[Now updated to include director Lars Klevberg‘s 2019 Child’s Play remake]
Decades before Annabelle dead-eyed her way into our collective nightmares, the world recognized only one killer doll icon: Charles Lee Ray, the Lakeshore Strangler, better known to his bestest friends to the end as Chucky. Inspired by the miniscule mute Zuni figure from the 1975 anthology Trilogy of Terror and the “Living Doll” episode of The Twilight Zone, screenwriter Don Mancini fashioned a homicidal porcelain terror with a personality; producer David Kirschner dreamed up the iconic overalls look, Tom Holland and John Lafia punched up the script, and Holland himself came aboard to direct what would eventually be titled Child’s Play, released in 1988. An instant slasher icon was
born built in a doll factory and possessed by the spirit of a serial killer using voodoo magic.
The improbable horror hit spawned six sequels, some far more bonkers than others, but all featuring the inimitable Brad Dourif as the cackling, wise-cracking voice of Chucky. (Except for MGM’s remake, in which added Mark Hamill took over the role.) With Dourif’s always-unhinged presence to guide him, Mancini—who wrote every sequel—built the only franchise in horror without a straight-up bad entry. It’s come mighty close, mind you—Billy Boyd as Glen comes to mind—but through its many jarring shifts and tones Child’s Play has always remained, at the very least, a blast and a half. At it’s worst, the franchise is in on its own joke; at it’s best, it’s gleeful slasher-fan heaven.
With this week marking the 30th anniversary of the original film, I revisited all seven films to see which are enjoyable messes and which are damn near horror masterpieces. So if any voodoo Sky Gods happen to be listening, give me the power (I beg of you) to rank every film in the Child’s Play franchise from worst to best.