Month of Horror 2017: Dealer’s Choice – Chucky: Curse of Chucky

10/05/2017 – Chucky: Curse of Chucky (2013)
Directed by Don Mancini

After the release of Halloween in 1978, the Slasher genre quickly fell into patterns. Halloween begat the lousy Friday the 13th series and it seemed like that was the template for everything that followed. Most of the films were a few entries tops (even if I’m sure the creator wanted the next big franchise, but a few horror movies of the era begat far too many sequels. Of that late 70s- 80s era thus far, the slasher franchises of Friday the 13th has 11 and a reboot, Halloween has 8 and two from a reboot series, and A Nightmare on Elm Street has 8 and reboot, while in non-slashers Alien has 8 films, Children of the Corn has 8, Hellraiser has 9, The Howling has 8, Predator has 7, Puppet Master has 13, and Witchcraft has 16 (the only franchise I’ve seen none of).

Grouped in though with those three lengthy horror series is a fourth which debuted at the end of the era, 1990. Child’s Play followed the doll Chucky (voiced by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s Brad Dourif), who was possessed by the soul of a serial killer (Charles Ray played by Dourif). While Halloween got progressively worse with each installment (Aside from a brief boost in quality for Halloween Water) and two installments in a remake series, A Nightmare on Elm Street progressively sillier (and with the exception of the horrific 2nd installment which broke the flow, consistently declined as well) and never had a reboot no matter what anyone tries to say, and Friday the 13th varying between different levels of crap occasionally popping up to decent (VI and Freddy vs. Jason) or at the very least fun to watch and mock (VIII and X), Child’s Play did something different after three declining installments, lean into the skid (Okay Friday the 13th Part VI did that too but they quickly reversed this).

Bride of Chucky took what is an inherently silly concept and instead of just becoming another Children of the CornLeprechaun or Puppet Master full of DTV films or try to desperately to recreate the surprisingly effective first two films, it went full on horror-comedy and took advantage of the post-Scream market. And it worked, Bride of Chucky is a lot of fun and Jennifer Tilly was an excellent complement to Dourif) as the titular bride. While rewatching the film with a friend earlier, I found it really made for a perfect friend movie too. Perfect to throw on it the background and laugh with but hardly very complex. Seed of Chucky saw Don Mancini, who had penned every entry to that point, take over directing. It tried to be even more comedic but failed pretty hard and it seemed like the series had hit that inevitable end.

Nine years passed until a new entry surprisingly debuted. A new entry, variously described as a sequel and a reboot, was rumored for years but after all the other slasher big shots got a remake, it seemed that would be the ultimate fate. Not only was this sequel released after nine years, it was released direct to DVD which is a sure sign that the series was headed for low budget films to be crapped out regularly. But something surprising happened, reviews started getting around saying it was actually a return to form and since then I’ve been tempted to watch but never really had time. But then a second sequel was released this year with even more positive reviews and it was clear that I had to check it out. The fact that Netflix’s horror selection is ridiculously recent skewing (thank goodness for Shudder), the prospect of a throwback 80s title was enticing.

In a way, the talk about Curse of Chucky was true, it is a sequel and a reboot. While it’s very clear this is all in the same continuity and Dourif returns. The film has gone back to the series’ roots as a straight horror with a dark sense of humor. It also returns to the roots of Chucky not being the main character who is expected to carry the film on his dark one liners. The movie seems to act both on the knowledge we have of Chucky with the spooky music during otherwise normal scenes and the way it doesn’t really hide who is behind the murders, but still holding back on the actual reveal as we are back to the kid apparently talking to the doll with no voice heard. It isn’t until about fifteen minutes that Chucky even moves and only slightly an arm here, some eyes there, and then finally showing him sneaking some rat poison into a dish. It isn’t until we get an hour in he finally speaks in his proper voice, the restraint making it all the more satisfying and it is clear Dourif still has it.

The story itself is clearly chosen for its low cost but the movie is clever about it. A grown woman in a wheelchair (named Nica) mysteriously receives a Chucky doll and shortly thereafter her mother is murdered. Her sister and her family move in while they try to convince the daughter to agree to sell the house. The sister is a real bitch complaining about having to possibly send her kid to public school despite having a live-in nanny but really, there is no reason for a single woman living alone, let alone in a wheelchair, to need a sizable two-story house (even one with an elevator). I’m not saying they needed to send her to an assisted living place as the sister implies, just you know, a smaller rancher or something would have been fine. The film makes a great companion piece to Hush in the way it uses its handicapped lead not as a means of gaining sympathy for them, but in the way it affects the story. It adds terror as it restricts their ability to escape and fight back and naturally makes them seem helpless at the hands of a knowing psychopath, while still being strong female characters. Also they are both home invasion movies so there’s that.

I did also appreciate the fun twist on who’s screwing the nanny; SPOILERS it’s the wife with the husband having the suspicions (well more than that seeing as he nanny cam-ed her). I mean it wasn’t weird at all having a sexy video call with the nanny as your daughter is in the background but seeing Chucky pop up in the background made the whole scene worth. END OF SPOILERS I love the overhead revolving shot of a series of six plates, one poisoned, as it looks like a revolver used in a game of Russian Roulette, the suspense at the movie’s patiently holding out on showing who was poisoned. While the kills lean towards the typical stabby Chucky staples, SPOILERS the second kill of the man beheaded by the hood of his car, the accident not seen, only the moment where it is removed and he dies is awesome complete with a shot of a severed hand holding a rosary. There is also a classic kill, if a silly one, in an electrocution through a tiny puddle of water but they at least took the kill serious. END OF SPOILERS The effects on Chucky, specifically his face, look pretty CGIed this time out but I didn’t mind it.

It’s not perfect as Charles Ray is lookin’ a bit older than when he actually died as Brad Dourif can’t run from father time and really missed his perfect role in playing Tommy Wiseau. Plot wise though, it works even in its contrivances. Turns out SPOILERS Charles Ray killed her father and crippled her in the womb when her mom ratted him out and set up the events of the first movie. So really, all of this was just one reallllllly delayed revenge plot. In the end, Chucky wins except for killing the one daughter who’s taunting of Chucky and his inability to achieve “completion” and the way she is yelling at Chucky as she is wheeled away at the end was absolutely delicious. Also, sure the cameo by Felix of Orphan Black was awesome but the SURPRISE RETURN OF JENNIFER TILLY!!! was what made me truly happy. Not only that, but a sequel hook of Chucky possibly being inside the body of a grandma is certainly something hilarious and I look forward to getting to later today (or a couple of minutes for you folks). END OF SPOILERS

The film is gory without being silly even once Chucky starts talking again while still having a sense of fun. It’s a perfect return to form for a series that has long exceeded expectations.

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Bonus Episode #3 – Natural: Of Unknown Origin (1983)
Directed by George P. Cosmatos

As much as it can be fun writing all these up, sometimes it is fun to just watch something without taking dozens of notes. I’ve talked about natural horrorplenty last year so just read that if you want a deconstruction of the genre. Not much I can add to that or really to say about a film where Robocop fight a giant rat.

“Robocop fights a giant rat” is a hell of logline though at the time this was made, Peter Weller hadn’t even starred in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Also the rat is kept out of the focus, his presence mostly limited to seeing the affects of its actions as it terrorizes the house of Weller’s character and quick scenes of a rat gnawing on something. It’s not until the end that we see just how abnormally big it is. Weller plays a father whose family leaves for vacation and is left home alone in their rather spacious inner city house. As the rat causes more and more problems he is forced to try increasingly severe methods to try and kill it before SPOILERS commando-ing it up and killing it once and for all. He destroys his house fighting it but he wins and looks awesome doing it.  END OF SPOILERS

It’s a nice enjoyable little film, not as cheesy as its premise implies, but even more than Curse of Chucky keeps things light. It’s satisfying, well-paced, and knows to be over in under 90 minutes. What more could I ask for (well maybe a slightly less stupid looking rat for Weller to fight).

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Bonus Episode #4 – Chucky: Cult of Chucky (2017)
Directed by Don Mancini

After the surprise (well not too much considering I had heard word of quality before) return to quality of the series earlier today, I was excited to dive back in and finish off the series. The film though had other ideas about this fairytale ending where Curse of Chucky would be the launching point for a great modern run on the title. SPOILERS The return of Andy at the start was fun but it felt like we missed a film as we open on Andy having already shot Chucky in the face, blowing off a large portion of it as he keeps his decapitated and still alive head so he can torture it. END OF SPOILERS Apparently, it was from the post credits scene of the unrated version of Curse of Chucky a but it still feels weird to have a direct to DVD film with two versions and then starting your next movie assuming that the viewer has seen it is fucking stupid. And since I didn’t see the end sequence until when bored and nearly through this movie that I remembered this, well I’d have been be happy to see him show back up at the end of that but it just didn’t fit with the scene with the grandmother. I don’t feel like spoiler tagging the rest of this review so if you haven’t seen the first just leave now and go to the final paragraph (though I’m sure reading the last paragraph made it pretty clear my opinion of the movie).

The lead from the last movie has been enduring psych and electroshock treatment having been transferred to a mental facility where she meets the typical assortment of weirdos. At first these feel a bit more accurate and less a pile of one note quirks than typically seen in these movies but the generic electroshock in movies treatment along with that whole female nurses wearing a stupid hat thing is pretty accurate foreshadowing of what is to come.

While I get that they can’t just do the same thing as last time every time, this just feels like a big regression. After a doctor buys a Chucky doll for the rehab (for some reason) and the survivor of the last movie is visited in prison by Tilly’s character claiming the woman’s niece is dead and gives her a Chucky doll, it is made quickly clear that one is alive as it is quickly shown taking a scalpel. It is only 25 minutes or so before Chucky speaks. I think the movie was meant to be more of a comedy but I really have no clue as it seems to be making fun of the people with mental difficulties while sometimes wanting to treat it seriously. The murders feel far more-mean spirited both in the way it mostly targets people who are generally good people and the whole treatment of mental illness that started out so well. It’s not even in a way that is supposed to make us care about them and wish they’d survive, they are just tossed off casually with a one liner. It made me really yearn to be rewatching A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors instead especially as it almost starts to head in that direction with the film bringing one person after another into the believing fold.

I know people are generally more accepting about unbelievable things if the basic premise is unrealistic, but I’ve always been a supporter of the internal consistency thing. One part “this is our world but [blank] is possible” and another sticking by your own rules. Violating the first part is of course the whole electroshock thing but also just the general policies here. The first-time Chucky kills another of the patients SPOILERS he cuts her arm open and before she died and carved “Chucky did it” in a pool of blood. Not only weren’t all the rooms locked before for some stupid reason, but the rooms still aren’t locked because they assumed suicide for some ridiculous reason and not assuming the person who claimed her murders were committed by a Chucky was behind it. Hell, restrain her at the very least.

Then the doctor starts trying to convince her she is committing the murders for some reason (and in another case of really confused tone has apparently has been taking advantage of her while she’s drugged up) and I become completely lost as to what the heck is going on at this hospital. The fact that they even let the two Chuckys be in the same place before and after a murder feels so contrived.

The contrivances really are where the second part comes into play with how the film has decided that Charles Lee Ray can make any Chucky alive at the same time or something thanks to some new spell. Or just any human he feels like. A brief joyful scene of them interacting with each other isn’t worth making Chucky into some unstoppable force who can never be killed until the next film comes up with some other contrivance. END OF SPOILERS

But really it’s just a big letdown of a film and feels far more in line with what you’d expect from a DTV movie after Seed of Chucky. The film feels far slower as I found myself frequently checking how much time was left. The film went bigger in scope but instead just stretches itself too thing. The kills feel lazier SPOILERS with a compressed oxygen into a window which somehow decapitates a woman after falling maybe 10 feet feeling like a crappy Final Destination kill. END OF SPOILERS The big cameos of SPOILERS Andy and the return of the doll played by Tilly END OF SPOILERS just feel token. The sequel hook of SPOILERS a possessed version of Nica (and now able to walk as apparently the paralysis he cause can be cured by possession) heading off with the possessed version of Chucky’s girlfriend. END OF SPOILERS I want to live in the universe implied by the ending of the last film, not this crappy one. Also the film made a reference to Hannibal the series which just felt weird but whatever, probably would have enjoyed it if it had happened in a better film.

Next up: Continuing the theme lately of 2017 movies, I take a look at one of the most acclaimed horror titles of the year and discuss Raw as well as giving a more proper and thorough bit of attention to the female directors who are underrepresented in horror (and well all of them).

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