Review: Curse of Chucky / Cert: 18 / Director: Don Mancini / Screenplay: Don Mancini / Starring: Fiona Dourif, Brad Dourif, Danielle Bisutti / Release Date: October 21st
Nine years have passed since killer doll Chucky's last cinematic outing. In that time, many of his mighty peers have fallen: Freddy, Jason, Michael, Leatherface (although Bubba Sawyer had already passed, back in 2003) – even the Deadites of The Evil Dead. In an age where the horror remake is king, surely the faintly ridiculous Charles Lee Ray was living on borrowed time? Yet, no – the original Chucky bursts out of the toy box, ready to play. It's time for another game of 'hide the soul'. Careful: this time Chucky is taking no prisoners.
Child's Play creator Don Mancini returns to helm his second film in the franchise as director. With Mancini having created Chucky and written every one of his appearances, it's no surprise that this is Chucky's most confident outing so far. Most horror series tend to fester and bore after their fifth or sixth sequel, but Curse of Chucky emerges as the best to date. It's inventive, witty and fantastically violent. Chucky may never scare again as he did in the original Child's Play, but this film has a damn good go of trying.
Paraplegic Nica (Fiona Dourif, looking eerily like real-life dad Brad) lives in a grand old Gothic house with her eccentric, bohemian mother. One day, a mysterious package arrives in the mail; an original Good Guy doll. Whence it came, no one knows. No sooner has Chucky been in the house five minutes than Nica's mother is dead, in an apparent suicide. To support Nica and split up their mother's estate, Nica's sister and family arrive. What better gift to young niece Alice than that same Good Guy doll? It doesn't take very long at all for Chucky to get back into the swing of things.
Curse of Chucky starts out looking like two things – a 'serious' Child's Play film (although is it ever possible to make an entirely serious film about a killer doll?) and a reboot of the series. It quickly becomes evident that the film is neither. Not only is Curse of Chucky very funny (in a darker, nastier way than the camp Bride or Seed) but it's also a celebration of the franchise and its history. Chucky is revitalised, but not rebooted, in a way that keeps the mythos intact (and builds upon it, in a very interesting way) but also opens it up to a whole new audience. Chucky carves his way through the film with gusto, stabbing, swearing (it certainly puts the 'curse' in Curse of Chucky) and sneering all before him into submission. Mancini makes one thing very clear: Chucky's come back mean(er).
The film's statement of intent is its strikingly effective dinner scene, in which Chucky has spiked one of the bowls with more than a little rat poison. As the food is passed around and seats swapped, the camera spirals above, turning the table into a murderous roulette wheel. Chucky sits, observing, grinning his all-new rictus smile. His new look is divisive, but it works. Scenes in which we see his pupils dilate or his head spin, like The Exorcist's Regan, remind us why we were scared of him in the first place. He's inanimate for long periods of time, often nestled in the arms of new friend Alice or (in one particularly memorable set piece) resting upon Nica's lap. It's a clever reversal of the usual rule in horror films – where most are better served by hiding their killer in the shadows, having Chucky out in the open throughout works wonders. It confidently plays on the knowledge that we, the audience, know full well what's going through Chucky's mind. It takes a while for Brad Dourif's sleazy timbre to emerge from that cheerful little mouth, but you can always tell that Charles Lee Ray is in there, bubbling away, waiting for his moment to strike.
Brad Dourif is on excellent form as Chucky, imbuing the little fella with a genuine sense of menace and murderous capability. Fiona Dourif is a great foil as Nica, her casting being a nice touch when Chucky says he has “a thing for families.” Her battle against a vicious, vindictive Chucky feels refreshingly real and tactile. There's always that level of disconnect when you realise you're watching a film about a killer doll, but Mancini and his crew do a fine job of making Chucky seem like a genuine threat. It's a little too obvious at times, and some of its laughs are a bit too easy, but overall, it's good fun – on the same level, say, as a Wrong Turn sequel or Hatchet film. Horror fans who like their gorefests to be edgier or more intense will be disappointed, but Curse of Chucky is a great popcorn piece. Stay after the credits, too, for the film's real crowd-pleaser.
Curse of Chucky is a remarkable beast. It's stylish, slick and an insane amount of fun. It pulls off the impressive feat of restarting the franchise and picking up where it left off, at the same time. Wanna play? You bet.
Extras: (Blu-ray only) Deleted Scenes / Gag Reel / Making Of / FX Featurette / 'The Chucky Legacy' Featurette / Storyboard Comparisons