Chinga (The X-Files)
|The X-Files episode|
The doll is incinerated in the microwave. Despite mixed critical reviews, several of the episode's scenes, such as this one, were praised by critics for their creepiness.
|Episode no.||Season 5
|Directed by||Kim Manners|
|Written by||Stephen King
|Original air date||February 8, 1998|
|Running time||44 minutes|
"Chinga" is the tenth episode of the fifth season of the American science fiction television series The X-Files. It was written by noted author Stephen King and series creator Chris Carter, and directed by Kim Manners. The episode aired in the United States on February 8, 1998 on the Fox network. The episode is a "Monster-of-the-Week" story, a stand-alone plot which is unconnected to the series' wider mythology. "Chinga" earned a Nielsen rating of 12.8 and was viewed by 21.33 million viewers. The episode received mixed reviews from television critics.
The show centers on FBI special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) who work on cases linked to the paranormal, called X-Files. Mulder is a believer in the paranormal, while the skeptical Scully has been assigned to debunk his work. In this episode, Scully takes a vacation to Maine, where she encounters a bizarre case where the victims appear to have inflicted wounds upon themselves—apparently at the behest of a strange young girl.
"Chinga" was co-written by noted horror author Stephen King after he requested to pen an episode of The X-Files. Carter rewrote portions of King's final draft, resulting in a shared writing credit for the entry. During filming, Gillian Anderson performed her lines in a tongue in cheek manner, which resulted in Carter informing her that her lines were not meant to be humorous and that the production staff was having to edit out various shots. The supermarket shots were filmed in an actual supermarket, a first for the series, according to art director Greg Loewen. Chinga, the titular evil doll, was created by sewing together various doll parts, including an oversized head and a wig created from multiple hairpieces.
In the coastal town of Amma Beach, Maine, five-year-old Polly Turner and her antique doll, Chinga, accompany her mother, Melissa, as she goes to a local grocery store. Melissa attracts the attention of the store's butcher, Dave. Moments later, Melissa sees a ghostly image of Dave with a knife protruding from one eye. Horrified, Melissa tries to leave the store with Polly. However, as they make their way towards the store's exit, customers begin clawing at their eyes. Meanwhile, Dave, after seeing a monstrous reflection of Chinga, is compelled by an outside force to turn his knife on himself.
Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) is coincidentally in the area, taking a vacation in Maine. After stumbling upon the carnage in the grocery store, Scully telephones Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and describes the bizarre situation. Mulder tells Scully that the incident might be the result of witchcraft or sorcery. Scully, however, can find no physical evidence that might support his theory. Assisted by the local police, Scully reviews the store's surveillance footage and notices Melissa Turner leaving the scene, the only customer unaffected. Jack Bonsaint, the police chief, tells Scully that some townspeople believe Melissa to be a witch. Deputy Buddy Riggs informs Melissa that Bonsaint will be questioning her. Riggs promises to help Melissa, but she warns him to stay away.
Bonsaint and Scully visit Melissa's home, but find it unoccupied. Bonsaint tells Scully that Melissa was once married to a local fisherman, but was widowed when he was inexplicably found dead aboard his fishing boat, the hook on his winch driven through his skull. Later, it is revealed that he found Chinga in a lobster trap and gave it to Polly as a present shortly before he died. Bonsaint also explains that there had been an incident between Polly and Jane Froelich, the proprietor of a local daycare center, when Jane slapped Polly over her behavior. Meanwhile, Riggs meets Melissa and Polly at an ice cream shop. Melissa describes how she has seen images of violent deaths, such as Dave's, before they occur. Riggs gives Melissa the key to a remote cabin and suggests that she leave town. When Polly asks one of the workers for more cherries, the worker insists that she needs to pay for them. Just then, the worker is nearly killed when her hair gets caught in the mixer until Riggs saves her.
Scully and Bonsaint visit Froelich, who claims Melissa is the descendant of witches and that she is passing her cursed lineage to Polly. Later, while speaking with a park ranger, Melissa sees a bloody image of Froelich and she quickly turns around to head home. Meanwhile, Froelich is confronted by the enlarged Chinga and is forced to slit her own throat with the shard of a phonograph record. At the scene, Scully receives a phone call from Mulder who (in a twist of character) believes that there might be a scientific explanation to the people at the grocery store - chorea, otherwise known as "dancing sickness"; Scully, however, remains doubtful. After Melissa sees a vision of Riggs, the deputy is forced to bludgeon himself to death with his own night stick. Finally, Melissa sees a bloodied reflection of herself in a window, a hammer buried in her skull. She proceeds to burn the house down in an attempt to destroy the doll. Polly arrives in the kitchen with Chinga, who somehow manages to extinguish the lit matches that Melissa strikes.
Scully and Bonsaint drive to the Turner home. Scully, peering through the windows, discovers Melissa attempting to set fire to the house, with her, her daughter and Chinga all trapped inside. Bonsaint breaks down the nailed door as Melissa runs to a closet and grabs hold of a hammer which she, against her will, turns upon herself. Thinking quickly, Scully grabs the Chinga doll and throws it inside a microwave oven in the kitchen. As the doll melts, Melissa drops the hammer and regains her senses. Returning to the office on Monday, Scully downplays any excitement or involvement regarding the case, insisting that she was only relaxing on her vacation. In the final scene, a fisherman is seen pulling up a lobster trap, and in it is the burned doll, which comes back to life.
The episode was co-written by noted horror author Stephen King. King initially approached series co-star David Duchovny and informed him that he loved the show and desired to write an episode. Eventually, he called series creator Chris Carter and expressed his desire to write an episode of Millennium instead. Carter agreed, but once more, King changed his mind and it was decided that he would write an episode of The X-Files. King sent various drafts to Carter from his home in Maine; the two individuals never actually met one another. King's original story had some issues that Carter rewrote. Carter explained, "Stephen wasn't used to writing for Mulder and Scully [...] the Mulder-and-Scully story in his original draft didn't quite work". Carter separated Mulder and Scully in the finalized draft and helped to finalize the script, hence their dual writing credit on the episode. Kim Manners, the director for the episode, later said, "I was very excited to be able to direct a Stephen King piece, and when it was all said and done, there was very little Stephen King left in it. The nuts and bolts were his, but that was really one of Chris' scripts." Unbeknownst to either Carter or King, the word "Chinga" can be considered a vulgar Spanish colloquialism.
During filming, Gillian Anderson was unsure how exactly to perform her lines. She noted, "the way the script was originally read to me, initially seemed to me as if Scully kind of stepped up to the plate and played along with the sheriff's humor". She reportedly performed her lines in a "tongue in cheek"-esque way before receiving a call from Carter. He informed her that her lines were not meant to be humorous and that the production staff was having to "edit out a lot of stuff" in order to make up for this. Several of the scenes in the episode were shot at the places they stood in for. The gas station scene was filmed at a real gas station across from the series' production headquarters. The supermarket shots were filmed in an actual supermarket, Shop Easy in Port Coquitlam, a first for the series, according to art director Greg Loewen. The scenes required the store to be closed before Christmas and be installed with up-right freezers.
Chinga, the titular evil doll, was created by sewing together various doll parts. An oversized doll's head was placed on the finished body and "the world's largest wig" adorned its head. Props master Ken Hawryliw later reported that the hairpiece was actually the result of several wigs being sewn together. Most of the makeup effects were created by artist Toby Lindala, who "appreciate the chance to create these classics for a Stephen King project". The "Death Under Glass" scene featuring Dave the Butcher with a knife in his eyes was created in post-production via a computer. Special effects supervisor Laurie Kellsen-George tested the scene on her nine- and eleven-year-old sons, explaining that "I gauge a lot of the show by whether my kids can stand them or not. If they can't, I figure I succeeded [...] 'Chinga' bothered them a lot." Reportedly, during the self-mutilation scene in the supermarket, a real customer who had wandered onto the set saw the commotion and left in a panic.
"Chinga" premiered on the Fox network in the United States on February 8, 1998. It earned a Nielsen rating of 12.8, with an 18 share, meaning that roughly 12.7 percent of all television-equipped households, and 18 percent of households watching television, were tuned in to the episode. It was viewed by 21.33 million viewers. The episode later debuted in the United Kingdom on Sky One on April 19, 1998. However, because the title "Chinga" is a Mexican Spanish swear word "equivalent to 'fuck' and in very common usage", the episode was retitled "Bunghoney" when it aired in the UK.
"Chinga" received mixed reviews from critics. Anna Redman of HELLO! Canada was positive toward the episode, and referred to it as "one of the series' best episodes". Zack Handlen from The A.V. Club gave a mixed review, awarded it a C–, and called it an episode that "seems like one of those ideas that sounds really, really great until someone thinks about for more than a minute." Handlen argued that King was a wrong fit for The X-Files and that the resultant script was King "being asked to marry his voice to Carter's". He derided the plot and wrote that it was written "like someone (Darin Morgan, only not funny at all) doing a parody for the most familiar King tropes." Handlen, however, did praise the violence in the episode, noting that he is "a sucker for gore", but ultimately called the episode "lousy". John Keegan from Critical Myth heavily criticized the episode's writing and gave it a 4 out of 10. he wrote, "Overall, this episode is quite a disappointment, considering that Stephen King would appear to be an obvious match for a series like this. Unfortunately, the final script doesn’t seem to be a true horror story or the whimsical character study that it clearly wants to be, and so it fails to satisfy on either account. There are some great character moments, but it’s not enough to save the episode."
Robert Shearman and Lars Pearson, in their book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen, rated the episode two-and-a-half stars out of five and called it "clumsy". The two argued that the premise of "Chinga" would have been better suited to a book or short story, as is King's forte. However, its translation to television resulted in an episode "so on the nose, it makes you wince." Despite this, Shearman and Pearson complimented Carter's rewrites as well as the various jokes thrown throughout the episode. Paula Vitaris from Cinefantastique gave the episode a largely negative review and awarded it one star out of four. She called the entry "a major disappointment" and wrote that it "isn't scary in the least". Vitaris even argued that "it's unintentionally funny" and that the scenes with Mulder that are supposed to play as humor do not. Vitaris wrote that the episode was like the third season entry "Pusher", except with less focus; ultimately, the episode degenerates into "watching people get killed in various gruesome ways while Scully and Vonsant finally collect enough information […] in the nick of time."
Despite the lackluster reception the episode garnered, several critics considered the entry scary. Katie Anderson from Cinefantastique named the scene wherein Dave the Butcher kills himself as the eighth "Scariest Moment" in The X-Files. Television Without Pity named the episode the ninth "Most Nightmare-Inducing" episode of the series, noting that "[t]his Stephen King-penned episode is your classic demonic doll story."
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