Curse Of Chucky

Curse Of Chucky


Reviewed by: David Graham

A genuinely pleasant surprise as opposed to a mere guilty pleasure, series originator Don Mancini’s latest outing for his infamous ‘Good Guy’ represents the best balance he has struck yet between subversive chuckles and gleefully full-blooded gore. After the unexpectedly successful Bride Of Chucky gave way to the scattershot (and scatter-brained) Seed Of Chucky, there didn’t seem to be anywhere left for our ginger-mopped anti-hero to go, so Mancini has sensibly listened to the fans and taken him back to his roots. Employing a slow-burn approach, creative characterisations and an engaging cast of fresh faces, Curse Of Chucky is an ideal Halloween treat with more than a few tricks up its sleeve to win over sceptical viewers and franchise die-hards.

When wheelchair user Nica is sent a bizarre flame-haired doll, she has little chance to ponder the gesture's meaning as her disturbed mother is found dead the next morning. The arrival of her condescending older sister Barb - with husband Ian, daughter Alice and live-in nanny Jill in tow - represents another unnecessary stress to Nica, but at least Alice is kept busy with the creepy toy, who quickly becomes her new best friend 'Chucky'. Soon a string of horrific accidents lead the dysfunctional unit to suspect each other of foul play - perhaps as part of an inheritance-fixated plot - but Nica starts to realise there may be something more to the talking doll than meets the eye.

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After a couple of increasingly camp comedy-horrors, it's refreshing to see the air of menace return to this series, Mancini quickly establishing an atmosphere of playful dread which belies the meagre budget through impressive art direction and slick cinematography. One thing that distinguished the first couple of Child’s Play films was their strong sense of urban alienation, a crucial background for Brad Dourif’s misanthropically snarling villain. One place he’s never been let loose yet is the type of ‘old dark house’ setting that previous devil dolls usually inhabited; by going back to this Gothic archetype, Mancini has breathed further fresh life into an otherwise modernist fable (Chucky was conceived as a comment on consumer culture in the wake of the Cabbage Patch Dolls craze).

Another thing that typified the early outings was the focus on a child protagonist: the way Chucky played upon Andy's innocence and lack of real-world understanding made the premise of the original brilliantly devious. While a child is crucial to his plotline (it would be even more ridiculous otherwise), Mancini bravely deviates from this obvious tactic by drawing a disabled adult character in the lead, his gamble bolstered by a gutsy, star-making performance from Fiona Dourif. The opening scenes feature some genuinely sensitive dialogue that paints Nica as a fully-rounded person, and Dourif manages to get the audience onside immediately while never once playing the victim.

She bounces off her famous father (through the conduit of the doll of course) wonderfully, and while his sardonic quips start off disappointingly lame, it’s not long before he’s back to the foul-mouthed intensity of his startling 1988 voice performance. Some of his kills are memorably nasty, and the use of mostly practical effects really makes Chucky feel like a genuine threat as well as a charmingly retro baddie. Like the first film, the action takes a while to get going, but this works in its favour, again establishing characters that at least have a tangible dynamic, leading to a (literally in one instance) blistering second half with an intense climax that represents a brilliantly entertaining face-off between the two Dourifs, both furiously dialling it up to 11 in pursuit of cathartic thrills.

The lion’s share of the credit must surely go to writer-director Mancini, though, who has not only cooked up a bracingly unpredictable script but also manages to milk his imaginative set-ups for genuine suspense, something which seems inconceivable six films deep. There’s a cheeky disdain for convention to the audience-baiting relationships that keeps the pecking order unpredictable, best exampled in a Russian roulette dinner-table sequence which may well be the most entertainingly loaded chow-down since Braindead’s pus-custard set-piece.

It's a real shame this has been denied a theatrical release, as it's an effortless crowd-pleaser that would surely have done big business with teens and adults alike. With the Paranormal Activity series on well-advised hiatus, it wouldn't even have had any competition, which at this time of year makes its half-hearted home video release even more of a tragedy. Hopefully word of mouth will give it a chance - it's sure to be the start of a rejuvenated franchise, but the quality of this showing deserves to be widely appreciated and the budget of future instalments will surely be determined by its success. Anyone looking for a slice of old-school schlock this Halloween really couldn't do any better.

Reviewed on: 20 Oct 2013
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The demonic doll returns to wreak havoc within a dysfunctional family that’s regrouped for a funeral.

Director: Don Mancini

Writer: Don Mancini

Starring: Fiona Dourif, Brad Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Brennan Elliott, A Martinez

Year: 2013

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US


Frightfest 2013

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