The hits just keep on slashing in Don Mancini’s ever-so-expansive Chucky universe. The horror franchise—ranging from theatrical films, direct-to-DVD films, and now a Syfy television series—has organically evolved its identity throughout a 30-year run. Chucky started as a sinister slasher with a killer doll, but it has transformed into a fun, meta, openly queer horror-comedy that wears its absurdity on its sleeve.
Mancini and his team of writers are always looking to advance Chucky to the next level. Now well into its second season, the Chucky series has presented viewers with an array of zany concepts, like a cloned army of Chucky dolls, including a “good guy” Chucky and a swole Chucky who can punch through someone’s insides—which occurred in the previous episode. With last night’s episode “Death on Denial,” director Don Mancini returns to his Seed of Chucky roots, wheeling in the long-awaited return of twins Glen/Glenda and doubling down on the in-universe iconography of actress Jennifer Tilly.
One of the best aspects of Chucky’s inaugural season was how it patiently waited to establish the new cast of characters before diving into its deep lore with Tiffany and Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) following the events of Cult of Chucky. Now that Jake, Devon, and Lexi’s A-plot story has reached a turning point with their Catholic school, though, it’s only fair to completely pivot back into Tiffany and Nica’s story once again.
Styled in the fashion of an Agatha Christie-styled whodunnit, “Death on Denial” builds on the meta-ness of Seed of Chucky, which introduced Chucky (Brad Dourif) and Tiffany’s (Jennifer Tilly) offspring Glen and Glenda (previously voiced by Billy Boyd). Glen/Glenda had an identity crisis where they were two personalities who inhabited the body of one doll. Glen was the pacifist mama’s boy who loved dresses, and Glenda was the murderous daddy’s girl with a taste for blood. By the end of the movie, all the dolls got what they wanted: Glen and Glenda became their own humans, Tiffany successfully possessed the soul of Jennifer Tilly, and Chucky got his wish of having a killer kid. As then his kid killed him. Now the twins (portrayed by non-binary actor Lachlan Watson) are all grown up and have finally returned home to their mom Tiffany (still posing as Jennifer Tilly, unbeknownst to them) in time for their 18th birthday (perfectly timed considering Seed of Chucky released in 2004).
Due to Tiffany/Tilly’s reclusiveness, her twin kids decide to throw a surprise party with Tilly’s real-life inner circle of family and friends. Right when you thought Chucky couldn’t get meta enough, Mancini adds the likes of Tilly’s real-sister Meg, her close Real Housewives friend Sutton Stracke, and former Bound co-stars Joe Pantoliano and Gina Gershon, all starring as fictionalized versions of themselves. Any LGBTQ cinephile—hello tis’ I!—has to squeal on command at the sight of a Bound reunion. To have that present in a Chucky series is as amazing as John Waters cameoing in Seed of Chucky. Mancini knows his audience. The unprecedented surprise throws Tiffany up into a frenzy as she has to keep her guests busy with a party that goes awry. She also hires a rude and bigoted improv-actor butler to prevent attendees from encountering Nica’s prison while keeping up the appearance of Tilly. But to Tiffany’s dismay, her butler ends up dead and Nica ends up missing, resulting in Tiffany losing her cool. To cover her tracks, she improvises for the party to be a murder mystery.
Episode 4 of Season 2 ambitiously swings for the fences by playing within the confines of the whodunit genre and paying loving tribute to the subjects’ career .Each act break is broken up by old-school title cards with an art deco font to add authenticity. Every player within Tilly’s inner circle brings natural comedic performances that elevate the episode’s overall campy tone. With Tilly herself being open to whatever ball she’s thrown by Mancini, her friends step up to the same plate with the same amount of comfort; the funniest moments often feature Meg, who Tiffany shuts out every chance she gets. The episode also constantly makes playful jabs at Jennifer Tilly’s career, ranging from her filmography to her poker days. Then it pays visual homage to her most iconic features, specifically Bound. As the mystery slowly unfolds, the more unhinged everyone becomes—and it’s irresistibly delicious.
The episode may juggle characters new and old, but Tilly’s spirited performance carries the series to new heights. Her hurried descent into madness and despair keeps the momentum going and the humor flying freely. It has the same manic mayhem as the Muppets trying to put on a smooth show. It ain’t gonna happen the way they want.
To top things off, the episode’s framing device styles Chucky as a daytime talk show asking a live studio audience their thoughts on the show and the episode itself. He also invites WWE star Liv Morgan on and grants her a life-long wish of death.
Since the episode marks the 18-year return of Glen/Glenda, there was a lot of anticipation for “Death on Denial,” but while actor Lachlan Watson was given the heavy task to give the two separate yet distinct personalities in their performance, they aced it. Watson also shares a delightful relationship with Tilly and the rest of their co-stars. Even though they’re pulling a twinning performance, it’s seamless how well the two interact with each other. Glen and Glenda’s gender identity was always a controversial subject, especially given how ahead of its time their first appearance was. Now with the inclusivity of gender fluidity, it’s great to see the twins now identify as they/them. Much like their folks, the two are agents of chaos whose actions you never see coming.
“Death on Denial” is the closest fans are getting to a spiritual follow-up to Seed of Chucky, and it was well worth the wait. Actor Lachlan Watson does a great job bringing Glen/Glenda’s former dolls to life with confidence and charisma. Mancini shines behind the lens, delivering a loving ode to Tilly without ever coming across as indulgent or mean-spirited. When you throw in the same visual references to Bound—even down to the extreme closeup of the lips—you know there’s only love and respect for Jennifer Tilly, who continues to be a living legend.
Rendy Jones is a film and television journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. They are the owner of self-published outlet Rendy Reviews, a member of the Critics Choice Association, and a film graduate of Brooklyn College. They have been featured in Vulture, The Daily Beast, AV Club and CBC News.
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