Chucky's Back to His Old Games
Curse of Chucky
At this point it's fair to say that the Child's PlayAlthough some might have thought that the idea of a killer doller slasheer flick couldnt' support a multi-decade spanning franchise, Chucky certainly proved them wrong, constantly reinventing his series, Child's Play to stay fresh and interesting three decades later. has gone through frequent quiet periods as the series works to reinvent itself for each era it appears in. The first three films are beholden to the low-budget 80s slasher era while the next two, Bride and Seed play into the meta-comedy horror style of the late 1990s and early 2000s. And then, as happens, the series too another break before coming back with another reinvention, ditching the comedy for dark horror in Curse of Chucky.
At first blush Curse appears to be a reboot of the series, a reinvention of Chucky that refocuses the entire series in a new direction. Seemingly gone is Tiffany, Chucky's companion for the last two films, as well as any reference to Andy and his long history with the evil doll. We have a new family, and new setting and, interestingly, a new version of the Chucky doll to terrorize its victims (still voiced by Brad Dourif, though). This is actually all a front, though, as the film steadily works in old continuity into its framework. Still, this is a movie with a much darker tone that ups the scares and horror, making this easily the most effective movie in the Child's Play series.
We open at the house of Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) and her mother, Sarah (Chantal Quesnal). Nica is a paraplegic who lives with her mother in their large house (one equipped with a elevator for Nica's wheelchair). Things seem normal enough until a mysterious, largely unmarked package shows up at their door. Taking the box in, the two women find a Good Guys doll, Chucky, inside. They're both confused, so Sarah throws the doll away. Of course, that night Sarah then dies under mysterious circumstances (but, let's be real, Chucky did it), and then Nica has to pick up the pieces of her life. Her sister, Barb (Danielle Bisutti), along with Barb's husband Ian (Brennan Elliott), daughter Alice (Summer H. Howell), and their nanny, Jill (Maitland McConnell), come for the funeral preparations and to be with family. Soon, though, Chucky is cutting his way through the family members, one by one, all because... well, that's part of the mystery of the story.
This film does have a mystery to it but not in the vein of Scream or its ilk. We aren't left wondering who the killer is because, obviously, it's Chucky (that said, if the films wanted to do a one-off where someone other than a Good Guy doll was really killing everyone, that would be awesome and a nice twist; just only do it once). No, instead the big mystery is why Chucky mailed himself to this family, why he has it out for these people. That story is eventually revealed, of course, but it fuels the plot of this film (and, in the process, confused more than a few people into thinking it was a total reboot until, suddenly, it wasn't). It's effective and gives this film a drive some of the early movies in the series lacked.
Really, though, the lure of the film is in the horror and the kills. This film certainly feels the most like and overt horror film -- the early trilogy of movies tried to be horror but were just too goofy while the later duo simply leaned into the goofiness of the concept of a killer doll. Curse of Chucky strips away the overt humor and really focuses on the creeps. Dolls are creepy, they can be scary, and this film really leans in that direction, making the best of the single house location and tight quarters to play up the creepiness of the setting and the doll to great effect. This film knows how to make Chucky scary in ways that the previous films never could.
Much of that should be credited to the redesign of Chucky for this film. Although Chuck has seen a few differing versions over the years (depending on how much battle damage he suffered in a previous movie and if he was rebuilt or remade after), the version of the doll that appears here was made to look creepy. There's an unsettling quality to the fresh and clean doll that, even before he gets a grimace on his face and goes full Chucky, still leaves him feeling malicious. The Chucky props in this movie are some of the best the series yet, detailed and horrible. Truly, the designers on this film knew what they were doing.
That same level of care went into the filming of the movie as well. Cinematographer Michael Marshall creates a number of evocative shot in the movie, with sweeping overhead shots, spiraling pans, and deep zooms, all of which add to the off-putting qualities of the movie. Plus, he really knows how to film blood, making it beautiful and disgusting. The film feels sumptuous while still also clearly being a creepy killer doll film, and it's to Marshall's credit that he can create both vibes in the same movie and make it all work.
About the only quibble I really have with the film is the fact that so many of the kills overuse CGI. There are plenty of gory moments, like an electrocution and a eyeball stabbing, that would have feel more visceral if the production team had gone with practical effects. I understand CGI is cheaper now but it also feels cheaper and while the movie was clearly made on a budget ($5 Mil and made to be released on home video) there's a certain quality missing from the kills. The lead up to the deaths general works each time, but the kills themselves lack a certain something.
And yet, I don't really mind it for all the things the film gets right. This is easily the creepiest, most engaging film in the series. It knows how to construct horror from the titular killer doll and, in the process, manages to create a film that feels like a fresh new movie while still also working in nods and references to the films that came before. It works as a standalone film but has enough to please even the hardcore fans. In just about every way its the best film featuring Chucky so far.
And then its sequel came out and went so bug-nuts crazy with the concept of a killer doll animated by voodoo magic that it practically blows up the entire continuity. It's amazing...
The Killing Floor:
We don't really get a good sin until mid-way into the movie when it's revealed that Barb is sleeping with the Nanny. it's a good inversion of the cheating spouse trope as usually its the hubby schtuping the nanny, but here it's the wife. Naturally it'll condemn both lovers to death, although in a Chucky flick everyone is fair game to die, sins or no.
Chucky sets the whole plot in motion by taking out the matriarch of the family. All we see is her body on the floor of the main foyer as if she'd fallen from the upper story of the house. It's implied Chucky pushed her although we don't see the deed in action, just the corpse afterwards.
Final Body Count:
Seven, including some bystanders and a priest. This family suffers a lot in very short order (and takes a few people with them).