Twenty five years ago, “Child’s Play” was released, kicking off a franchise that would cause millions of people to look at dolls differently. It was a gleefully entertaining horror film that introduced us to the iconic Chucky, a serial killer who transferred his soul into a doll in order to cheat death. The film became rather popular, spawning multiple sequels, but after the third installment in the series, there was a very noticeable shift in tone. Whereas the first three films had been full-on entries in the horror genre, the fourth and fifth films took on a much lighter tone, becoming a strange mix of horror and comedy that, while still entertaining, never quite lived up to the classic thrills of the original films. For the sixth installment, writer/director Don Mancini, the original creator of Chucky, has opted to return the series to its horror roots in order to revitalize it.
“Curse of Chucky” is set almost entirely in the house of wheelchair-bound Nica (Fiona Dourif) and her mother Sarah (Chantal Quesnelle). One day, a mysterious package arrives, containing nothing but a Good Guy doll. Shortly after, Sarah is found dead, with her family believing that she committed suicide due to her past problems. Sarah’s sudden death brings about a visit from other family members, including her sister, Barb (Danielle Bisutti), and Barb’s husband, Ian (Brennan Elliott). Barb tries to convince Nica to sell the house and move to an assisted living facility, but she is quite firm in her refusal. Meanwhile, Nica begins to do some research on the doll, eventually coming upon a horrifying discovery that merely acts as a prelude to a night of terror.
It really is a relief to see the franchise go back to its horror roots. Wisecracking Chucky and Tiffany were interesting for a little while, but I was beginning to miss the solo exploits of the purely horrific Chucky. The series was beginning to feel like a joke, especially when it got to the point of the two dolls having a gender-confused baby. It was drifting further and further away from what had made it a fun and thrilling horror franchise in the first place. Apparently Mancini was feeling the same way, thus the decision to get it back on track.
Surprisingly enough, “Curse of Chucky” turns out to be a pretty decent sequel for a sixth entry in a long-running franchise, and a direct-to-DVD release to boot. Undoubtedly that will turn a lot of people off, making them think that it’s a cheap knock-off of what the series used to be. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical as well, but it doesn’t take long before the film’s slow buildup has you in its grasp. Then, when you get to the mayhem, you begin to remember just how amusing these films used to be before they got silly.
Is it a great sequel? Not particularly. There’s not really anything new to be found in this latest entry, but it is a delightful slice of nostalgia to watch Chucky go around and kill his victims in various ways, most of which involve one sharp implement or another. Just because the franchise has gone back to its horror roots doesn’t mean that it’s without humor either. Even in the older films, there was always the absurdity of the characters struggling to fight a killer who’s only about two feet tall. He’s not exactly a force to be reckoned with a la Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers.
Speaking of the characters, you’re not going to find any laudable performances amongst the human roles, but of course, they’re not the reason people continue to come back to the series. They come back to it because of Chucky himself, voiced by Brad Dourif. Twenty five years ago, he brought the character to life and has been portraying him ever since. His sadistic tone and laughter are unforgettable, adding to that great sense of nostalgia one gets while watching Chucky do what he does best.
It probably would have been best if Mancini had just left him to it, but for some reason, he attempts to force in a completely random backstory to tie the characters together. It’s completely unnecessary and merely comes off as a distraction. Luckily it doesn’t take up too much of the runtime, so it’s forgivable. Again, it may not be a great sequel, but it is a welcome return of one of horror’s most infamous icons. To top it off, there are a pair of endings with special cameos that act as a bit of icing on the cake. If you’ve been a fan of the franchise, you’ll get a particularly big kick out of the post-credits ending. It’ll be interesting to see if the franchise continues from here. Chucky always seems to find some way or another to come back. Should he arise again to create more mayhem, you can be sure it’ll be a welcome sight.
Now let’s take a brief look at the specs. The film is presented in a 1.78:1, 1080p transfer that’s not quite as sharp as most Blu-rays, but it’s still miles above your standard DVD. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a little on the soft side, but as per usual, it’s nothing that turning it up a little louder than normal can’t solve. Overall, there’s nothing in either department that will hinder your ability to enjoy the film.
The following special features are included on the disc:
- Living Doll: Bringing Chucky to Life
- Voodoo Doll: The Chucky Legacy
- Storyboard Comparisons
- Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel
- Playing with Dolls: The Making of Curse of Chucky
- Feature Commentary with Director Don Mancini, Puppeteer Tony Gardner, and Star Fiona Dourif
As usual, let’s start with the commentary. Very early on, you get the feeling that these three are struggling to find things to talk about during the film, something made perfectly clear when Mancini asks out loud “What can I talk about?” It’s not a very informative track, but you do get bits and pieces of info every now and again.
It’s abundantly clear why the deleted scenes were removed as they did nothing but slow the film down, while the gag reel is two minutes of what mainly turns out to be one of the cameo appearances goofing around. The main extras to pay attention to are the featurettes that feature interviews with cast and crew, as well as a couple of looks into how Chucky was made and operated. While some of these extras are a waste of time, at least you get some that involve the making of the film, which is more than some releases do nowadays.
All things considered, this is a pretty good release of the film, made even more impressive when you remember that it wasn’t even deemed worthy of a theatrical release. Fans will enjoy getting to see Chucky back on the screen, even in this smaller capacity, while first-timers will easily be able to get into it as well. After nine years, Chucky is finally back in his proper element, and that’s reason enough for any horror fan to rejoice.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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This review is based on a copy of the Blu-ray received for reviewing purposes.