Review: Curse of Chucky / Cert: 18 / Director: Don Mancini / Screenplay: Don Mancini / Starring: Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Brennan Elliott, Chantal Quesnelle / Release Date: 21st October
The last time that Chucky got an outing was with Don Mancini’s Seed of Chucky. That time out, the film was pretty much pure-slapstick, with a chunk of gore thrown in for good measure. Whilst the film did have its faults, it did have a child called Shitface – always a winner with me and my low-brow sense of humour. Sadly, Curse of Chucky has no Shitface, but it also loses a lot of the over-the-top comedy and sarcasm, winding the Child’s Play series back to its more sinister roots.
Starting off in typically innocent fashion, a package is delivered to the home of Sarah (Quesnelle) and her disabled daughter Nica (Fiona Dourif). Of course, said package contains a harmless looking Good Guy doll: Chucky. Shortly after this, Sarah is found dead. With Nica’s sister returning to the family home, complete with husband, daughter, nanny and Priest… well, you can guess where I’m going with this already. Nica’s young niece Alice (Summer H. Howell) is given the Chucky doll as a gift. Her ‘friend ’til the end’ may not be quite as cute as he looks, though.
Firstly, it’s safe to say that Curse of Chucky is arguably the darkest installment in the Child’s Play series. Granted, with the last two films – Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky – that’s not saying much, but the first film, especially at the time of its release, was seen as a genuinely scary tale. Curse makes sure to bring the franchise back to its roots, in that sense. It’s also safe to say that this version of Chucky is the creepiest version. Using a mixture of animatronics, puppetry and CGI work, the movement of Chucky and the way his mouth moves is the most realistic of the series. Chucky walks and talks just as you’d imagine a walking, talking, stalking living doll would do. The film manages to balance Chucky just right, with you never losing sight of him being a doll. It can be argued that as the Child’s Play franchise progressed, Chucky was often far removed from being a doll in terms of his movements, especially with the use of technology that was implemented in the latter instalments. Here, though, you most definitely never lose track of the fact that Chucky is a doll.
Adding to the creepy, sinister side of the film is how Chucky is there during every troubled scene. Any time that there is a sense of danger, the tease of a death, the Good Guy doll is pretty much always innocently sat front-and-centre of the action, almost as if he’s surveying the mayhem that he’s looking to cause. It works. It also helps that the movie has a great score to accompany it; a score that really helps portray the playful mischievous nature of Chucky, his actions and of Curse of Chucky.
Central to the film is the performance of Fiona Dourif, the real-life daughter of the series’ Charles Lee Ray/Chucky, Brad Dourif. The younger Dourif is fantastic as the crippled Nica, as she starts to slowly unravel the dark nature of what is actually happening in the house. She also looks eerily similar to her father, which can be a tad unnerving at times. Still, it doesn’t take long into the film for you to realise that she is most definitely involved in the movie on merit, not just because she was a convenient casting choice.
Don Mancini has written every single Child’s Play film to date, with him finally taking directing duties on Seed of Chucky. For those worried that the almost comedic style of Seed would be mimicked here, worry not. Mancini seems to have learnt from most of the mistakes made with Seed, and he does a fantastic job with the shooting, pacing and tone of the film. It’s hard to fully describe what Curse of Chucky is. Initially it was presumed to be a reboot of the series, but it works both as a reboot and also as a continuation of the previously established Child’s Play universe. To fully understand what I mean by that, you’ll have to see the film for yourself. The way that it is put together, starting a fresh yet tying to the previous instalments, is a masterstroke on the part of Mancini.
In a time of trashy direct-to-DVD/TV horrors and horror sequels, Curse of Chucky is a refreshingly good horror film. Sure, the threat of a killer doll may not hold the fear that it once did in the 1980s, especially with the torture-porn and gore-crazed films we’ve seen over the last decade or more, but Curse of Chucky manages to get past the hurdle by good acting, great pacing, dynamic directing and a perfectly thought-out story. It’s a shame that this film isn’t going to see a cinematic release, but it’s to be hoped that the relatively low cost of producing the film in this way – the budget was a reported $5,000,000 – will see a nice chunk of profit brought in from DVD/On Demand sales, with the series maybe getting another cinematic outing somewhere down the line.
For now, though, let’s just enjoy Curse of Chucky for what it is. It really is a great return to form for a much-beloved, if often mistreated, horror icon. Oh, and make sure to stay right to the end of the credits. Right. To. The. End. Trust me.