The “Child's Play” franchise is one that horror fans don't seem to take seriously. It's about a doll, a “Good Guy doll,” with red hair, freckles, overalls, and red sneakers possessed by the soul of a vicious serial killer, Charles Lee Ray (known as the “Lakeshore Strangler,” played by incredible character-actor Brad Dourif in every installment to date), who seeks to become human again by transferring his soul into the first person he reveals his true self to. And along the way, “Chucky,” as he calls himself, murders anyone and everyone that gets in his way.
That's about the sum of every movie in the series, give or take. The first three movies essentially did this little formula with very little change, but the fourth and fifth movies dealt with Chucky and his dysfunctional relationship with his former girlfriend-turned-doll wife Tiffany, played by the sultry Jennifer Tilly, and with this addition, the movies took a comedic turn. So when another movie was announced, the question was whether it would be another sequel or a remake. Really, I was thankful for another sequel, but I kept hoping it would rectify the bad taste left by the previous film, “Seed of Chucky,” which was too ridiculous and depraved for its own good. My faith was a bit shaken when it was revealed that the film would be released direct to DVD. Thankfully, however, director and Chucky creator Don Mancini has delivered a film that, while not as good and creepy as the original, is still a fun, creepy, fresh yet familiar film that brings Chucky back to his sinister roots.
The film opens with a mysterious package arriving at the house of Nica, played by Dourif's real-life daughter Fiona Dourif, a young paraplegic, and her mother, Sarah. The package contains a Good Guy doll named Chucky, and that night, Sarah dies brutally, her death believed to be a suicide. The next day, Nica's sister, Barb, comes to the household to settle her mother's affairs and brings a group with her consisting of her husband, Ian, her daughter, Alice, Alice's nanny, Jill, and a priest and friend named Father Frank. After Father Frank is later involved in a fatal car crash, Nica decides to conduct some online research about the Good Guy dolls, coming across the incidents centering on Chucky in the past films...and it's then that Chucky resumes his murderous activities. As the body count rises and Nica is left to defend herself, she ultimately confronts the diabolical doll in a final showdown, and learns the secret of his motivations: to enact a bloody vengeance twenty-five years in the making on her and her family due to his connections to them in life, long before he transferred his soul into the doll in the original film.
First and foremost is the acting in the film, which is surprisingly good. Fiona Dourif is a good actor in the same right as her father, convincingly portraying a tortured, likeable protagonist...as a viewer, it's easy to sympathize with her due to her condition and the fact that she's generally looked down on by her older, less likeable sister. And when she's left alone to face off against Chucky, there is genuine fear and dread for her as she struggles to escape from him. The other actors in the film are serviceable as well, but of course, the star is Fiona's dad, Brad. He's seen in flashback (in make-up to look like Charles Lee Ray circa 1988) and is ever-reliable as the voice of slasher Chucky, and he's just as vicious, witty, and chilling as ever. Also, to avoid spoilers, expect a few cameos from familiar characters in the franchise, and they do a good job as well.
The music and direction is good, too. Mancini takes a lot of cues from other horror movies, namely those of the “haunted house” variety, but he still makes them fun, and he certainly does a better job with horror than the dark comedy of the previous Chucky entry, “Seed.” But what worried me most originally was how Chucky looked in trailers. He looked...well...strange. Sure, the Good Guy dolls are meant to give off a creepy vibe, lampooning the trend of freckled, little brother toys that spoke during the 1980s, but this doll felt wrong. I chalked it up to a lower budget, but thankfully, Chucky becomes more like himself, as it were, as the film progresses and the puppetry (helped a bit by some CGI) works well and looks fine.
All in all, this is a decent film, especially for one not released in theaters. Honestly, “Seed” is more deserving of direct-to-DVD status considering the commonly negative stigma that goes with it. But still, this is a good little horror film. Sure, it's not as good as the original, and there aren't any real new ideas present, but this is a haunted house film with plenty of bloodletting and fairly inventive kills, decent acting and effects, and the best part of all? Chucky's back, and that should make any horror fan excited. Here's hoping that the Good Guy won't stay down, and hopefully he'll return to theaters in his next outing.
SCORE: XXXX out of XXXXX