fans thought that that was the last they would ever see of them until their return in Season 2 of the TV show. We also see the mythology evolve with new details like the Heart of Damballa and the spell Chucky uses to occupy multiple dolls at once.
In general each new iteration attempts to be semi-standalone in that audiences could watch it and not need to have seen too much of previous content. But to those familiar with the franchise, there’s a myriad of Easter Eggs thrown in just for us. Everything from callbacks to previous kills to Andy’s tenure at the military academy being referenced.
The Same Creator
The primary reason that Chucky’s been able to maintain such continuity is that his franchise has had creator Don Mancini behind it since the very beginning. Mancini wrote the screenplays for all 7 Chucky movies, he directed Seed, Curse, and Cult of Chucky, and acts as showrunner for the TV series as well. And frankly, that’s just not something that you normally see with long-running franchises of any kind.
Horror legends like John Carpenter and Wes Craven directed the original Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, respectively. And while they were involved here and there, sometimes co-writing or producing later films, most of the sequels featuring Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger were written/directed by other creators. So a common criticism of later sequels is that these new creators coming in don’t understand the character or the story (look no further than the massive divisiveness of Halloween Kills and Ends).
But Chucky is very much Don Mancini’s baby, and no one understands the character quite like him. So even if a movie isn’t as well received, there’s no feeling of betrayal and Don Mancini himself is very transparent. He’s the first to admit that Child’s Play 3 wasn’t the best and that he had a very short amount of time to write that screenplay.
Not the Same Tone/Theme
Another very common criticism among long-running horror series is that at a certain point each sequel or new iteration just feels like the same thing we’ve gotten before. But to Don Mancini’s credit, he’s always strived to try something new and different with each new installment. While they all deal with the same genre of a killer doll, their tones and vibes vary drastically.
The first two Child’s Play films deal with Andy as a child dealing with no one believing him about Chucky, Child’s Play 3 has a Full Metal Jacket vibe at the military academy, Bride of Chucky introduces Jennifer Tilly to the series and introduced more meta comedy, Seed of Chucky doubled down on the satire, almost going into parody. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Curse of Chucky dropped the comedy and went all in with gothic horror, and its follow up, Cult of Chucky feels almost like a giallo film with a sanitized clean, white sanitarium setting.
Even the Chucky TV series has had a vastly different story and tone between two seasons. The first season was very much a middle school teen drama with Chucky and other characters pulling the strings in the background. And the second has moved the story to a Catholic boarding school. Mancini himself has said that he never wants to feel like he’s doing the same thing over and over, and across seven movies and two seasons of TV, he’s largely succeeded!
What do you think of the Chucky franchise? Let us know in the comments!