Review: Curse of Chucky
I was so happy to hear they were making a new Chucky movie. Even as a DVD premiere, Curse of Chucky had the opportunity to continue the series under the guidance of creator Don Mancini. Chucky doesn’t need a big budget because Chucky is the star. You can put him in any situation. There was talk of a reboot at one point, which would have been okay I guess, but Curse of Chucky is rewarding for lifelong Chucky fans like myself. Chucky is back! It is possible that Mancini made it for me personally.
Contained in a remote mansion, one of the acceptable concessions of a video budget, paraplegic Nica (Fiona Dourif) receives a package in the mail containing Chucky. Needless to say, Chucky starts to murder Nica’s whole family but there’s a little more to it than that. There’s some family history and who is that in the background of one of their home movies? It kind of looks like Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif, also voice of Chucky).
The film slowly re-introduces Chucky’s antics when Nica’s niece Alice (Summer Howell) enjoys playing with the Good Guy doll and all the pre-recorded catch phrases we know by heart. There are two schools of thought on keeping Chucky off camera for a while. One is the subtle anticipation of suspense that many horror movies use to keep their monsters mysterious. The other is that it’s a lot more economical not to use an animatronic Chucky until you have to. Since there is plenty of animatronic Chucky once he reveals himself, I can imagine the intention was the former.
Like the original Child’s Play, Curse teases Chucky’s actions and plays with our expectations, because we know Chucky’s alive. It also brings back that timeless dilemma of the child reporting Chucky’s bad behavior and the adults who don’t believe her. And don’t be fooled by Chucky’s screen time in the first act. He’s involved in a lot of the on screen action, manipulating things behind the scenes. He kills right away, and he has fun toying with the family one by one. He could have just poisoned everybody before they even knew they had a killer doll on their hands, but it’s much more fun to make you guess who’s going to go first. By the way, Curse of Chucky may feature the best use of chili in a movie ever. It’s at least in the top five chili scenes.
I knew going in the idea was to scale back the funny Chucky, at least by comparison to Bride of and Seed of Chucky, but even in the so-called “scary” original he was still witty. I mean, it was the ‘80s. I would say Chucky’s one-liners are even more macabre in Curse than they were in Child’s Play, like he’s trying to be more mean than funny. He’s still entertaining. Instead of a clever one-liner, he may say something that makes you go, “Jesus, you already killed someone, do you have to rub it in too?” Yes, he does have to rub it in. Chucky is malevolently evil which is still tremendously entertaining.
Outside of Chucky himself the film has a great sense of its place in the Child’s Play lineage. Nica’s sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti) and brother-in-law Ian (Brennan Elliott) make references to the ‘80s without outright saying, “Oh yeah, Chucky was that killer doll, remember?” It establishes Chucky’s place in the Cabbage Patch Kids era and the film eventually does come full circle on Charles Lee Ray. I love continuity like that. It’s not that I ever had burning questions about what Charles Lee Ray was up to, but it makes me feel rewarded for sticking with Chucky for 25 years and knowing the filmmakers also haven’t forgotten where he comes from, and are finding more story to tell there.
Fiona Dourif is a wonderful discovery. You might wonder if Brad only agreed to do the movie if they’d give his daughter the lead, but she’s really good. Nica is actually a really appealing, sympathetic heroine. She certainly plays the discovery of a killer doll believably. Making Nica a paraplegic actually makes her Chucky’s most even match ever. She’s literally at his level and can’t just run away. The Nica/Chucky fight really worked for me. It probably could have been longer and the probably didn’t have that much time to set up prosthetic gags or mess with their animatronic dolls too much, but given those restrictions I liked the way they explored these characters’ strengths. Look, I’m buying into a paraplegic fighting a doll so that’s a triumph.
Mancini has grown noticeably as a director since his directorial debut in Seed. The camerawork is ambitious, particularly for a limited production, taking the time to reveal Chucky or his victims in tracking shots. Even big budget theatrical movies are all shaky handheld nonsense these days, so classy camera moves are always appreciated, particularly when they probably didn’t have a ton of extra setups to spare. There are a few cheesy shots, some wheelchair gimmicks that maybe didn’t work the way they were supposed to, but we’ll forgive them.
Curse of Chucky does things I’ve wanted the series to do since Child’s Play 2 and 3, but I won’t spoil them. It’s genuinely surprising as many of the characters do things I did not see coming. All in all, I am very happy with the return of Chucky. I just want them to make these more often. It shouldn’t be 10 years between them. Curse starts as a standalone Chucky movie, which would be fine. Chucky can always wind up with new unsuspecting victims, but I liked the merging of these characters into the Charles Lee Ray myth. I’m just saying they can still do standalone Chucky movies. There’s precedent for franchises doing one a year. I mean if Death Race and The Scorpion King can have frequent sequels, then please give us more Chucky!