The seventh Chucky movie, Cult of Chucky, was released directly to Netflix Streaming recently. The Halloween franchise, it was also recently revealed, will be rebooting itelf with only the original John Carpenter-directed film counting toward the new continuity.
Here we have two approaches toward unwieldy horror franchises: one designed to appeal specifically toward hardcore fans, the other meant to recapture the zeitgeist of a once-popular franchise for audiences both old and new. There are benefits and detriments to each. And with horror being in a bit of a new golden age, it's worth talking about why Chucky and Michael Myers benefit from their respective approaches.
THE CULT OF CHUCKY
The most successful movie featuring Chucky was the 1998 masterpiece Bride of Chucky. Like many other horror films of its day, Bride of Chucky made many, many, many nods toward its own past as well as other franchises like Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Hellraiser. It was also a fun movie.
But ... Bride of Chucky only made $50 million off a $25 million budget and was the 62nd highest-grossing film in the year that brought us Godzilla, Patch Adams, and You've Got Mail -- all of which fared way better than Chucky at the box office. It's not terrible, but if that's your high point? It's not the best news for a theatrically released franchise.
However, Chucky has his fans, and they are quite a dedicated army. They get tattoos of him, they own replicas of him, they re-buy his movies from VHS to DVD to Blu-ray, and, like all fans, they really obsess over this thing they love. They know Chucky's continuity in and out. They are, in effect, the Cult of Chucky.
And the other thing to keep in mind is that Don Mancini, who created Chucky, has never stepped away from the franchise, and neither has horror legend and voice of Chucky, Brad Dourif.
Chucky did, however, step away from theatrical releases beginning with 2013's Curse of Chucky. And deciding to continue moving away from theatrical releases was, I think, the best decision Mancini and Team Chucky could have made. And now, with Cult of Chucky, they've made two other moves that I think benefit them.
1) They released Cult of Chucky to stream through Netflix the same day it was released on Blu-ray and DVD.
2) They decided to start bringing in as much previous Child's Play and Chucky continuity as one single film could bear.
Cult of Chucky made a big splash by dropping on Netflix in October (the spookiest of months) in much the same way that Happy Death Day did by dropping on a Friday the 13th that fell in October. And letting hardcore fans know they were going to be bringing back a truckload of past continuity was equally enticing.
In fact, if you watched the original Child's Play and/or Bride of Chucky, you might be more likely to check out Cult of Chucky knowing that this immediately x`available film has some familiar faces. You might not get every reference, but the ones you do get will provide that addictive shot of nostalgia. Also, spoilers, it ends on a wild cliffhanger that made at least me excited to see where Chucky would go next.
Also: Cult of Chucky was made on the cheap. How cheap? Cheap enough that Mancini talked about how cheap it was in multiple interviews. But Mancini is an established filmmaker and so Cult of Chucky still looks good, another thing that really helps make it stand out from much of the video-on-demand pack.
Put it all together and I think you can see a winning formula for Chucky and, potentially, for any other struggling horror franchise with a rabid core fanbase. Meanwhile ...
THE RELIGION OF MICHAEL MYERS
Most horror fans know who Chucky is. Most humans know who Michael Myers is. Love for the original Halloween isn't cultish -- it is religion. John Carpenter's classic film that (along with Black Christmas) defined the slasher genre is a movie that almost everyone watches at least a few minutes of on October 31.
Like Chucky, though, people don't really care about most of the other entries. Even the second film, which is a direct continuation, is mostly regarded as being slow and inferior to the Carpenter original. Interestingly, Halloween H20 (1998) erases all continuity after Halloween II and, obviously, Rob Zombie's 2007 remake starts from scratch.
Basically, the thing everyone cares about is that first Michael Myers story. They don't care about creepy masks or Michael's extended family or secret cults... even the big Halloween fans don't really stand for that stuff. Whereas Chucky's innate dark humor makes him capable of laughing with the people who might poke fun at his sillier franchise entries, Michael Myers winds up staring silently as people laugh at him. He's too serious for self-effacing. When Halloween movies are bad, they make Michael Myers seem like a joke.
And the only thing people love as much as they Michael Myers is his sister Laurie Strode. And everyone loves the woman who plays her, Jamie Lee Curtis. Jamie Lee is, at this point, a bit of a national treasure. She is somehow both the first major scream queen and the yogurt lady. No joke -- that's depth. Curtis is rooted in our cultural consciousness down deep. We think of her when we're scared, and we think of her when we gots to poop and only the power of yogurt can make it happen.
So in the case of Halloween, while some people are annoyed about this development, it does make sense to drop all the previous Halloween films (save the first) and start over with just Michael and Laurie.
I know I positioned this like it was a competition, but honestly, I think both Chucky and Halloween as franchises are being dealt with in the right way at this moment. Chucky benefits from playing into his own minutia. Michael Myers does best dealing in the broad strokes.
We're living in a new golden age of horror. Even R-rated films like Get Out and It are killing it at the box office. In the middle of all of that, I think we'll continue to see established franchises attempt a comeback utilizing either Chucky or Michael Myers' current formula -- and it'll be interesting to see which route some of them take. Should Hellraiser play into its oddball continuity? Should Jason Voorhees start from scratch (again)? Leprechaun's been to space and the 'hood... twice! Which path can that franchise possibly choose at this point?
I'll leave it to you to answer those questions, because when I asked SYFY WIRE features editor Jordan Zakarin if I could take a stance on that stuff, he said no. Avenge me in the comments below!