Review: Curse of Chucky
There weren’t many horror films I found genuinely scary growing up, especially those of the ‘80s slasher variety. Most of the time they were just humorous, and it was always the same formula; a collection of completely unlikeable teenagers, participating in a cavalcade of stupidity, as a man with a mask stalked them. Fear was almost always absent from the picture, as these “horror” movies often encouraged you to root for the villain rather than care for their victims. It’s difficult to be frightened by Jason Voorhees when you’re cheering whenever he offs one annoying victim character archetype after another. This is why I loathe most slasher movies, because they usually outright fail to understand that horror is supposed to make the audience feel fear–not hoot and holler when someone gets decapitated.
The original Child’s Play was a glorious exception to the slasher genre. Don Mancini wrote a film that turned the rampant consumerism of ‘80s toy lines like the Cabbage Patch Kids on their heads and into something downright chilling. Even to this day, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone that grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s that wasn’t scared of Chucky–I should know, I was one of them. This was largely because, unlike many of its slasher contemporaries, Child’s Play was much more relatable to a young generation. We all had that one toy we desperately wanted, begged our parents for, and loved dearly. Child’s Play perverted a symbol of innocence in dolls, and that’s one of many reasons it has resonated with audiences for so long.
Now, Don Mancini is back, this time in the director’s chair, with 25 more years of experience, and ready to lay the series to rest. It’s been a really bumpy road since the original Child’s Play, especially with the more recent entries in the series favouring goofy pulp over anything even remotely resembling horror. However, with Curse Of Chucky, the franchise is very much a return to form. While you’ll probably laugh at the idea of a direct to home video release actually being good, as I did initially, there’s a chance you’ll also be pleasantly surprised at just how well made and entertaining Curse Of Chucky actually is.
While Curse Of Chucky is the 6th installment in the Child’s Play franchise, there’s not a deep overarching plot that requires you to go back and watch the previous 5 films. It’s just as easy to jump into for a newcomer, as it is someone that’s been watching the films for more then two decades now. You’ll certainly appreciate all the little references and nods to past storylines if you’ve seen the other films, though. However, it’s actually kind of difficult to say how many of the previous films are even taken into consideration, as Curse of Chucky defiantly takes some liberties with the series’ past. Many of the events in Bride Of Chucky in particular seem have been retconned out of the canon; to be completely honest, the less attention drawn to the other sequels–specifically the atrocious Seed Of Chucky– the better.
The actual plot of the movie is pretty simple, which is a nice change of pace from the lunacy of the previous two films. The story follows a young paraplegic woman named Nica, played by Fiona Dourif. Nica has recently moved back home after having dropped out of university, due to completion anxiety. She leads a rather quiet life, until one day when a mysterious package shows up at her door. The package’s sender is anonymous, and the contents of the box are none other than a certain Good Guy doll named Chucky. From there on, you can probably guess how things go. Not long after the doll arrives, a great tragedy befalls Nica and the rest of her immediate family comes to stay with her. It’s pretty straightforward and what you’d expect from the plot of a slasher movie, but it’s not phoned in at all. I won’t go into any more detail about the plot as it’ll ruin many of the revelations later in the film, but there’s actually care taken with the writing. Nica herself is probably the most fleshed out character in the history of the franchise, and the supporting cast, for the most part, doesn’t just fall into corny slasher movie character archetypes. Most of the characters, including Chucky himself, have actual motivations. There’s never a sense of “this is just an excuse to have Chucky murder a bunch of people.”
Believe it or not, a couple of the performances in this movie are pretty decent. Fiona Dourif does a great job as the lead as Nica, especially in how she sells the hardships of someone confined to a wheelchair in this sort of situation– all while never becoming a scream queen. I especially like that there was a gradual transformation to her character; she’s initially quite terrified (rightfully so), but adapts and becomes a stronger person as the film progresses. Brad Dourif is back as the voice of Chucky once again, and his performance is as charming as it is creepy. You can tell he just loves to lay on the narcissistic tone with everything Chucky says; it’s glorious. It should be noted, that despite my praise of some of the acting, Curse Of Chucky will by no means blow you away in that regard. Aside from Fiona and Brad’s performances, the rest of the cast ranges from bland to awful. None of them are annoying like supporting casts’ tend to be in this sort of movie, at least. (Oh and if you’re wondering, yes Fiona and Brad are related, Fiona is Brad’s real life daughter!)
One of the aspects of the film I found genuinely fantastic is the cinematography. The entire movie takes place in a single house, so you can tell they had to get creative when it came to the lighting and overall look of the setting. For the first time ever, a Chucky film has a very Gothic look to it, and there’s an old world feel to the set despite it still taking place in a modern day setting. Much like Chucky himself, there’s also a smidgen of comedic charm to how the movie was shot. One image that sticks out in my head whenever I think of this is a sequence where the camera zooms in on a bowl of chili for a good 8 seconds or so. It made me laugh out loud, and I really don’t know why it’s there, but somehow also really set the tone in the film. There’s a reason why they did this in the plot that I wont reveal, it wasn’t just a random shot, don’t worry. I know it sounds bizarre and stupid, but that’s probably because it is!
Some fans will be happy to hear that there’s practically no digital or CGI effects in this film; aside from some composite shots where they removed puppeteers controlling the animatronic Chucky, that is. Almost everything is a practical effect, and it helps the movie feel much more grounded in reality. Well, as grounded as a movie with a talking killer doll can feel.
The tone of the film itself is very much in line with the original Child’s Play; Chucky still occasionally spouts corny one liners like he always has, but the humor never reaches the full on silliness of Bride Of Chucky or Seed Of Chucky. There’s a healthy balance between the new and old incarnations, and fans will be happy to hear that the franchise has finally returned to its horror roots. Curse Of Chucky feels like a homage to the ‘80s slasher films of yore that were all the craze when we were brandishing our red Thriller jackets. For better or worse, there are a lot of slasher tropes and clichés in this film. Despite my inherent dislike for the genre as a whole, everything just feels right; you honestly don’t see horror movies made like this anymore. It was campy in all the right ways, and is exactly what a lot of Child’s Play fans have wanted for a very long time now.
With all the praise I’ve piled on this movie, I probably made it sound like some sort of masterpiece– it’s most certainly not. One could thoroughly nitpick it to death if they choose to do so. I, myself, can’t help but respect it though, as it’s one of the only horror franchises I’ve seen with a sense of closure. This is the end of the road for the killer doll many people have come to love (before the franchise is inevitably rebooted, that is), and while Curse Of Chucky never reaches the heights of the original Child’s Play, it still manages to hit just the right amount of notes to be enjoyable, it’s very much a love letter from Don Mancini to the fans. As someone that was scared of Chucky when I was very young, there’s a sense of yet another facet of my childhood coming to a close. At the end of the day Curse Of Chucky is just campy schlock, but it’s a pretty damn entertaining schlock all the same.
(PS: Make sure to watch the entire credits, there’s a great Avengers style Easter egg waiting for you!)