A direct-to-video feature originally released in 2013, Curse of Chucky is the sixth installment of the Child’s Play franchise, which started off with 1988’s unbeatable Child’s Play and various sequels. The sequels became more and more comedic and outlandish, introducing other dolls, namely Tiffany (voiced by Jennifer Tilly) and Glen (voiced by Billy Boyd), the “bride” and “seed” of Chucky, respectively.
Written and directed by creator Don Mancini, Curse of Chucky brings the franchise back into more serious horror territory, with the bulk of the tale showcasing the true menace of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, the so-called “Lakeshore Strangler” who is forever trapped inside the body of a Good-Guy Doll. Mancini remains a shrewd filmmaker, as the film’s various codas bring back some of the characters and comedic elements that made some of the previous films cult favorites. Thus, Curse of Chucky will appeal to hardened horror fans and stalwart fans of the franchise.
The movie takes place about 25 years after the events chronicled in the first film. The Chucky doll (voiced by the incomparable Brad Dourif) is mysteriously mailed to the home of paraplegic Nica (Fiona Dourif, Brad’s daughter) and her mother, Sarah (Chanta Quesnel). That very night, Chucky decides to take out Sarah by stabbing her to death. Police declare the death a suicide.
The death of Sarah brings out the relatives, namely Nica’s older sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti), who brings along her husband Ian (Brennan Elliott), daughter Alice (Summer Howell), and live-in nanny Jill (Maitland McConnel). Also tagging along with Father Frank (A. Martinez), the family priest. Alice discovers Chucky and immediately is enamored with him. However, the doll soon starts to whisper bad things to her, slowly unraveling his goal: to kill every member of the Pierce family.
The bulk of the movie has Chucky carrying out his goal with terrifying aplomb. Key sequences reveal the reason for Chucky’s motivation, adding a layer of characterization to the life of a younger Charles Lee Ray and his relationship to the Pierce family. The climax of the film has poor Nica facing off with Chucky, who plans to enter the body of Alice so that he can move into more “human” quarters.
The film ends with Chucky surviving the ordeal and Nica sent to an insane asylum, as she is accused of murdering everyone else in the house. The codas that follow reveal that it was Tiffany (in human form) who is helping ship Chucky from location to location so that he can carry out his revenge. Sadly, the next victim is a now grown up Andy Barclay, who is very much ready to stand off against the killer doll.
Although uneven in several places, Curse of Chucky is a welcome return for the Child’s Play series of films. Although not as deeply satisfying as the first film, Curse of Chucky nevertheless centers on Chucky himself as a hideous menace. Quibbles include the fact that Charles Lee Ray is a rather adept voodoo practitioner and yet he never takes advantage of such magic. His only “spell” is that of transfer of the soul, which is too bad. Another quibble is limiting the action to the house. Although such a decision is good to evoke tension (and was probably a result of a limited budget), the resultant confinement makes the episode feel more like a made-for-television movie instead of full-blown show. A final quibble is the redesign of Chucky himself, who looks more human and less like a doll. The CGI and practical effects used to achieve some of the effects make him look odd and somehow less menacing.
These quibbles aside, the film proper combines facets of horror with light comedic touches in the coda that will make fans sit back and smile. Jennifer Tilly is a joy on the screen, taking delight in her role, and Alex Vincent’s return to the world of Andy Barclay will have fans fist-pumping at film’s end, when Vincent mutters, “Play with this!” Brad and his daughter Fiona easily anchor the film, with supporting players also bringing plenty of gusto to their roles. There are even some weird twists and turns along the way, including an affair from left field, that contribute some black humor to the horror-driven plotline. Tension is definitely raised by making Fiona bound to a wheelchair, as it makes her much easier prey to the diminutive but lethal Chucky.
It’s unfortunate that Curse of Chucky did not experience a theater release. However, it is my sincere hope that the movie’s success enables the filmmakers to make another Chucky movie, one that at last can be viewed on the big screen in seedy horror multiplexes throughout the United States.
Friends to the end, indeed.