As a horror fan, the common question we often get is “What movie scared you the most?” While plenty of films have given me the creeps since I was a little kid for me it always goes back to one film…Child’s Play. The original film creeped me out so badly just from seeing images one day in a Fangoria magazine when I was probably still 8 years old (probably before my bday which is in October and Child’s Play released in November) that I was instantly traumatized and didn’t want anything to do with the movie. Even as a young little horror fan who had seen his share of horror movies, there was something that just didn’t sit right with me. Almost 30 years later Chucky has become one of my two favorite horror characters and Child’s Play has moved into a virtual tie with Halloween as my favorite horror film. In 2013 I launched TrueHorror.net in time to coincide with the release of Curse of Chucky, now almost 5 years later to the day Cult of Chucky has arrived.
2013’s Curse of Chucky was a return to form for everyones favorite killer doll, as that film saw Chucky return to a much more serious tone more in line with the first few films. It was a welcome change after the off the wall comedic slant taken in the previous two installments. Cult of Chucky picks up shortly after the events of Curse and once again the horror is played straight for the most part but of course there are moments where Chucky drops some of his patented one liners that more often than not hit their mark. The basic plot of the story for those who don’t know follows Nica (Fiona Dourif) as she adjusts to life in a new mental facility where you guessed it, Chucky eventually shows up and thats when things get bad for everyone there as expected. So lets go ahead and get down to business.
As a diehard Chucky fan, Cult of Chucky was an interesting watch. Writer/Director Don Mancini wanted the film to be a “mind fuck” and he absolutely succeeded. Amber and I watched the film together and we were just as confused as the characters in the film. Often looking at eachother saying “wtf is going on?” At first I really wasn’t sure what was going on or if I even was enjoying the story that was being told. Curse of Chucky was such a straight forward back to basics “killer doll in an old spooky house” film, Cult really is a completely different animal. I will say that the opening scene is quite possibly one of my favorites in the entire series. I thought it was appropriately dark and fitting and while I did ultimately enjoy Cult, I can’t help but feel like I would have rather seen a movie that is all about what is established in that opening scene which features Alex Vincent reprising his role as Andy Barclay. For me as a lifelong fan of the series and as someone who had nightmares about Chucky for years, this scene was PERFECT. I would have loved to see what happened leading up to it. However that is not what Cult of Chucky was for, it was to continue the story of Nica (in addition to Andy) and it does a good job of building her character even moreso than in the last film and I feel she is given much more to do here as an actress and her talent really shines through particularly in the final act.
The majority of Cult takes place within the confines of this mental facility and writer/director Don Mancini uses it to his advantage in crafting a Chucky film that looks very different from the ones that have come before it. The stark white backgrounds contrast really nicely with the colorful Good Guy Doll/Chucky. A great deal of the film is dream like and disorienting, with sequences that will leave you guessing what is real and what is a hallucination. It works for the most part and Mancini does a solid job putting you in the same mindset as the patients who populate the asylum. Mancini has written every film in the series (although much credit must be given to Tom Holland for his additions and changes to the original film script) and now directed the past three films in the series. His budget is most likely shrinking a bit with each installment but he does his best with what he has to work with as the films always look slick and have a nice visual flair. He deserves credit for making the films look as nice as they do. Though this also leads us to perhaps Cult of Chucky’s biggest issue that at times is hard to overlook and that is Chucky himself.
For the past 3 films Chucky’s look has changed and in my opinion it has not been for the better. I think while not as good as his look in Bride of Chucky, Chucky looked pretty good in Seed of Chucky but the difference was noticeable and that is going to be obvious when a different FX team takes over the duties as Tony Gardener (who generally does great work) did for Kevin Yagher (who had done the previous four films), then when Curse came along the difference in looks was quite noticeable, not only was the look different his face was a bit more “smushed” or off. It is hard to pinpoint it, but I think I may write an article on how Chucky has evolved over the years after this , his movements seemed to be much more “herky jerky” for lack of a better term and it is something I as a fan just decided to overlook. In Cult you can tell they started from scratch on his look and while they finally have seemed to nail the moment when he transitions from still doll to Chucky which is really cool to see finally (something they attempted in Curse and did not pull off as well as one would hope) his actual Chucky face when he is out and about is kind of startling with how strange it looks at times. When watching the film we both wondered what is going on with his face. At times it does look pretty good, but there is something going on in the neck chin area that throws the whole thing off, and his eyes may be too low on his face, I think another issue may be the hair styling. But I will save that for my “The looks of Chucky” (working title) article I suppose. The puppet movements in the film are at times extemely fluid facially only to be let down by the body movements which at times are not as fluid as I would like. Still there are plenty of moments where the dolls and Chucky himself look really good and the animatronic performance is done really well. We discussed it after the film and came to the conclusion that working on a smaller budget has it’s limitations and that may be the true culprit for some of what stood out as not great. I will say don’t get me started though on the Good Guy Doll voice. I almost wonder if they lost the rights to the original voice or something (though not sure how that would happen) because it just does not sound right and seems like a strange thing to not get correct. As SOON as we first heard the Good Guy doll voice speak we both were like “uuhhh what?” it is that jarring.
The character of Chucky here is the same one we have all come to know and love with Brad Dourif returning to provide his iconic voice to the role. I will say that he sounds much livelier here than in Curse (which was still good) and I enjoyed his performance more here. He has alot more to work with and without spoiling anything has some truly funny lines. The rest of the cast is serviceable and does the job. There was a strange decision made to cast the cop from the previous film as one of the main patient characters in this one as a completely different character, that was odd. Jennifer Tilly as many of you know by now reprises her role as Tiffany and she does her usual bang up job. There aren’t THAT many characters in the film and Fiona Dourif really does a good job carrying the film all by herself throughout.
I know this review may seem kind of vague but I don’t really want to spoil what is essentially a mystery for a large portion of the running time. If you know what is going on beforehand it takes out alot of what I ended up finding so compelling while watching. When all and said and done, this is a Chucky film that is completely different than those that have come before it. It is definitely one of the crazier entries in the series and pushes the envelope in some ways that I don’t know if fans are ready for but I found it quite interesting and fresh. That is a good thing as Mancini and Co keep reinventing the wheel and all 3 of the last films in the series have been different instead of falling into the problem of doing the same thing over and over that most of Chucky’s horror icon pals have been subjected to. The risks may not always pay off (Seed of Chucky) but Child’s Play is the longest running horror series that has never broke continuity and will most likely not be rebooted or remade anytime soon. 7 films deep and the story is continuing to go to new places and try new things. That is to be commended, even when the films and choices won’t be for everybody. I feel like Cult of Chucky will divide fans and that is sometimes a result of trying something very different. This is probably not the Chucky story I personally wanted to see told, that story and film is probably found somewhere between Curse and Cult and focuses more on Andy’s relationship and life dealing with the aftermath of his Chucky encounters. This may give us a great glimpse into that but I want more of it. That being said, this is still a worthy entry to the series and expands on the story and opens up new doors for the future installments while respecting the past. We may never go back to the original vibe of the first that was dead serious and extremely creepy, but all fans should be happy that Chucky is still around to cause a little havoc, especially when he shows up in time for Halloween, especially with a new haircut.
Amber’s review with Spoilers (Amber is a known Jason button pusher and Chucky hater)
It is pretty evident by my continual hate for Jason’s taste in movies i.e. Child’s Play 3, Halloween III, House of the Devil, The Endless..oh wait that last one is the wrong person. Anyway, so when I agreed to a viewing party with Jason I was less than thrilled. Thankfully I knew seeing Church, Jason’s beautiful zombie cat, would make it all worth it so I reluctantly agreed. Also there were going to be tacos there for National Taco Day…..
As shocking as it is since I am a true Chucky hater, I really did not hate Cult of Chucky. I was surprised how unexpected the entire film was in a pleasant way. Cue Jason fist pump noting he’s broken me as a person.
Nothing was really revealed about the storyline or direction of the film before viewing besides us getting to see some familiar faces and some sort of cult living in a mental institution.
The film started off slow, almost seemingly a bit corny. For a few moments(maybe the entire film), I provided negative commentary, wondering if this was going to be another disappointment like Jeepers Creepers 3. Saying I liked Curse of Chucky (Cue second fist pump), I was really hoping for a turnaround..or an avalanche into awfulness so I could continue to hate on the franchise thus ruining Jason’s life a tad bit more and reminding him every time I saw him.
Once the storyline got moving, I was intrigued. I had no idea where the hell this movie was headed and I feel like at one point neither did the cast. Whether that was good or bad, it kept my attention to keep persisting on ( or maybe it was the budweisers tainting my judgment). After the film we watched a behind the scenes clip, where director Don Mancini states he wanted to take this in an entirely different direction than previous films. He did this quite well, taking away the vulgarness of some of the other films and going with a plot I would have never seen coming.
The biggest setback was no minor setback though as Chucky’s face looked fucking awful. It was all scrunched together and it had me questioning the budget early on. I swear they brought Bertman aka Stewie’s archenemies in Family Guy to life. I’m like its cross over time. Fuck, the face looked awful. Brad’s voice and iconic laugh was fantastic as always. I really don’t even need to mention it as he has always been the master when it comes to voicing Chucky. Just that stupid face hurt Chucky. The worst part is the guy who was in charge of animatronics is apparently quite good. I only blame the budget and not him. Hopefully this is fixed in future films. Not that I’ll be watching because Chucky still sucks….(I’ll secretly be watching.)
Fiona Dourif continued to impress. Her transition from sweet, sheltered helpless victim to no longer naive skeptic felt truly natural. She’s an excellent addition to this series and would love to continue to see her in future installments. The absolute most enjoyable aspect was Nica’s transformation post Charles Lee Ray. She switched from victim to murderer in a snap and we got to see true versatility. It was insane how easy the portrayal was. Was it just me or suddenly her character got way sexier? Thankfully so due to the lack of red hair color (which I swore she rocked in the previous installment) and those awful unintentional dreads. At first I tried to excuse it as maybe they cannot have brushes there in the asylum. But then all the other characters have clean, brushed, done up hair and nothing makes sense. Neither does me watching this film I loathe. Whatever, looking past that and suddenly having workable legs after like 30 years of never being able to walk, her character development has been impressive. I hope she has more work outside of this series.
Ugh the other awful part of the film was framed military academy shirt which was clearly a reference to Child’s Play 3 and hopefully the only nod to that awful sad excuse for a sequel film.
Editor’s Note: Amber actually wore her favorite Child’s Play 3 tee for the big occasion while we watched the movie. So…
Finally, the one savior to this film besides Nica was short haired Chucky. Spoiler (although this has all been spoilers) there are four Chucky dolls in this film. One of them has a haircut and boy he is fucking adorable. It’s sad to say we’ll never see him again since he dies two minutes later…RIP. Time to write a letter to Universal convincing them to make a short haired Chucky doll. I hope Jason never finds out my real love and how I’m willing to throw money at buying that stupid, ugly, yet fucking-adorable doll.
The post-credits introduces another familiar face but this scene is not available on Netflix. Fear not, it’ll probably come to youtube shortly or just buy the blu ray to support short haired Chucky. Makes me wonder how long they want to make this franchise to keep going and whether we’ll see the actor who portrayed Andy in Child’s Play 3 next…I’ve seen crazier things happen in this series. *cough Glen transgender doll* cough
My final thoughts are if you have Netflix, just watch it for the sake of Halloween. If you can find the unrated film, view that one for the post-credits scenes instead and for some gorier kills. At times, the seventh installment is bearable (almost enjoyable, yes Jason I know you smiled right there and fist pumped for a third time) and when Chucky is in his prime aka dropping one liners, it is fantastic. Plus short haired Chucky makes this a top 10 movie of the year. Someone buy him for me.