By Jack Dignan
I’ve always had a soft spot for Chucky. The serial killer doll was my first horror love, when 12 or 13 year old me stumbled upon the original Child’s Play for the first time. It blew me away. It was, really, one of the first horror films I ever watched, creating an inherent nostalgia and admiration for all its follow-ups. Most of them are shit. I won’t lie. In fact, I only ever go back and revist the original film, but with each and every new installment, my excitement for this series is reborn. I get excited. I can’t explain why, I just do. And it lets me down nearly every time.
At what point do we have to admit that this franchise has gone off the rails? Introducing Chucky’s son Glen in what can almost be considered a parody of the series should’ve been the first sign. Or maybe the seventh sign. 2013’s Curse of Chucky promised to revitalize the franchise, bringing it back to its horror roots in a gruesome, twisted new installment that left the comedy behind. It wasn’t fantastic. I didn’t love it, but even then, the future of the franchise looked hopeful. This was Chucky as he was born to be, except Seed of Chucky’s infamous shadow still weavers, and it’s holding this franchise back from once again being truly exceptional.
The ending of ‘Curse’ saw our wheelchair-bound protagonist Nica (Fiona Dourif) sentenced to a mental asylum after trying to convince the world that Chucky (Fiona’s real life father Brad Dourif) was responsible for the murder of her family. It’s been four years. Nica is starting to come around into accepting that she was the murderer after all, now transferred to a medium security asylum, a much tamer scenario than she’s used to. In an attempt to rationalise the past, Nica’s doctor, Dr. Foley (Michael Therriault), brings Nica a vintage good guys doll, the same brand that Chucky was, but upon its arrival, a series of grizzly murders begins to unfold.
Cult of Chucky is your typical Chucky fan-fare, now more gruesome and sadistic than ever. Even a flashback to the original movie receives an added extension, purely to amp up the violence present in that original film. The asylum’s walls are a bright white, damping down the overall colour pallet into a numbingly bland design, but an effective one at that. Every hallway looks the same. It’s a twisted, eerie and uncomfortable situation, which creates a great parallel to the vicious violent acts that befall our central characters. The blood and guts stand out. The colour red is only ever seen when it’s gushing from character’s severed limbs or fatal stab wounds. It’s a necessarily jarring sight that really adds to the shock value.
Also thrown into the mix of things is Chucky’s original nemesis, Andy, played by the original kid-actor Alex Vincent. Andy’s storyline feels tacked on and unnecessary, accumulating to very little and bogging down the already bogged down pacing of the film. His story is dumb and full of inconsistences, many of which will have you scratching your head for most of the runtime, including a talking severed Chucky head elsewhere to the actual Chucky. There is a moment, and this is a minor spoiler so be warned, where Andy needs to get into the mental asylum, but the security guard isn’t letting him in. So, he punches the guard in the face and consequently winds up as a permanent patient… yeah… It’s a dumb, logic-defying moment used solely for furthering the plot, and it doesn’t help when Alex Vincent has developed into a painfully bad actor.
As a matter of fact, the entirety of the plot just feels excruciatingly unnecessary. Without spoiling what’s really going on, as it does remain a mystery for a majority of the runtime, Chucky and his beloved Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) have hatched up a secret plan. It leads to a wild and often unpredictable conclusion that follows through with the promised cult aspects of the title. Yet it’s so ridiculously stupid that it drags the already mediocre movie down a notch. Cult of Chucky’s third act is awful. There’s one scene that had me in hysterics with its strange sense of humour, but a coherent plot, this is not. It renders the entire movie pointless. Chucky and Tiffany are after something, and it’s a something they didn’t really need Nica for, yet here she is. The film works better as an unintentional comedy than it does a horror film.
Chucky’s near-thirty years of lore is completely ignored for the sake of creating something we haven’t seen before, yet in its attempts at doing so, we get a generic Chucky thriller with an out of place third act and all around bad acting. It looked as though Chucky was heading in the right direction, but alas, it seems as though it’s just the opposite. While full of fun, gruesome murders, there should be a lot more to this movie than just that. With the 30th anniversary fast approaching, it seems maybe now’s the perfect time to put this franchise to rest.
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