Believe it or not — and you probably will — the Chucky films aren’t really all that great. Having just rewatched Childs Play 1 to 3, Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky I can tell you that the movies really just went from fun to bad. The original is OK, with 2 and 3 being the films you remember because they’re better executed. Bride and Seed are idiotic beyond belief and the entire series as a whole just doesn’t stand up to its legend.
The main problem, especially with the last two films, is that they tried to add camp to a movie about a psychotic, murdering doll. It’s already camp! You don’t have to push it beyond what it already is and thus ditch the actual creepiness of a killing doll. Curse of Chucky finally realizes this and returns the series to its heyday, and possibly better. By grounding the film in a haunted house-style horror movie and making Chucky a creepy doll again while still maintaining the warped humor that the first three films had it may deliver the best film in the franchise.
Curse of Chucky
Director: Don Mancini
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Don Mancini, who has spent his entire career writing nothing but Chucky movies, returns again to the franchise and steps in again as director as he did with Seed of Chucky. What’s so odd about this is that Curse of Chucky is incredibly restrained compared to his last two Chucky films. Instead of the absolutely ridiculous, we get disturbingly odd. I’m not sure what came over Mancini to steer him away from making Chucky a joke about himself, but I’m glad he did because it makes it work again.
Curse of Chucky is appropriately a throwback to the older Child’s Play films since it’s practically a reboot of the franchise. While hints of the previous films are still there we get a new looking Chucky who is devoid of scars and a brand new family who seems to have nothing to do with the killer doll. Chucky shows up in a box on the doorstep of the wheelchair-bound Nica’s (Fiona Dourif) house. It’s a creepy old mansion straight out of a cliche ghost movie where she lives with her mother. Then her mother mysteriously dies. Enter her overbearing sister, her daughter, the daughter’s nanny, the sister’s husband, and a priest and you’ve got a perfect gallery of characters ready for the slaughtering.
What Chucky does well is play with the classic setting while turning some conventions upside down. The haunted house is a perfect location for a knife-wielding doll and it keeps the story tight and focused on the killing. The screenplay also smartly veers here and there, actually upending your expectations every so often. While I wouldn’t call the movie revolutionary in the horror genre the attempts to twist in a different direction do work. It also plays it smart with Chucky, keeping his talking to a minimum so that when he does drop a groan-worthy one-liner it’s a great kicker and not an annoying cliche. The foul-mouthed doll had delivered so much exposition in the last two films that hearing him talk wasn’t fun anymore.
Mancini also keeps things impressively real. Instead of leaning all digital with Chucky he uses digital effects sparingly, and mostly for drastic facial expressions. This gives Chucky a creepy puppet-like quality that makes him scary again. There’s definitely some digital work going on here, but it’s used for small things like Chucky’s pupils creepily dilating. A lot of the gore work is fantastic and digital blood, one of the great downfalls of modern horror films, is either really well done or not present at all.
The Blu-ray comes with a rated and unrated version, which is odd since there was no theatrical release for a rated version to be necessary, but the unrated just comes with less gore. Not sure why you would watch the rated version at all since the unrated is what delivers the superior product. There’s also a ton of extra features on there to dig through. The real surprising thing is that the box set of all the Chucky films just released includes the new one so you don’t have to lay down extra bucks to get the complete collection. A surprising deal from an industry that nickles and dimes almost everything.
I won’t say that Curse of Chucky is a horror classic, but by playing with Chucky’s conventions while also filling out the Chucky lore it definitely delivers better than any other Chucky film out there. Putting the character into a quickly paced haunted house story makes him work again, and while the ending (watch until after the credits) only leaves a small chance of Chucky’s survival (spoiler?) he’s definitely survived much worse. Unlike the characters in the film (and myself after the last two movies) I’d be happy to see Chucky return again.