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Thursday, October 20, 2022

The Queer Horror of “Chucky”: Episode 2.03 – “Hail, Mary!”

Each week Joe Lipsett will highlight a key scene or interaction in S02 of Don Mancini’s Chucky series to consider how the show is engaging with and contributing to queer horror.

With the action cutting back exclusively to the School of Incarnate Lord, this week’s “Chucky” delivers an hour focused solely on the kids. And while the demise of Trevor by Hulk Chucky is sure to be the episode’s biggest talking point, that’s the buzzy cliffhanger, not the meat of “Hail, Mary!”

Most of the episode is dedicated to guilt, penance, and forgiveness. It’s built into Sister Catherine (Andrea Carter)’s art history lesson; it falls from the lips of Devon Sawa’s Father Bryce (numerous times); and it’s a struggle that continues to drive a wedge between not just Jake (Zackary Arthur) and Devon (Björgvin Arnarson), but also Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind), who continues to battle her drug addiction.

For Jake, there’s something new to the concept of forgiveness, especially with respect to Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif). It’s what makes Jake stop Devon from killing the tied-up doll and makes him consider an alternative way of dealing with his adversary. Knowing Chucky, this will likely prove to be a mistake, but for now, it’s an intriguing idea.

When it’s clear that physical torture isn’t effective on Chucky because, as Devon says, “he’s a sadist,” the group switches to aversion therapy, which is an extreme form of conversion therapy. In the campy world of the series, this plays out as a homage to the Ludovico Treatment from A Clockwork Orange, so the doll’s eyes are held open by barrettes and he is subjected to a steady stream of My Little Pony videos. On the surface, it’s an amusing tactic for how to reform a killer doll into a factory rebooted Good Guy.

Under the surface, however, this strategy is particularly queer-coded. Aversion therapy is a real-life torture technique used primarily against the queer community. Aversion therapy employs drugs and electroshock therapy during the presentation of same-sex erotic images in order to associate queer attraction with feelings of nausea and vomiting.

‘They/Them’ (2022)

While the practice of conversion therapy has been condemned by medical professionals since the apex of its popularity in the 60s and 70s, Hollywood has continued to lean into depictions of this barbaric practice in recent non-horror and horror texts such as Boy Erased and American Horror Story: Asylum (check out the Horror Queers episode for more on the last title).

Most recently the practice was depicted in the 2022 LGBTQIA horror film They/Them, in which a male camper was tortured with aversion therapy at a conversion camp. The John Logan film was met with divisive reactions by the queer community: Trace and I thought it had interesting ideas which weren’t always well-executed (hear more here), and Bee Scott defended the film while Kay Lynch of Salem Horror Fest hated the film’s lack of queer revenge.

“Hail, Mary!” uses familiar aversion therapy imagery in an unexpected way that is more in line with what Kay wanted from They/Them, namely the queers fighting back.

Chucky Season 2 review

Here aversion therapy is wielded as a tool of queer revenge as “Hail, Mary” finds a pair of queer teens using the tools of their oppressor against them. This is a direct subversion of expectations: since the introduction of Incarnate Lord back in the premiere of season two, audiences have been waiting to see how religion will intersect with Jake and Devon’s queer sexuality. And while it will undoubtedly rear its head in the future now that Father Bryce has seen the boys kissing in the stairwell, the religious horror remains temporarily tabled.

It should be noted that the character of Chucky has never been coded as homophobic on the show. As we wait for the teased arrival of Glen/Glenda next week, let’s not forget that Chucky had a queer-positive attitude to his children last season. Still, Chucky has undeniably tried to murder these (queer) kids over the last season and a half and this episode sees them fighting back.

Knowing Don Mancini’s penchant for both horror homages, as well as his interest in addressing queer sexuality, there’s no denying that the use of aversion therapy – and all of its connotations – is no accident. How fascinating and unexpected is it of the show to reclaim such a historically traumatic attempt to weed out queerness than by having two queer teens wield it against their attacker?

Chucky truly is the show that keeps giving in unexpected and delightful ways.

The post The Queer Horror of “Chucky”: Episode 2.03 – “Hail, Mary!” appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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