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An idyllic American town is thrown into chaos after a vintage ‘Good Guy’ doll turns up at a suburban yard sale in ChuckyCourtesy of Showcase

In Saturday’s epistle from this pulpit, I was jawing on about the revival of the slasher-movie genre for TV and for new movie versions. Now, I don’t fully grasp the meaning of it all, but I’m wary of fads, especially reboots.

So, I approached the new TV series Chucky (starts Tuesday, Showcase 10 p.m. and streams on StackTV, via Amazon Prime Video) with caution. I never crushed on the Child’s Play movies featuring the murderous red-haired doll Chucky, who is possessed by the spirit of a long-dead murderer. But I did note that the original creator, Don Mancini, is involved and that he told The New York Times recently, “The idea of causing some people’s heads to explode was catnip to me.”

Right. Well, it can be reported that Chucky is a delight; a warped, wise, funny and very droll series with bits of gore thrown in, but nothing gory enough to hurt your head. It’s a rigorous reinvention and, further, it was made in Canada, giving room to a passel of Canadian actors to do lip-smacking work.

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Things open with troubled teenager Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur) buying the Chucky doll at a yard sale. You can tell that some fun is coming because the scene involves an argument about the difference between “vintage” and “retro.” Jake lives in the New Jersey town of Hackensack, the birthplace of Charles Lee Ray, the serial killer whose spirit allegedly inhabits the doll known as Chucky. Hackensack? Within minutes, Jake is seen with Ontario’s GO Trains passing by and almost every scene is obviously filmed in and around Toronto.

What happens amounts to a teen drama/comedy, with an adult sensibility about school bullies, crackpot teachers, first-love and acknowledging your sexuality – Jake is gay and confused about that. (Mancini told the Times that Chucky is “the most autobiographical” work of his career.) There is a wonderful scene that falls somewhere between dark irony and hilarity when Chucky tells Jake he’s read his diary and knows he’s gay. “You know I have a queer kid, gender-fluid,” Chucky asserts. A surprised Jake asks, “And you’re cool with it?” And with uncanny timing and a tone of outrage, Chucky the murderous doll replies, “I’m not a monster, Jake!”

There follows a wickedly droll series of events punctuated by Chucky taking slasher-type revenge against some of Jake’s tormentors. The school scenes verge on bonkers-good satire of the entire teen-drama genre. Jake is relentlessly compared to his goody-two-shoes cousin Junior (Teo Briones), a smug, too-woke kid with a girlfriend Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind). Lexy is more of a monster than Chucky the doll and an especially cruel mean-girl type who relishes being brutally cruel to Jake. What a piece of work is Lexy, and a delight to watch.

The series, based on the four episodes sent for review, pulls off something remarkable. It is icily substantial in its portrait of Jake as a bewildered gay teen with an artist’s soul. It is Dali-esque in its visual oomph, showing us Jake’s strange art, and in presenting us with mopey Jake traipsing around school and his ‘hood carrying his flame-haired doll. The teens are mostly cruel but the adults, if not literally slashed by Chucky, are eviscerated as hypocrites and fools. There is sly humour, silly humour and a serious treatment of how a misunderstood loner such as Jake can be goaded into violence against the community around him.

Alyvia Alyn Lind as Lexy Cross and Zackary Arthur as Jake Wheeler in Chucky.Courtesy of Showcase

It helps that Chucky is voiced by Brad Dourif, as in the movies, and the figure retains that unnerving tone of malicious wit, sarcasm and, sometimes, wisdom. It also helps that the excellent cast, mostly Canadian, inhabit with some glee the glorious weirdness of the show. Devon Sawa plays two characters, both Jake’s father and his uncle, both men who are hopeless in figuring out the boy. Lexa Doig, familiar from Andromeda and other sci-fi series made here, is great as Bree, Jake’s aunt with some sneaky secrets that interest Chucky. Less famous Canadians stand out, too, including Annie Briggs as the frazzled science teacher Miss Fairchild, and Jana Peck as the school principal trying to handle the mayhem. You will also find Dora Award winner Marisa McIntyre, very good as a character connected to that killer Charles Lee Ray.

What they are all on-board with is a unique exercise in fun, horror, sensitivity and buoyant satire. Welcome back, Chucky, rebooted for the better.

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