If you aren’t watching Syfy’s original series “Chucky,” then you’re missing out on an irreverent, fun, and spooky continuation of Don Mancini’s “Child Play” universe. You’re also missing out on an Emmy-worthy performance from actress Fiona Dourif. “An Emmy for the ‘Chucky’ series?” you ask. Honestly, it’s worth it for more than just Dourif (but she’s the MVP).
The writing is sharp, with its meta pokes at Hollywood — thanks to Jennifer Tilly’s hilarious dual performance as Tiffany Valentine and Jennifer Tilly — as well as organized religion and the horror landscape in general. And the puppetry effects leave the audience believing they’re seeing a sentient Charles Lee Ray himself, as opposed to some object being yanked and manipulated by three people.
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But Dourif is the one who dominates the second season. Dourif is as canon to the series at this point as her father, Brad, who voices the infamous Chucky himself. Fiona Dourif joined the series in 2013’s “Curse of Chucky” as Nica Pierce, whose interactions with Chucky led to her institutionalization in 2017’s “Cult of Chucky.” That movie ends with Charles Lee Ray putting part of his soul into Nica, and as the series showed us this season, Chucky can use her body anytime Nica sees blood.
And it is the concept that Nica’s body holds too many cooks in the kitchen that makes her performance so amazing to watch. Throughout the season, she must switch between Nica’s scared but determined final girl and Chucky’s murderous psychopath. And because Fiona Dourif is the daughter of Chucky voice actor, Brad Dourif, she can emulate her father to the T (which she physically did in flashbacks to Chucky’s past in Season 1). To hear Dourif change her voice to mimic her father’s New York-tinged cadence or, more terrifyingly, let loose her father’s iconic Chucky cackle is fantastic.
Because this season saw the infusion of more of Chucky’s extended family, specifically his girlfriend Tiffany and his children, Dourif didn’t have to just navigate jumping between her character and her fathers; she also had to showcase Chucky as an absentee father whose children wanted to hold him accountable. In several of Dourif’s interactions with Tilly’s Tiffany, who amputated Nica’s limbs in Season 1 and is holding Nica hostage, the actress conveys much of the history the pair have shared.
You truly believe, from the way Dourif looks at Tiffany, that Charles Lee Ray is inside her, remembering every ounce of history and every wrong done. That isn’t to say that Nica doesn’t hold resentment — Tiffany took her arms and legs, after all — and that comes to the forefront in “Death on Denial,” wherein Nica eventually escapes with the help of Tiffany’s twins, Glen and Glenda (Lachlan Watson).
A big, showy performance with a lot of acting gymnastics is usually rewarded with an Emmy nomination. Horror shows have seen the Emmys spotlight, though it’s generally found in the Drama categories, where “Stranger Things,” “Squid Game,” and “Yellowjackets” landed. It doesn’t happen as often with comedy, though FX’s “What We Do in the Shadows” recently entered that category. And while actresses for horror dramas can get acting nominations — Melanie Lynskey this year for “Yellowjackets,” as an example — it’s rarer if you’re in a horror comedy. None of the actors from “What We Do in the Shadows” received acting noms.
Horror, with its emphasis on screaming, fear, and gore, has generally been perceived as something to craft suspense than to be laughed at, a possible explanation for why it’s been punted to the Drama category. But with the lack of final horror girls being recognized by either the Academy Awards or the Emmys, honoring Dourif for playing a nuanced, fun, and wild character this season would get the genre buffs to watch. It’d be quite a coup for a horror father-daughter team, giving us a new horror legacy to champion. Really, I just want to see Brad and Fiona Dourif show up in style at the Emmys!
“Chucky” airs Wednesdays on Syfy.
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