Written and directed by Don Mancini
As bizarre as this sounds, when you really break down the modern boogeyman franchises, it’s Chucky who has the best track record. Sure, Child’s Play is hardly great cinema, but while most iconic villains get one or two good movies tops, this 25-year-old(!) series has had way more hits than misses, with only one outright dud (1991’s dull Child’s Play 3). That has a lot to do with creator/writer Don Mancini and his unwavering dedication to his bastard plastic baby.
Lucky for us, Mancini is back in the director’s chair for Curse of Chucky, the first entry produced for the direct-to-video market. Under normal circumstances, this would have been the kiss of death and Chucky could have easily wound up slumming it in the video underworld, but Mancini treats this outing with as much care and affection as its big-screen predecessors. After the overly goofy Seed of Chucky, Curse goes for the more serious back-to-basics approach of Tom Holland’s original film and ends up striking a better balance between slasher thrills and pitch black humor.
This installment revolves around paraplegic shut-in Nica (well played by Brad Dourif’s real life daughter, Fiona), who lives alone with her unbalanced mother. One mysterious FedEx delivery later, she finds herself the owner of a talking Good Guy doll, which fits in nicely with the overly creepy décor of her secluded Gothic mansion. Following the bloody “suicide” of her mother (we know better), Nica is visited by domineering sis Barb and her Mark Ruffalo-cloned hubby, who waste no time trying to take over her life. Of course, the couple’s young daughter quickly takes a liking to Chucky and starts regurgitating his foul-mouthed insults to stunned family members.
The standard body count ensues, but it’s a lot of fun due largely to Brad Dourif unleashing one of his best Chucky performances (complete with flashbacks to a flesh-and-blood Charles Lee Ray) and a script that pulls a few subversive twists to the formula along the way. Mancini goes for the old-school approach of keeping our favorite killer doll immobile and in the shadows for the first half, and while this could’ve easily been old hat after five films, it somehow works thanks to a slightly androgynous redesign that makes Chucky look creepier than ever.
Mancini’s direction here is a huge step up from Seed with lots of great moody visuals and Hitchcockian tricks that make this the best looking entry next to Ronny Yu’s Bride of Chucky. And while the kills aren’t quite as inventive as in past installments, the few we get are pulled off with gleefully gory abandon – accompanied by Chucky’s clever quips.
Mancini even goes the extra mile of twisting a seemingly one-off movie into something that unifies the entire series. Horror fans will probably debate the merits of Curse‘s multiple endings, but in an age where most franchises can’t be bothered with mythology or even basic continuity, the fact that we get such wild fan service is pretty refreshing. Just remember to stay through the credits or you’ll be doing yourself a huge disservice.
While Chucky’s curse could have easily come from the trappings of the video market, the results have actually re-energized the series. It’s too bad most studios don’t take this much care when sacrificing their icons to the low-budget video gods (Dimension Films, I’m looking at you). As it stands, the Chucky series remains the best source for fun slasher kicks, and as long as Mancini and Dourif are on board, they can keep these movies coming.
3 1/2 out of 5