On a long enough timeline, most long running horror franchises succumb to the same fate. Starting with a high concept, scary original they follow them up with an increasingly everything-but-the-kitchen-sink philosophy before going full camp with a smugly ironic comic feel. It’s when the rot has truly set in then the powers that be announce the inevitable reboot in order to get things “back to basics”.
Admirably, the Child’s Play franchise (now up to it’s seven instalment) side stepped this vicious circle with the legitimately awesome Curse Of Chucky, a witty and entertaining that boasted a fantastic mid-film meta twist that changed your perception of what the film actually was 4 years before Split did, while crediting it’s audience with intelligence.
Well, Chucky creator, series scripter and director of parts 5 and 6, Don Mancini has done it again, spinning out a crazed new tale featuring characters from the franchise’s 29 year history both old and new.
Years after the events of Curse Of Chucky, wheelchair bound Nica (Fiona Dourif) is in an asylum for the criminally insane, framed by the devil doll for the murder of her family. Meanwhile, original movie survivor Andy Barcley (Alex Vincent returning from the acting netherworld) has the shotgun blasted, still alive head of Chucky locked in a safe in his fortress-style cabin and is trying to get answers from his ravaged old-adversary by any means necessary.
But wait, if Chucky is being held prisoner by Andy, why is a Good Guy doll being used for Nica’s therapy at the centre of another rash of murders? And why has Chucky’s ex Tiffany (a scene-consuming Jennifer Tilly in her requisite cameo) delivered yet ANOTHER doll to the hospital? What’s going on here?
The secret of why Cult Of Chucky is so much fun is that it delights so much in wrong footing it’s audience. Literally anything goes here, numerous plot twists that keeps the audience second guessing as to what exactly is real mesh neatly with super-gorey deaths and brain melting weirdness (important safety tip, breast feeding a Chucky doll is not advised). It’s HUGE fun and really quite the statement of intent to all the other established horror franchises that playing so much to continuity maybe isn’t the death curse it’s believed to be and maybe rebooting everything isn’t always the answer.
The cast is entertainingly game with kudos to Fiona Dourif (daughter of Chucky voice actor Brad), writer/director Mancini (whose shooting style for this seems to be David Lynch meets Hitchcock) for both going so spectacularly for broke and of course Chucky himself, still nastily funny and thankfully with the spitefully mean little shit edge the previous movie re-established him with. With the budget so reduced these days the doll’s “performance” may not be a polished as his appearance in, say, part 2 but FX guy Tony Gardener makes it work well.
As the film closes with a fittingly dark ending we are presented with an ending so wide open for a sequel, a whole Good Guy delivery truck could jack knife through it with room to spare, but you know what? That’s a good thing.
More Child’s Play sequels (or even horror sequels) like this can only make the genre a better place. And so I’ll finish with a direct message to Don Mancini: keep making ’em this good, Don and I’ll keep watching ’em. As Chucky himself once said: you just can’t keep a Good Guy down.