By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, A. Martinez, Maitland McConnell, Summer Howell, Brad Dourif, and Chantal Quesnelle
Curse of Chucky had so many chances to be enjoyable. For one, with nary a Saw or Paranormal Activity film in sight, this Halloween season is missing an essential part of its enjoyment: horror. So when this film arrived on my doorstep for me to review for his very site, I was finding myself getting a bit excited. Also, Don Mancini, Child’s Play writer since its 1988 inception, has made it very clear that he wanted this to be a return to Chucky’s horror roots. Great! While I found 1998’s Bride of Chucky to be pretty enjoyable, I could never quite get into Seed of Chucky. I thought it got too comfortable with the sheer comedy that worked in ever small doses in Bride. Mancini even went as far as to turn the film into a metaphor for closeted homosexuality. Really?! Not exactly what I look for in my horror films. So with the promises lay forth by Mancini (who makes a point to say on the disc’s commentary track that he made this film specifically with the fans in mind), along with the advantage of being pretty much the only bit of new horror I am going to see this month, there was absolutely no way Curse of Chucky could lose. All I would need is a cold night, a bowl of popcorn, and a turn of this baby in my blu ray player to make for a highly enjoyable night of horror right? Right?!Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. From the get go, Curse of Chucky, for all its intents and purposes, comes off as a complete miscalculated and uneven mess. For one thing, Mancini clearly wants to both have his cake and eat it too. By putting out there that this was going to be a complete ‘scary’ reboot of the frightening aspects of Chucky, he should have stayed on that very narrow path. I would have been fine without winks and nods to the series’ past that have become familiar in today’s comic book films. But Mancini cannot resist. While I am not going to spoil what he does, the complete clusterness of the film’s plot gets to the point where it is incoherent. Ok. Have the little boy from the first film be a little girl now. Have her carry the doll with its body facing forward just like Andy Barclay did twenty-five years ago. That’s fine and actually a nice callback. But, don’t put young make-up on Dourif, throw him back in the mix as original killer Charles Lee Ray, and build a jumbled back story around him (complete with black & white.) It comes off as cheap and a debauchery of storytelling. As does the bizarre decision to have a different looking doll altogether called Chucky Phase 2 (the only reason I know this name is because Mancini divulges it in the film’s commentary) appear only when it’s convenient. Talk about lazy.
While I am not going to give away who, Mancini also litters the film with pointless cameos from films past. Yes, these are supposed to be nods to the loyal audience. But I will say it again: if you are trying to build an entire new universe around this creation and make it ‘scary’ again, why go the origin story route while including cameos that do absolutely nothing but distract you from this new universe you are creating? It made for a completely frustrating viewing, and the conclusion I came to while this was going on is simple: Curse of Chucky wasn’t the stylistic reapproach to the series’ roots that Mancini wants us to believe. And even worse, if Curse of Chucky was stirred in a pot with Seed of Chucky, Seed would start tasting better. Wait, what?
What makes Curse of Chucky even worse is that it seems no one else was pushed to bring their best game either. Bisutti has some of the most embarrassingly bad line readings I have seen in a film all year, and even Brad Dourif seems to be in paycheck collecting mode here. Say what you will about the lesser entries of this series. But one thing you could always guarantee, no matter how bad the surrounding material, is that Dourif would still read and sometimes shout one liners with inspired panache (‘eat dirt, Tommy!’). Here, he just seems bored. It doesn’t help that he has to spin webs around lines like, ‘Women. Can’t live with them. Period.’ Yep. I think I would be bored too.Are there any good things going on here? A couple. I would say if Mancini gets anything right in Curse, it is making the film’s main protagonist be on the same playing ground as Chucky. Even in the good additions to the series, it would seem easy for any full-grown human character to just to kick Chucky’s two foot plastic keister across the street as he comes after you. Mancini wisely has Nica (Fiona Dourif, Brad’s daughter) be a cripple in a wheelchair. And this handicap actually makes for a pretty nifty stalk sequence on a big set of stairs. Also, the younger Dourif (The Master) is by far the most gamed actor in the film, doing her best to make her plight seem very believable given the especially silly circumstances.
But when looking at Curse of Chucky as a whole, it has to be seen as an incomprehensibly wasted opportunity. Even a well-built up webcam kill is horribly paid off. And by the time Chucky finally got his hands on an ax, I was completely tuned out. At ninety-seven minutes, Curse of Chucky is the longest film of the series. And with how many broken promises were had throughout that entire running time, I would argue it is also the most unwatchable. So what’s Christine Elise doing nowadays?