Judge Gordon Sullivan tries to count to ten before cursing.
Foul mouth. Foul temper.
Child's Play has always been the runt of the slasher-film litter. It doesn't have the prestige of the more mainstream franchises (Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street), but it's better than the jokey, mostly laughable low-end gimmicks like Leprechaun. Part of its obscurity comes from the fact that the original trilogy came late to the game in 1988, and the first two sequels followed within three years. After that, the franchise went into hiatus, only to reappear in 1998 with a postmodern film (Bride of Chucky) that reinvented series antihero Chucky as a quip-spewing killer to put Freddy Krueger to shame. That could have reinvigorated the franchise as well, but the creators again sat on things until 2004, when Seed of Chucky took the postmodern turn even farther. Sensing a dead-end, and with a vastly changed horror landscape to compete in, the next installment needed something special. Considering either a reboot or a remake initially, Dan Mancini instead goes back to the series' roots, giving fans Curse of Chucky, which balances things on the horror, rather than the comedy side of the equation.
Facts of the Case
Curse of Chucky opens on a large, isolated house. Inside are an older woman (Chantal Quesnelle, Brusier) who paints and drinks. Her wheelchair-bound daughter Nika (Fiona Dourif, The Master) lives there as well, and in the first scene she opens the door as a huge package is delivered. Inside is a Good Guy doll—its face familiar to all fans of Child's Play and still voiced by Brad Dourif—that Nika's mother puts in the trash. That night Nika hears a scream and finds her mother dead. Confined to her house, Nike begins to suspect there's a connection between the doll and her mother's death.
Truth be told, I would be happy with an endless number of sequels in the Bride of Chucky/Seed of Chucky vein. Something about the combination of over-the-top kills, goofy one-liners, and Brad Dourif's manic voicework as Chucky makes those sequels endlessly entertaining. The fact that they were always slyly winking at the camera and not afraid to make references to other famous monster franchises only added to the charm of the reincarnated Chucky. The cameos (including my all-time favorite appearance by John Waters) only added an extra layer of fun to the proceedings.
Still, all good things come to an end, and even the Chucky/Tiffany dynamic could have worn out its welcome. Scribe Dan Mancini (who also directed both Seed of Chucky and this outing) rightly recognized a time for a change. Reportedly he explored the possibility of a remake or a reboot, but instead went with a return to roots. Curse of Chucky takes place in the continuity of the previous films, though to say exactly how would be to spoil some of the surprise.
Curse of Chucky builds on the strengths of the previous entries. We start out in an isolated location, always Chucky's best killing grounds, and this time the house is a nice and spooky place for Chucky to stalk. This entry switches things up as well. Nika is obviously not Alex from the first three films, and the fact that she's in a wheelchair makes Chucky seem like a more credible threat than he would in other circumstances. The combination of protagonist and setting make this one of the creepier entries in the series.
Despite the turn away from the Bride/Seed focus on comedy, Chucky this time isn't some mealy mouthed generic killer. He's still surprisingly malevolent (at least for a toy) and still as foul-mouthed as ever. More importantly, Brad Dourif has returned to give voice to Chucky. Fans will know the franchise is in the toilet when that's no longer true, but for now Dourif, despite being over sixty, makes his Chucky as dark and funny and horrifying as he's ever been.
Fan engagement with the Child's Play franchise is one of the reasons for its success, and Curse of Chucky: Unrated (Blu-ray) recognizes the importance of that element. Things start with a 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer that shines. The film's dark, blue-tinged look is served well. Detail is strong throughout, especially where Chucky is concerned. Colors are intentionally muted, but skin tones are accurate throughout. Black levels are deep and consistent, with no distracting noise to speak of. Compression artefacts and digital manipulations aren't a problem either. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is equally good. Dialogue is always clean and clear from the front, while the surrounds help flesh out the space of the house with good directionality. Screams and thunder help show the dynamic range of this track, and the latter lets the LFE channel shine in a number of moments.
The set itself houses two discs, a Blu-ray and a DVD copy (iTunes and Ultraviolet Digital Copies are available as well). The DVD contains the unrated cut, while the Blu-ray features both a 97 minute unrated and 95 minute R-rated cut (though why anyone would watch that is beyond me). The extras kick off with a commentary featuring Mancini, Fiona Dourif, and Tony Gardner, who was responsible for the Chucky effects. The trio are lively and discuss all kinds of issues surrounding the franchise, the production, and their relationship to fans. Next up are four featurettes. We get a 15-minute making of, eight minutes on the doll effects, seven minutes on the franchise, and 15 minutes of storyboard comparisons. We also get six minutes of deleted scenes, and a short gag reel.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Curse of Chucky isn't the best entry in the franchise. The film is a bit slow in parts and could probably afford to be shorter by 10 minutes without losing too much meat. Those turned off by the film's turn to self-aware humor with Bride of Chucky might want to come back for this entry, while those who really love the last two sequels might be disappointed by the lack of winking in evidence this time out.
Curse of Chucky is a worthy entry in the Child's Play franchise. Dropping some of the pomo humor in favor of more claustrophobic scares gets back to the roots of the series. It's fun for fans, and with Curse of Chucky: Unrated (Blu-ray) offering a sound audiovisual presentation and decent extras, a purchase is easy to recommend.
Foul-mouthed, yes. Guilty, no.
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Scales of Justice
• R-Rated Cut
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