REVIEW: “Curse of Chucky”

At this point, I think the Chucky franchise’s greatest strength is its ability to reinvent itself any time its formula gets too stale. The first three films were pretty standard 1980s slashers. But Bride of Chucky successfully reinvented the franchise as more of a horror-comedy—a trend that was continued with more mixed results in Seed of Chucky. And 2013’s Curse of Chucky successfully reinvents the franchise once again, this time as a return to the realm of scarier horror films—now with a bit of a gothic flare. Curse of Chucky is a compulsively watchable film, led by a thrilling performance from Fiona Dourif, a solid story, some super fun kills, and a surprising amount of restraint. (4 out of 5 wands.)

NOTE: This review contains spoilers.

Curse of Chucky
Written and directed by Don Mancini
Out for revenge, Chucky (Brad Dourif) the killer doll infiltrates the family of a woman, her sister and her young niece.

There’s a couple of things that immediately jump out when watching Curse of Chucky. The first is just how good it is. The sixth film in any franchise has no right being this good. And yet, almost every aspect of Curse of Chucky works very well. The pacing is excellent, building up an incredibly creepy atmosphere before all hell reigns loose. The more expendable characters perfectly straddle that line between unlikable enough that you root for their deaths but not so unlikable they make watching the movie a drag.

Nica (Fiona Dourif) is as compelling a main character as Andy was in the first three films. And Fiona Dourif brings her to life in such an impressive, enjoyable way that she quickly ranks among the best characters in the franchise. She’s immediately likable, she’s able to stand on her own against Chucky, and she’s actually given a bit of a character arc. It’s been a while since we’ve had a main character that wasn’t Chucky or Tiffany, so Nica feels like quite the breath of fresh air. 

The other thing you immediately notice is how restrained Curse of Chucky is. Again, we’re six movies into the franchise. At this point, everyone knows the Chucky doll is possessed by the soul of Charles Lee Ray. We all know the doll is gonna start killing people at some point. And yet, Curse of Chucky holds back on fully revealing this to the audience until nearly halfway through the movie. And you’d think that wouldn’t work, given the fact that it doesn’t really work in the first Child’s Play movie, and the franchise has always shown Chucky killing people pretty quickly thereafter.

But it does work. Mostly because Curse of Chucky feels like a soft reboot, as though it’s going to ignore the films that came before it. So, the movie assumes the audience doesn’t know anything about Chucky and spends a lot of time reintroducing them into the world. And it gives us a chance to actually get to know Nica and the rest of the characters, to form an attachment to them, to get invested in the storyline. And it works. It feels like a really well-executed horror movie that just happens to be a part of the Chucky franchise.

But lest you fear this is just another reboot, as the film goes on it becomes abundantly clear that it’s set in exactly the same timeline as the previous five films, and Mancini has no desire to ignore any of those movies. Yes, Curse of Chucky is not a direct sequel to Seed of Chucky. And yes, Glen/Glenda isn’t mentioned at all here, nor are most of the plot developments from the last few films. But a whole lot of other elements are. Numerous characters from previous films are referenced – including Andy and Tiffany, both of whom appear towards the end of the film.

While the Chucky doll initially looks quite different from previous designs, it’s pretty quickly revealed that he’s just got a new layer of skin on top of the same, stitched-up face found in the previous films (and the big reveal of his face is a pretty fun one). And, most importantly, Chucky still retains his trademark personality. In the latter half of the film, when he’s fully active again, he’s making quips and killing people in quite disturbing ways and it’s so much fun. As usual, all of the kills in this movie are excellent, showcasing a lot of creativity and brutality. And Brad Dourif seems to still be having an absolute blast voicing the killer doll.

If I had one complaint about Curse of Chucky, it would be the big reveal about Chucky and Nica’s backstory. I really just… don’t like the idea of connecting Chucky and Nica like this. The idea that Chucky is responsible for Nica being in a wheelchair because he had some creepy infatuation with her mom and then stabbed her in the stomach when she was about to give birth to Nica just… doesn’t sit right. Like, yes, Chucky is a murderer and a thief and not somebody to root for in any regard. But this whole plotline is just… unpleasant. And not in a fun way.

And I like it even less that this event directly leads him to the situation that begins the first Child’s Play film—where he breaks into the toy store and transfers his soul into the doll. And now, all these years later, he’s looking for revenge on the family that led to his predicament? Chucky has never needed this kind of motivation before to kill an entire family before, so I’m not entirely sure why he needed it here. Within the context of this particular movie, I guess it works just fine. But within the context of the franchise as a whole, I could’ve lived without it. It’s not a deal-breaker or anything, and it is rather fun seeing Brad Dourif as the human Chucky again. But it just didn’t really work for me.

On the whole, though, Curse of Chucky is a lot of fun. As someone who liked Bride of Chucky and didn’t hate (but didn’t love) Seed of Chucky, it is nice seeing the franchise hew closer towards scary again instead of horror-comedy. I mean, I love a good campy horror-comedy as much as the next person, but I love a scary movie with a sense of humor even more. And that’s exactly what Curse of Chucky is. It takes itself just seriously enough (but not too seriously) that it feels like a respectable entry in the film. The plot is simple but well-executed. The kills are as fun as you’d like them to be. Fiona Dourif’s Nica is a great addition to the franchise (and it’s really fun seeing the actress go toe-to-toe with her father in the scenes they share). The only thing I didn’t like was the additions made to Chucky’s backstory, but it’s something easily overlookable as it doesn’t seem like they’ll be super important going forward. 

Curse of Chucky is such a fun movie and a breath of fresh air, and it leaves off with a post-credits scene that makes me super eager to watch the next film. So, that’s definitely a bonus. If you’re a Chucky fan, you know this is a movie worth watching. And if you’re more of a skeptic, there’s still a lot here to enjoy.

4 out of 5 wands.

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