Face-Off: Curse of Chucky vs. Cult of Chucky

Last week, MGM unveiled the first look at the Chucky doll as he'll appear in a remake of CHILD'S PLAY - a project they're moving forward with even though CHILD'S PLAY franchise writer Don Mancini intends to continue making follow-ups to the original series at Universal. With the remake currently in production, this seems like a fitting time to take a look at the two most recent CHILD'S PLAY sequels, a pair of films that took Chucky into new territory: the world of direct-to-video releases. These sequels, CURSE OF CHUCKY and CULT OF CHUCKY were both well received... but when they Face-Off, which will come out the winner?

Chucky isn't usually one to sit still. In previous films, he was running all over cities and towns, and even when his homicidal pursuits took him to a military school he ended up leaving it so the climax of the film could take place at a carnival. CURSE OF CHUCKY is different. The killer doll action here takes place within the confines of a large, old home. This is basically the CHILD'S PLAY version of a haunted house story, with ghosts being replaced by a miniature maniac made of plastic. With multiple floors and plenty of shadowy rooms (plus an elevator!), the house is the perfect setting for these types of shenanigans.
CULT OF CHUCKY is another installment that takes place entirely within one location, in this case the medium security psychiatric hospital CURSE heroine Nica has been sent to four years after the events of the previous film. It's a cold, clinical setting located in the middle of the cold, snow-covered countryside, so you've got both white rooms and white light blasting through the windows. In addition to being a visually unique setting, it also allows for unique characters, off balance people who allow the film to strike an off balance tone. It's tough to tell what's real and who can be trusted in this place.
CURSE begins with the Chucky doll being delivered to the home of paraplegic Nica and her overbearing mother Sarah, and soon more people are arriving - Nica's off-putting sister Barb, her unreadable husband Ian, their sweet little daughter Alice (who takes a strong interest in Chucky), and their nanny Jill, who Barb is having an affair and plotting schemes with. Mancini lets us spend most of the movie wondering why we're hanging out with these people, why we're sitting through the relationship soap opera, and why Chucky would be targeting these people. Eventually it all makes sense. And thankfully the unlikeable characters around Nica are knocked off so she can emerge as an interesting heroine who's easy to root for... Especially since there's a chance she could succumb to a medical condition before Chucky can even get to her.
Struggling to recover from the events of CURSE and having taken the blame for Chucky's actions, Nica is very troubled in this film. So much so that she even attempts suicide early on, and has to be saved by Chucky so he can torment her some more. Nica's fellow patients include an old woman who thinks she's a ghost, a testy arsonist, a man with multiple personalities (Nica doesn't figure that out until after she has had sex with him), and a woman who killed her child and now believes Chucky is her baby. There's also a kindly male nurse, and a not-so-kind doctor who may well be a sexual deviant. Most interesting is the return of the series' original hero, Andy Barclay, now an adult but still on a mission to stop Chucky's reign of terror. With the team of Nica and Andy after him, you might think Chucky is screwed, but he has some tricks up his sleeve.
Chucky was the lead character in the preceding two films, so in an effort to return to the franchise's roots Mancini limited the amount of "talking Chucky" time we get in this film. 45 minutes have passed before we actually see this odd looking Chucky move and speak, and an hour has gone by before we find out why he's looking so strange: he was covering up the stitches that have been holding his face together since BRIDE OF CHUCKY. That's way too much build-up for a sixth film in a series in my opinion; I'm watching this movie to see Chucky, so don't make me wait so long for him. Once he is openly talking and attacking, things get much more fun.
Chucky is surrounded by crazy people in this movie, and he seems to get a kick out of it. He interacts with the old lady who thinks she's already dead, he plays along with the woman who treats him like her baby, he marvels at the creepy doctor, and he keeps Nica alive because her death isn't part of the plan. Along the way he finds time to ponder compressed air. It's easier to take your time when there's more than one of you, and there is more than one Chucky here. In the end we're shown the sight of three Chucky dolls hanging out and talking to each other. This is a scheming Chucky who's just enjoying himself, and enjoying his own company.
This film often plays coy, but at least it delivers some nice death scenes. There's an electrocution, a stabbed eyeball, a jaw hacked off with an axe... Even when it appears that a character is going to drop dead from poisoning, the film is kind enough to put them in a situation that ends with a gruesome decapitation rather than just showing them fall over. The body count isn't high, but it's satisfying.
CULT has some nasty, twisted, and sometimes gross kills in it. There's a beautifully shot decapitation by falling glass, several uses of a drill, and a head brutally crushed under a high-heeled shoe. The most likeable character in the film gets the most painful and prolonged death, while another character gets killed in a way I never expected to see - willingly letting Chucky stick an arm in her mouth and down her throat.
As CURSE draws in on its ending, we finally find out why Chucky has been sent to the Pierce home, and the answer ties directly into the beginning of the first CHILD'S PLAY. When he was human serial killer Charles Lee Ray, he was so obsessed with Nica's mother Sarah that he abducted her and held her captive. Chucky is even the reason why Nica is paralyzed, as he stabbed Sarah in the stomach when she was pregnant with her. In these flashbacks, we get a better idea of what the human Chucky was like than we ever have before... and this image of a lovesick guy wanting to play "family time" really doesn't jibe with my view of the character. But I guess Mancini would know him better than I do.
Somehow Chucky is stalking the halls of Harrogate Psychiatric Hospital and killing people while Andy has Chucky's severed, living head saved in his cabin so he can torture it occasionally. How can Chucky be in two places at once? Really, he can be in as many bodies at once as he wants to be now, since he learned a new spell from a voodoo website. That's a major new twist for the franchise and it's explained in the most flippant way possible. Beyond allowing multiple Chucky dolls to interact with each other, the possession twists also bring a tragic end to a character we cared about and set up a potential sequel that would be very different from any previous Chucky movie.

CURSE OF CHUCKY and CULT OF CHUCKY are both very solid entries in the series, but CULT is more my speed. Literally. I prefer the pace of CULT over CURSE's decision to keep us waiting around for so much of its running time. CULT takes the win in the Chucky category by giving the character more to do, and that film also has the better kills and the bigger twist. It's a twist I'm not all that comfortable with, but it's a major one.

Do you agree that CULT pulls off the win when put against CURSE, or do you prefer its predecessor? Let us know your thoughts on these films by leaving a comment below. If you have any suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can contact me at [email protected].



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