Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Don Mancini
Writer: Don Mancini
Producer: David Kirschner
Stars: Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Brennan Elliott, Maitland McConnell, Chantal Quesnelle, Summer Howell, A Martinez, Brad Dourif
Chucky returns to terrorize a family that is mysteriously connected to his previous life as serial killer Charles Lee Ray.
Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers are commonly touted as “The Big Three” of horror filmdom’s top icons. “The Lakeshore Strangler” Charles Lee Ray, better known by his diminutive alter ego as the Good Guy doll Chucky, is often unjustly overlooked even though he has a body count on par with his peers and can give Freddy a run for his money in the one-liners department. Chucky’s film series also shares an accordion-like timeline of highs and lows that is all too common amongst longstanding slasher franchises. Still, Chucky remains a recognizable figure, even if the character is more memorable than any of his individual silver screen outings.
Despite annual theme park appearances at their Halloween Horror Nights event, and a residency in their year round House of Horrors attraction, Universal Studios has not exactly been clamoring to keep Chucky in the public consciousness with a regular presence at the Cineplex. “Curse of Chucky” sees its release just one year shy of a decade since the previous “Child’s Play” sequel, 2004’s “Seed of Chucky.” Without any executive pressure above the line on writer/director Don Mancini and producer David Kirschner to pump out new installments in the series, it is a reasonable bet that the original creators would only revisit the “Child’s Play” universe if they had a genuinely entertaining tale that they wanted to tell.
And their passion for the project that they initially birthed in 1988 runs just as high on the fifth sequel 25 years later. “Curse of Chucky” is a satisfying chapter in the saga of a serial killer turned child’s toy that harkens back to the heyday of modern horror with a cool sheen of contemporary polish.
The cast list of “Curse of Chucky” is filled to the brim with faces that are familiar mostly because they resemble other actors. Brennan Elliott channels a Mark Ruffalo vibe while his onscreen wife Danielle Bisutti stares with crystal eyes that could confuse her for Rena Sofer’s sister. Their sexy nanny, played by Maitland McConnell, paints on her pants and struts about as though Jaime Pressly just walked in from her “Poison Ivy” sequel.
Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad “Voice of Chucky” Dourif, stars as wheelchair bound Nica. The Chucky doll is mysteriously delivered to Nica and her mother in an unmarked package at their spooky Victorian mansion. Once the doll is unwrapped, Nica’s mother ends up in a pool of blood and Nica’s extended family comes for a visit to put the estate in order. Nica’s niece takes a liking to Chucky, but it doesn’t take too long for Nica’s other relatives to start joining her mother in the morgue.
Straight out of the gate, “Curse of Chucky” deftly establishes an honest mother-daughter relationship and backstory that makes it clear that these are characters serving more of a purpose than being mere knife fodder. Clever characterizations and sincere performances across the board give surprising depth to Nica’s family and their various internal relationships.
The characters are so well defined that it works as a detriment because it takes a while for Chucky to shine in the spotlight. While the screenplay works on establishing everyone as believable personalities, Chucky sits motionless in the background or offscreen until he is given free reign to conduct his latest rampage. The movie is almost half over before Chucky becomes fully animated and finally delivers dialogue in Brad Dourif’s familiar voice.
With the carnage underway at last, things do devolve into familiar territory. A thunderstorm begins outside the mansion, and the excessive lightning flashes become so frequent that it might as well be daytime. “Curse of Chucky” starts laying its style on thick, yet curiously, it works. If “Child’s Play” sequels appeared more regularly, this sixth film in the series would be harder to stomach. But the long gap between Chucky adventures makes even a predictably goofy installment seem all the more inviting. And whether it is the dilation of Chucky’s pupils or the clink of a spoon against tooth enamel, the production is clearly putting its best foot forward with a focus on slick camera movements and an attention to little details in visuals and sound design.
While it is nowhere near as daffy as “Bride of Chucky” or “Seed of Chucky,” it would not be a “Child’s Play” movie without some level of tongue in cheek charm. A movie about a serial killer’s soul trapped inside a child’s doll can only be approached with a certain amount of seriousness, after all. Like its predecessors, “Curse of Chucky” generously bends the standards of realism to suit its narrative, usually with blatant disregard for story elements to require sense. Looking back too much thought after the credits end will only result in an unending list of questions. How did Chucky know which dinner guest would be served the poisoned chili bowl? Why does Chucky need the little girl specifically? And did the story of a serial killer possessing a doll and committing a bevy of murders not make national headlines that these people do not recognize Chucky as a symbol of evil?
Of course, wanting answers to any of these questions only means that you are doing it wrong. Few are going to watch the sixth movie in the “Child’s Play” series without already being a fan or without having some foreknowledge of the comedic horror blend that Chucky brings to his table. For those who know exactly what they are signing up for, “Curse of Chucky” meets all expectations and then some. Far from perfect, it is a return to classic “Child’s Play” form that proves Chucky should not be neglected when it comes to ranking the top faces in horror entertainment.
NOTE: There is a post-credits scene.
Review Score: 75