UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2017)
Director: Don Mancini
Starring: Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Michael Therriault, Adam Hurtig, Alex Vincent, Jennifer Tilly
“A true classic never goes out of style” – most of the time.
The seventh installment of the Child’s Play saga necessitates a return for the lovable slaughterdoll Chucky. The original Child’s Play I enjoyed, though the subsequent sequels have fallen into the trap so many horror franchises do – each new movie is worse than the previous (bar Curse of Chucky). So, could Cult of Chucky pull a New Nightmare and buck the trend by being pretty good?
Returning again is Nica (Fiona Dourif), but after the events of Curse of Chucky she is now institutionalized at a psychiatric hospital having taken the fall for Chucky’s killing spree. The shock treatment and constant convincing from the lecherous Dr. Foley (Therriault) has her believing that she did, in fact, commit the murders and that Chucky is simply alive in her head. The other patients don’t look too kindly on having her in their ward, though sleazy Officer Stanton (Hurtig) doesn’t seem to upset. A few patients seem to inhibit the hospital, but it’s pretty sparse otherwise – the contemporary setting, with clinical white walls and floors, gleams in every shot as the thick, gentle snow falls outside.
The sterile silence doesn’t last long, however, as multiple ‘Good Guy’ Chucky dolls begin to show up at the facility, notably one delivered by Tiffany (Tilly) – her convoluted character emerging once more – and as Nica still struggles to convince the facility that Chucky is behind the sudden death spree, the walls close in and Chucky, it seems, has his own grand plan to execute.
Narrative chief Don Mancini is back to breathe new life into the sagging saga after the relative upswing of Curse of Chucky and has brought back some old friends. Chucky’s original nemesis Alex Vincent returns as Andy after last appearing in Child’s Play 2 (1990) and Jennifer Tilly continues into her fourth movie of the series. Fiona Dourif and Adam Hurtig rollover from the previous movie too. Alas, Chucky wouldn’t be Chucky if it wasn’t for Brad Dourif and, of course, he’s back again to voice the malevolent doll. Not content with just calling on recurring characters, there are plenty of callbacks to the previous six movies, however, if you’re coming in fresh with Cult of Chucky – you will be pretty much lost.
To the movie itself, it’s not great. It becomes very repetitive very quickly - Chucky kills someone, Nica asserts that everything is down to Chucky, no one believes her. Nica visits Dr. Foyle, she falls under his spells, leaves, and repeat. The movie picks up slightly into the final act, but any decent ideas are quickly quashed and rushed off in order to get to the movie’s end. In terms of tone, the movie merges the black comedy of recent Chucky movies with the straight-up horror of the original three. It’s certainly more of a return to form for the franchise, but not enough of the story/characters/beats are developed to present a fully engaging movie. There are some inventive kill scenes – compressed gas cylinder meets ridiculously conveniently placed glass ceiling – but sadly, it’s all a bit lacking.
Warning - its B movie acting throughout, save for Fiona Dourif who is pretty good with what she has to work with. Brad Dourif will always be fun to listen to and generally receives a free pass.
Within horror movies, I’m a huge fan of snow. It looks great and it lends a strange ethereal feeling to wherever a movie is set. Cult of Chucky is no different. The beautiful long shots of the snowy crossroads and the snow falling through the ceiling look wonderful. Similarly, the pure white interior of the facility lashed with rich red blood is a good look, it’s a well-worn trope but remains effective.
During the movie, I never found myself in ‘fear’ or even intrigued to see where the story goes, it just wasn’t enthralling. Fans of the Child’s Play franchise will dig this and it's clear Mancini has made a movie for the devoted. Others may enjoy a bit of splatter, but there isn’t enough here to promote the franchise stumbling on – even if Cult of Chucky now feverishly demands a follow-up.
Put the doll back in the box.
September 25th 2017