Curse of Chucky (2013)
Written and directed by Don Mancini
Curse of Chucky focuses on the conflict, grief, and even humor of what happens when you get that special little Good Guy in the mail. The setting is new to many of the fans of the series—an old dark house. We have a character in a wheelchair. A greedy vulture-like family that swoops in when grief is as fresh as the recently departed's grave. But something about all these elements (or should I say too many elements) clashing at once doesn't allow for a cohesive experience.
One day in our old dark house, a very lovely and very wheelchair-bound Nica (F. Dourif) receives a mysterious gift in the mail: a new Chucky doll, which she feels is totally retro (ah, the meta). Her mother (Quesnelle) thinks it's odd that she received it—so unexpected to get a ginger doll baby from the 80's in the mail with no "from" address. They take him out of his packaging and sit him down, but the little fucker does not stay down for long. Mom ends up dead—a broken bloody mess on the floor. Cut to Nica's older sister, Barb (Bisutti), arriving at the house with husband, child, nanny, and Catholic priest in tow. Her daughter, Alice (Summer H. Howell), falls for Nica's new friend, who teaches her important lessons in life about voodoo and atheism. "There is no God," he tells her during playtime.
Lots of people die, but the gore was not extreme enough to shock (granted, this was the R-rated version they brought to Fantasia). The Blu-ray promises more gore, but I don't think it's going to solve the schizoid feel of the film. It's not that violent, not that funny, and quite frankly, not that entertaining. It's a watered-down mélange of all the Chuckys before it, which is a problem because it just reminds you of the earlier, more fun movies. One can’t help but think that the actors in the previous two installments (Seed and Bride) had many more opportunities to shine. The characterizations in Curse are standard.
I could never get over the fact that the set was a creepy dark house and none of that environment and atmosphere was really explored. The grafting on of a What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? style sibling rivalry melodrama and an Old Dark House ghost story tone to the Chucky series is a misstep, unless the director is stylistically up to it. The uninspired, TV movie-level visual approach leaves the house just looking like a set. Old wallpaper does not a spooky melodrama make. Horror evokes strong feelings, images, tones—all elements have to work towards that goal: if, in the name of "restraint" you merely remain lukewarm, you don't succeed. If you can't pull it off, then give me more gore, and if your blood budget is low, then show me more Chucky. After six movies don't hide him. Rejoice that he is killing again...and again...
One thing Curse has going for it is you do get more Dourif for your dollar: In fact not only do you get a double dose of Dourif himself (in both dubbed doll-voice and fleshly form), but playing one of Chucky’s prime targets is the Seed of Dourif: his daughter, Fiona. The performances are all fine—especially the great Brad Dourif, of course, whose murderous surliness and lunatic glee are the heart of this series. For super-fans towards the end is actually where the fun begins; it's a shame that energy and glint weren't present throughout the production. If you are a fan of the series, see this one for the payoffs in the last third. It will make you smile. It made me smile. It's just unfortunate that you have to sit through such rote material to get to it.
Curse of Chucky represents the filmmakers’ compromise between continuing a series and rebooting it. As Part 6 of a series, with the two previous chapters being so crazy and over-the-top, the strategy of de-escalation doesn’t really work. It’s too muted but, at the same time (at least in the R-rated cut screened at Fantasia), not dark and brutal enough to make the menace of Chucky palpable. The curse of Curse of Chucky is that while it may be straining to appeal to many, it ultimately satisfies none.
2 1/2 out of 5