Cult of Chucky (FrightFest 2017)
Starring Fiona Dourif, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Alex Vincent
Directed by Don Mancini
Picking up where Curse of Chucky left off, Don Mancini’s latest addition to the Child’s Play franchise sees wheelchair-bound Nica (Fiona Dourif) now confined to a psychiatric institute. Suspected of being the perpetrator of Chucky’s killing spree in Curse, it seems Nica may be coming round to that line of thinking also – questioning whether a walking, talking killer doll is something that could even feasibly exist.
Unfortunately for her, and the other residents and staff of this institution, Chucky does indeed exist… along with another series favourite, Tiffany (Tilly) – and they’re determined to get their mitts on Nica.
Those who caught the post-credits addendum in Curse of Chucky should also expect another returning character: Andy Barclay (Vincent). Since his ruthless response to Chucky’s arrival in the aforementioned sequence, he now has the still-living severed head of that particular Good Guy stored away in his home – popping it out on occasion to torture and mutilate it.
But without giving too much away, rest assured that Charles Lee Ray and his kill-happy companion have different plans this time around… and when a Good Guy doll is randomly delivered to Nica’s institute, the blood begins to flow.
An enjoyable entry in a franchise that appeared to be losing its footing before the arrival of the darker-toned Curse, Cult of Chucky delivers not only on the gory mayhem, but on the narrative front, too. Both Dourifs are at the top of their game once again, Brad having – as ever – not missed a beat when it comes to voicing everyone’s favourite psychotic doll. For the first half of the film, both Fiona and Mancini do a fine job playing the psychological game with Nica. Could this be a Child’s Play film without a bona fide Chucky appearance?
Of course not – but it’s still a game worth playing, as is presented here. Anyone could guess that Chucky is indeed going to show up… but few will accurately guess (without having encountered spoilers beforehand) the true nature of Chuck and Tiff’s methods this time around. It’s a fun reveal that lets Dourif cut loose once more, and adds a playful spark to some otherwise grim proceedings.
Which leads us on to the kills, which are by no means a disappointment. Impressive practical effects abound throughout a series of gruesome slayings, and an adherence to physical puppetry for Chucky’s exploits is as endearing as ever. Mancini is having loads of fun here, and it shows.
Some viewers may have problems with the overall direction of the story, however, and when the finale swings around it’s quite easy to hold a gut feeling of worry for the franchise. Mancini feels only a hair’s breadth away from writing himself into a corner here – one that could prove either impossible, or absurd-by-necessity, to get out of cleanly. That’s if the throwaway explanation of his rule changes isn’t absurd enough – something only the most forgiving Chucky fans are likely to let slide without a contentious groan.
But then again, this is now a series based on the use of Voodoo for Dummies to transfer human souls into a doll so, as ever, it’s completely subjective as to what you let slide at this point.
Less forgivable is the almost total wastage of Andy Barclay, though. Arriving on the scene with the gravitas of an avenging angel, he’s very quickly rendered completely ineffective despite instigating one of the film’s best twists. It’s almost criminal, in fact, to have levied such promise with his Curse appearance only to lend him all the impact of a silent fart on a windy day in what should be his grand return.
With another post-credits secret to be found, it’s almost certain that an additional follow-up will continue this new canon. Here’s hoping Mancini can whip all of his new ideas into shape – and allow all of his characters the room they deserve – when that one rolls around. The ball certainly hasn’t been dropped, but Mancini is going to have to work hard to keep it in the air.
For now, though, Cult of Chucky remains a hell of a lot of fun. Solid performances all round (Tilly sparkles once again, even with limited screen time), a little bit of mind-bending, and the Chuckster at his deliriously psychotic best all make for another good run for the Good Guys.