Monday, February 3, 2014

You Can't Keep a Good Guy Down

I dare not even attempt coyness on the subject of Child’s Play. As many loyal readers already know, meeting a certain precocious plastic stabber at the ripe age of 6 changed my young life, pointing me forever down a path wherein the subject of dolls both terrified and fascinated me. 

Following a year of nightmares brought on by my inappropriate viewing of Charles Lee Ray’s first film outing, I went on to see every ensuing installment in the theaters. Perhaps the ushers gave my mother a questionable look when she brought her 8 and 10 year old children into a viewing of the particularly mean-spirited Child’s Play 2. Maybe it was odd that my entire family attending a weeknight screening of Private Chucky (aka Child’s Play 3). It was thrilling to be a teenager spending a Friday night with friends educating them on the franchise’s history when viewing Bride of Chucky. Nothing, however, has quite come close to the time I attended a matinee showing of Seed of Chucky by my lonesome, free to giggle and guffaw to my solo self’s content.

I adore the Child’s Play series, particularly the fifth installment lovingly written and directed by series creator Don Mancini. I rarely turn down a chance to proclaim my adoration for the highly underrated Seed of Chucky, making the fact that Mancini returned to the director’s chair for 2013’s Curse of Chucky such good news.

Quick Plot: Nica is an agoraphobic 25 year old paralyzed below the waist and nursing a heart problem inside an almost offensively awesome gothic-yet-modern home. One day, a mysteriously unmarked package arrives for Nica’s flighty mother. Guess who’s inside:

Before you can say hidee ho, Nica’s mom is found dead as a presumed suicide. Such news brings out Nica’s older sister Barb, along with her doofy husband Ian, cute kid Alice, sexy nanny Jill, and sexier priest played by She-Devil’s A. Martinez. 

Not just ANY Martinez. A. Martinez. 

Proceed to typical Chucky shenanigans as the foul-mouthed toy spends the evening poisoning chili, electrocuting the scantily clad, cussing a storm at a little girl, and plucking out eyeballs with giddy one-liners. The story is fairly straightforward, although the tone is decidedly different from most of the other installments. Whereas Bride and Seed were essentially all-out horror comedies (and very funny ones at that), Curse plays more like a horror film, effectively setting up its glorious home setting as a place filled with hiding spots and rickety elevators. While the franchise pretty much gave up on making Chucky a scary figure for its last two films, Mancini finds a way to stage him as a true villain.

It helps that his victims aren’t exactly U.S. Army cadets or Chicago policemen. Nica, played quite well by Fiona Dourif (yes, she’s Brad’s daughter; yes, she looks exactly like him; and yes, she somehow manages to be an attractive woman despite looking exactly like Brad Dourif), is hampered by a heart condition and wheelchair. While the character quite wonderfully proves herself to be a worthy adversary, the fact that she has these physical limitations helps to ward off some of the obvious ‘just fight back’ eye rolls often thrown at killer doll films and their ilk.

As you would also expect from the man who brought us Seed of Chucky, Curse is also quite funny, just not as aggressively so as its predecessors. It’s a tricky balance, but the film manages to be, for the most part, a straight horror film with just enough touches of humor to entertain on a separate level. Fans of the series will gobble up the final 20 minutes, especially since they bring back some familiar faces not to be revealed here.

High Points
The biggest complaint I’ve heard lodged against this franchise and really, any involving villainous shorties is that some viewers find it impossible to be scared of something they can just kick. Well haters, guess what: if you’re paralyzed below the waist, YOU CAN’T JUST KICK AN EVIL SUPERSTRONG KNIFE-WIELDING DOLL. Well-played, Mr. Mancini

Low Points
While I ultimately want to marry the final five minutes (especially once you add the vital post-credits sequence), I will confess to being one of the maybe many who thought ...


...that the introduction of Tiffany in the evidence depository was supposed to take place during the timeline of Bride of Chucky. Sure, it didn’t line up with that part of the series, but since the scene with the police officer was almost beat-for-beat the opening of Bride, I just figured the movie was ret-conning the last two films and spinning its own tale. The Internet (including an interview with Don Mancini himself) proved me wrong: Curse is indeed a sequel that follows Seed, give or take a few years for Tiffany (now in the body of Jennifer Tilly, natch) and a messily sewn-back-together Chucky to make up. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense and is SERIOUSLY AWESOME, but I will concede that the actual execution could have been done a little cleaner so as to not confuse some viewers.

Lessons Learned
If you’re confined to one secluded house that gets no cellular reception, you’re probably better off just canceling your iPhone plan and saving on the unused minutes

Real hell is watching a DVR’d Real Housewives marathon while eating tuna melts

Dolls using the F-word are never not funny

Look! It’s-
Some guy named Brennan Elliot playing the amusingly incompetent Ian. Why is this important, you ask? Mr. Elliot apparently had a supporting role as a henchman in what has become my favorite Lifetime movie of all my life time, Murder On the 13th Floor. 

See, like any actor ever appearing on an episode of Law & Order: SVU, I have a compulsion to always mention the hilarious Murder On the 13th Floor any time I have even the vaguest excuse to do so. Hence, Murder On the 13th Floor.*

*I also have this weird fantasy that if I say the title enough times while staring in a mirror by candlelight, I will suddenly be living the life of a sharp-faced Jordan Ladd on the penthouse of a high-tech apartment building, hiring overly violent, ultimately inefficient thugs to slaughter my nanny. Let me dream...

For any fan of the Child’s Play series, Curse of Chucky is a must. Aside from its full-out fan service in the final act, it manages to do some new things with the legacy and character. Brad Dourif gets a little more to do, and his eerily spitting image of a daughter holds her own as a plucky protagonist. Writer/director Don Mancini achieves quite the challenge in making a horror film that’s occasionally scary, occasionally funny, and ultimately, quite a treat for those friends to the end.

Shortening Cred: It’s Chucky. He’s 2 feet tall and not growing. Long live the King of the Shortening!


  1. I was genuinely surprised with this ones, especially after the previous two entries, which I found kind of ho-hum while his son being dropped really only added to my enjoyment here. At the same time though it was a film which seemed to correct itself everytime I found something to gripe about, with the nods to the fan being especially welcome.

    The most suprising thing though is how they have managed to take Chucky from being a comedic character back to his horror roots and create a film which was a real throw back to the first. Now I just have to wonder were they plan to go next.

    Did you read either the Chucky comic strip or the issues of Hack / Slash he appeared in all which followed on from Seed of Chucky aswell?

    1. Considering Chucky has had over 20 years of becoming such a cultural icon in a more comedic sense, I agree that it was quite the feat to make him scary again. I just loved the tone of this one!

      I haven't read any of the Chucky fiction. Is it worth it?

    2. I personally really liked it as it stayed true to the character and provided a nice bridge between films.

      Hack / Slash is a great series especially for the amount of nods it gives to horror movies, as well as also featuring memorable appearances not only by Chucky but also Herbert "Re-animator" West.

    3. I'm intrigued! I'll put it on my radar.

  2. It brings me giddy delight when all roads point back to SVU for you...

    But in news you may not know: this was such a surprisingly refreshing installment for me. I don't think I was sure what to expect but I'm glad we got the film we did. Continuity was a slight issue but it didn't take away from the enhancement of the mythology or the rad ending.

    1. There are few roads that will ever NOT point back to SVU. If they exist, they're only a town ordinance away from being rerouted!

      I'm glad you dug this one! It gives me the happies to hear I'm not alone!

  3. Great review - it's always interesting to see where franchises go; I didn't bother much with most of the Chucky sequels (due to really bad reviews), except Bride of Chucky, which was quite comedy!

    I've always been quite freaked out by Chucky owing to one incident whilst watching the first one. Was round at my mate's (both aged about 11) to watch the video - and her mum thought it would be hilarious to sneak out into the front garden with a doll and a torch, listen through the window for a really scary bit of the film and then bang said doll against the glass whilst doing strobe effects with the torch - evil but genius!

    1. If you liked Bride, then you really should check out Seed. It's pretty much a straight (well, not QUITE) black comedy. And it's REALLY funny!

      Your mate's mum sounds fairly awesome. Or evil. Either way, very much like my older sister who chased me around the house with a one-eyed doll that I was terrified of. I'm both thankful and still bitter!

  4. Yep, a pleasant surprise! I haven't actually liked any of them after the first--which I loved--up until this one. But it's nice to get away from campy and go back to scary...

  5. This was indeed suprisingly good.
    Seed was just too campy for me and thankfully they went the horror route again (but still kept it tongue-in-cheek).
    I loved how they toyed with the viewer expectations. Especially in that scene where it's revealed who is ACTUALLY cheating on who.
    The final moments where a certain well-known character pops up out of nowhere were a nice suprise.
    The post-credit scene was awesome too.

    Maybe I'm crazy but is Fiona Dourif a total dead ringer for singer Shakira or what?

    1. You get the sense that Mancini really wanted to play with audience expectation. There were, as you mentioned, quite a few 'mini-twists' that just helped to keep all the action and characters genuinely surprising.

      Shakira eh? Hm. I'm just so distracted by how much she looks like her dad!

    2. Obviously Shakira looks like Brad Dourif :D
      You should check out pictures of Shakira where she still has her natural hair color (which is (dark) brown btw). There's a striking resemblance.

    3. I see it! The eyes aren't quite as terrifying, but there's definitely a resemblance!