I’ve always been a bit frightened of dolls. It started with the ventriloquist episode of The Sooty Show, and positively snowballed when my grandmother decided I needed a collection of porcelain-faced dolls dressed in Victorian garb.
I didn’t encourage the continuation of this collection, nor was I brave enough to stop it. So I spoke to each one of these dolls in calm and reassuring tones, just in case they were to come alive in the middle of the night. I assumed that if I was nice to them they would choose to murder my sister and inhabit her body rather than take mine.
I never shut my dolls out of my bedroom. I never turned them to face the wall. And I most certainly never spoke ill of them. In fact, I played with them more than any of my other toys because I was desperate not to offend those dead-eyed, fabulously dressed demons. After all, they outnumbered me.
I finally sold them when I was about fifteen. I was in a fearless, rebellious phase and felt indestructible. But have I been waiting for the moment they turn up at my house with an insatiable desire for vengeance ever since? Absolutely.
Because of this harrowing childhood experience, for a long time I chose to keep my distance from dolls in all areas of my life, including any fiction about them. If horror movies have taught me anything, it’s to avoid. Run away. Ignore. Don’t look at it. And certainly don’t provoke it by walking into a darkened room where those unblinking eyes are bound to follow you.
That being said, I love horror movies and have been slowly making my way through the classics over the years. When my husband suggested watching Child’s Play (1988), I knew I had to throw aside my childish concerns and just sit through it. If I could handle Freddy and the Cenobites and Jason and Leatherface, surely I could handle Chucky?
Plot twist: not only could I handle Chucky, but I became absolutely obsessed with him.
I have now watched all eight movies from the Chucky franchise and the first season of the TV show, and am desperate to watch the second season. I’ve been trying to put my finger on what exactly has changed, why do I suddenly love evil dolls?
I’ve come up with a five possible explanations:
1. It’s camp as heck
Don’t get me wrong, Chucky is awful. A genuinely horrible, psychotic character. But he has those cheesy quips that I can’t help but enjoy. His evil laugh (or chuckle, if you will) is just plain funny to me. Most of his victims are enjoyably two-dimensional and their murders are so over the top that you can’t really think of them as real. And what about Chucky’s teeny tiny little legs as he trots towards his victims? Oh, and Jennifer Tilly is his sidekick, for god’s sake. It’s camp, enjoyable fun through and through.
2. The effects are amazing
The animatronic dolls are simply phenomenal. I love that practical effects have been used throughout the franchise rather than CGI (for Chucky specifically, there are some questionable effects elsewhere).
3. It’s inclusive
I recently watched Shudder’s ‘Queer for Fear’ series about the queer origins of horror and found it fascinating how horror has always resonated with the queer community, often in subtle, disguised ways. But the Chucky franchise has always been surprisingly progressive, and very openly so. It makes sense as Dan Mancini, who created the Chucky character, is a gay man, but all of the queer themes throughout the franchise are very obvious, refreshingly positive and genuine.
4. It hasn’t outstayed it’s welcome
Every movie (bar the Seed of Chucky, which was pretty terrible) brings with it something new. They are all entertaining in different ways, and the franchise doesn’t feel tired or nonsensical at all to me. Even the 2019 reboot was great fun. Bring on 1,000 more Chucky movies, please. I hope Brad Dourif does a James Earl Jones when he retires from acting and sells his voice to Syfy.
5. Chucky has dungarees
And I love dungarees.
And that was the story of how I overcame my fear of evil dolls.
Actually, I’m still not 100% sure about ventriloquist dummies. Or mannequins. Or clown dolls. Or puppets…