Monday, October 7, 2013

Curse of Chucky

It’s been nine years since the last entry in the Child’s Play series was released, the abysmal Seed of Chucky, so I was a bit surprised when another film was slated for release direct to VOD out of nowhere. I was not immediately interested in seeing another sequel due to how much I disliked the aforementioned celluloid abortion, especially after I saw its director would be the same man who helmed Seed of Chucky, series creator Don Mancini. And direct to video? Seriously?!

All that started to change once I read that not only would Brad Dourif be returning to voice Chucky once again, but play his human alter-ego Charles Lee Ray for the first time since the original. I also liked that Mancini decided to mainly utilize practical dolls instead of CGI to animate the murderous toy, and that the story was going to return to its scary roots instead of the horror comedy angle used in the last two films. The reviews coming out of horror conventions/festivals were overwhelmingly positive, so I decided that I’d give it a watch.

I should have trusted my original instincts.
When the paraplegic Nica’s (Fiona Dourif) mother dies after a mysterious doll arrives at her doorstep, her remaining family comes to attend the funeral. One by one they are killed by the murderous Chucky, who has set a twisted plan in motion to become human once again.

I was digging this film’s vibe for the first 45 minutes or so. It’s dread filled, gloomy and dark just like the original. And holy crap did Mancini manage to make Chucky scary again! His new look, which fluctuates between looking innocent and disturbingly creepy at a moment’s notice works wonders toward putting the character back on the best villains in horror cinema short list. Some of the kills are cool (loved that axe bit) and the first couple of twists were fun. It’s filmed well with an even hand and a measured amount of patience to build up the characters before Chucky starts murderizing everyone.
Then the big finale happens that is basically about Chucky tormenting poor Nica and her attempt to fight back. Some stupid shit goes down (the axe in the leg bit was ridiculous) and characters take more punishment than any one person could ever hope to survive. It just goes beyond my ability to suspend my disbelief. And the big finale is lame as fuck. Some cool bits aside, I’m sorry to say that this entry is not all that entertaining and drags on for far too long.

I think Mancini had a decent idea for this sequel. It’s set up like a stage play since the story takes place in one location and the cast is relatively small. The mystery surrounding Chucky’s arrival at Nica’s house is handled well, and he even managed to throw a hint or two in there to insinuate that Nica might have killed her mother and not the doll. Once Chucky reveals himself to young Alice (Summer Howell) the creep factor is amped up and I was reminded of how much I liked the original film and its similarly successful way of handling the profoundly dumb idea of a serial killer possessed toy. Sadly he let the mythology of the series get the better of him in the end and all the flashbacks featuring Brad Dourif as Charles Lee Ray are boring and pointless. Actually it sort of ruins the character (think the way Rob Zombie ruined Michael Myers in his Halloween remake).
The worst part is that Mancini, who also wrote all the movies in the series including this one, begins to start tying all the other films together in a horribly misguided attempt to wrap up any loose ends that may or may not have been left open. It feels like fan service and nothing more. And the worst is the post-credits scene which completely negates the events in the finale for one more useless cameo appearance of a cast member from way back.

Mancini’s biggest misstep is that when I looked back on the film I realized that he was trying way too hard to bring this franchise back from the dead. I appreciate the time he took to develop the characters, but they were for the most part a big group of unlikable assholes. They are also written as complete idiots. He also took his time trying to make Chucky scary again, but once he goes on his killing spree he goes right back into Bride/Seed of Chucky mode with all the lame quips he continually spits out of his plastic mouth. And holy shit does he love to monologue here!
The acting is passable, with Fiona Dourif (yes, Brad Dourif’s real life daughter) giving the best performance of the bunch as the lead. She made me root for her and the character is written as no dummy, although some of her decisions toward the end are slightly suspect. Brad Dourif is fantastic as usual as the voice of Chucky, but as the character’s real life counterpart he looks asleep at the wheel and way too old to be playing the part, especially when scenes from the original Child’s Play are shown alongside the flashbacks. Everyone else is over the top or DOA, including the cameos.

The negatives far outweighed the positives for me with Curse of Chucky. It started strong and collapsed under its own weight and lofty ambitions. Sure it looks sleek and professional, but there is a layer of dung lurking just under the surface waiting to spread its stink over all you see. It was a missed opportunity, but at this point I’m going to say to either reboot the series completely or let it rot in the gutter for the rest of time. This dog had its day, and that day has long past.

2 out of 5

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