I'm a big fan of the CHILD'S PLAY franchise. I've actually seen every single film in the series in theaters! Now we haven't tangoed with the red-headed killer doll since the fun and mucho underrated SEED OF CHUCKY in 2004 (which Chucky creator Don Mancini also directed). Yup it's been a while! Thankfully Mancini has gone back to his rubber bastard-child to give us more Chuck for our bucks! I am surprised that this new sequel got the home release treatment. But hey, thankfully for me, I got to see this one on the big screen courtesy of the Fantasia Film Festival, so my "in theatres" Chucky streak is still intact.
I'll be the first to spit that when I first heard that CURSE OF CHUCKY was going straight to home release, I was a bit concerned. We all know how STD sequels to high end titles usually come out; not so good, on the cheap, mostly there to make a buck off the franchise's name (the sad sack Blu-Ray cover they whipped up for CURSE OF CHUCKY didn't lessen my fears of it being subpar that's for sure). The only hope that I had in terms of CURSE OF CHUCKY not being a soulless cash-in was that Chucky's Daddy Don Mancini was being behind it as he wrote and directed it. So was I right in putting my chips on The Don? You bet I was!
CURSE OF CHUCKY was much better than it should have been. I mean this is a 25 years old franchise for Crom's sakes (shit I'm old), one with 5 sequels under its belt! But low and behold, Don Mancini pulled it off by having pretty much all of his bases covered. In a wise move, having gone all the way with the comedic angle in SEED OF CHUCKY, Part 6 went back to the series roots; focusing on mystery and suspense. Even though at this point we all know the doll is alive and that it has a penchant for slicing, cussing and dicing; the film kept me on my toes none the less by giving me a tantalizing storyline and characters/relationships that I cared about while toying with my expectations. The result was some random tension and a couple of back-handing plot turns and gory left hooks that I didn't see coming.
Visually, Mancini (well backed by DP Michael Marshall) made the most of his moody main location; a Gothic mansion, with creaking doors, a cobweb filled attic, a mini elevator i.e. an ideal playpen for a horror film. Hats off to to the dude, as his voice as a director was loud and clear here! I relished the slew of slow push-ins, extreme close-ups, the high angle shots, the way he handled his flashbacks (black and white, with some color), that wide shot slow motion high fall (f*cking nice) and his handful of money shots (reflection in knife, reflection in puddle of blood...sweet!) It reminded me of old school Giallos at times, think Argento or Bava on top of their games. That in itself is a huge compliment. Mancini's career thus far has been mostly about the “Good Guy” with the knife and with this entry I hope that yes; it brings us more Chucky movies with Mancini at the helm (and I'm sure it will) but also that it will get the man some outside gigs on non psycho-doll related projects. He's got the skills! Recognize!
The cast on the chopping block was also up the task! Brad Dourif was of course a riot once again as the voice of Chucky (And as a wig whoring Charles Lee Ray... you'll see!), I loved to hate, wanted to nail Danielle Bisutti's sexy character (so mission accomplished) while Brennan Elliott and Maitland McConnell were affable and had presence. But at the end of the neck snap this was Fiona Dourif's show and the lass was more than up to the challenge as the paraplegic lead gal. This was the first that I saw the actress onscreen and she simply blew me away! She had so many varied notes to hit via this difficult part and she tapped them all with gusto. It also helped that the camera simply loved her. A revelation for me! I will keep tabs on her career from now on. Add to all that Arrow love, some grisly kills (and I saw the R rated version), groovy nods to previous Chucky films that will please the fans but leave the newbies in the dust (you're loss, do your homework), the occasional laughs, "some" left field yet sweet continuity in terms of BRIDE and SEED OF CHUCKY and an ending that left the door wide open for more Chuck in the Box mayhem and you get a Child's Play sequel that delivered!
Any drawbacks? Some. I wasn't 100% on the look of the doll, which often changed from shot to shot. At a certain point he looked like an Asian Hooker Chucky for some reason. Don't get me wrong, the doll effects were solid (they used lots of the tricks they had used in the original), Chucky just had too many looks. Not a huge deal, but I noticed! The score (by Joseph LoDuca) also didn't do it for me half the time, it had an almost Tales from the Crypt theme song kind of vibe to it and it lessened the suspense in places. I would have gone for something more sinister but hey what do I know! And was it me or did the little girl (ably played by Summer H. Howell) VANISH during the last act of the picture? I forgot she was in the movie for a while there. Finally, I picked up on one minor plot-hole during the epilogue and the film somewhat suffered from the one ending too many syndrome. With that, the latter was for a good cause (pleasing the long time fans of the franchise) so it's hard for me to hold it against it. NOTE: Stay tuned after the end credits for a BIG surprise! You'll love it!
So all in all THE CURSE OF CHUCKY was a blast and a great way for me to start my day! It was a well shot, thrilling, funny and brutal horror party! Fans of the franchise should dig it and will surely lap up all the surprises having to do with the past Chucky entries (no I won't spoil them). Sorry Jack! Chuck's back and in tip-top form at that! Who's not happy!