There’s a very funny connotation to the “outsider” role in the horror community considering that, by-and-large, horror fans are difficult to categorize in their own right. And yet, the horror community continually supports the underdogs, whether it’s the freakishly charming, the enthusiastically sadistic or the murderously disadvantaged. Of course, there are few that fit that billing as well as Chucky, the possessed doll that’s been spilling blood with a mixture of dark comedy and nightmare fodder for 25 years now. But most importantly, not only have horror fans watched the little psychopath massacre his way through myriad of victims for a quarter of a century, but we’ve watched the character, and the filmmakers around the character, adapt to allow him to stay fresh, scary and enjoyable without compromising his stature as a genre icon.
In many ways, Curse of Chucky helps continue that legacy, deviating from the humor-heavy previous installment Seed of Chucky and returning to the stylish and mischievous macabre of Bride of Chucky, which is a welcome change-of-pace by any measure. Chucky is back to his position of a foul-mouthed, sinister character, although the sense of humor of the character is still clearly retained and is emphasized more and more as the film continues. Curse of Chucky offers a deeper look into the mythology of the series and Chucky’s prerogative in the grand scheme of things, while providing the framework for a whole new Chucky tale, in which a dysfunctional family reunites for the funeral of the matriarch and ends up afoul of a clean-faced Chucky who arrived via mysterious package. It’s a much more simple film than it’s predecessors, with a shocking intimacy about the character development and lower body count.
Of course, series mastermind Don Mancini has certainly upped his game as director, adding an understanding of pacing and a classically perceived understanding of horror that requires patience to build suspense. Of course, when the gore hits, it hits gloriously albeit infrequently and in some cases, almost uninspired, but no doubt many fans will be upset by the use of a CGI Chucky in several scenes. Cinematographer Joseph LoDuca builds one of the sharpest looking Child’s Play films to date, which helps the film’s more patient setting and longer set-pieces play to a maximum effect. It also helps that LoDuca scores the film, which works better through building dread in lieu of dumb jump scares, which also elevates the humorous moments with a similar pattern.
A standard for a normally underrated series, Curse of Chucky harbors some great performances all around, possibly some of the best in the franchise’s history. Brad Dourif once again relishes his devilish role, seemingly more involved in his flashback sequences as Charles Lee Ray but knows Chucky so he can hit every inflection and expression with accuracy and synchronicity. His daughter, Fiona, is a revelation as the lead, embracing the role of the handicapped lead and showcasing such conviction and appreciation for the series that perhaps another actress may not convey. Likewise, the supporting cast is certainly above the grade of the horror crowd, with Danielle Bisutti, A. Martinez and company all pulling their weight and selling the narrative that leads, admittedly so, from kill to kill.
Despite some genuinely groan-inducing one-liners, and an ending laden with fan service and winking that hurts the film more than it helps, Curse of Chucky is a solid addition to the franchise and a positive direction for the series. The film is creepy and brutal when it needs to be, but Mancini’s directorial intuition is much more restrained and clearer than his previous entry in the franchise. Brad and Fiona Dourif bring their A-game to this film, and the supporting cast helps sell the ultimately silly premise. At this point, most horror fans know whether they’re open minded to the Child’s Play franchise or not, and if you are thinking of getting the franchise another chance, Curse of Chucky may not be a home run but it’s certainly a valiant effort and worthy of further adventures of our most miniature murderer.