First off, let me say that ‘Child’s Play’ is one of my favourite horror franchises ever. Whilst it does follow the classic franchise trait in that some films are better than others, each film has it’s own identity and none of them feel the same, as if their getting into a rut like the contents of some other franchises I could mention. I know that this is due to the fact that all seven films have been written by the same man, Don Mancini who I have massive respect for.
The way in which some horror franchises typically work is that if the first film is successful, the writer/director has succeeded in their vision and all subsequent films are handed over. Therefore each film looks and feels different stylistically, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Also typically, the writer/director will return later on in the series. This happened in Friday the 13th with Sean Cunningham who directed the first film and didn’t return to the franchise until ‘Friday the 13th Part 9: Jason Goes To Hell (1993)’ in the role of producer. It also happened with John Carpenter who wrote and directed ‘Halloween (1978) along with Debra Hill as the co-writer/producer. He then wrote ‘Halloween II (1981)’ but did not direct. Carpenter and Hill returned to produce ‘Halloween III (1982)’ and afterwards sold the rights to the Halloween Franchise. Carpenter is set to return to the Halloween Franchise next year along with Jamie Lee Curtis.
Having a series that is written by the same person has several advantages and the best thing about it for me is in terms of the consistency in the characters. The main character of the franchise is obviously Charles Lee Ray or ‘Chucky’ as he is now known and is voiced so wonderfully by Brad Dourif. Chucky is unlike the ‘Michael Myers’ or the ‘Jason Voorhees’ of the horror world because Chucky has a voice and a personality, quite a fun personality for a serial killer. I’m just going to give in and call it ‘dark comedy’ and it comes in great contrast to the seriousness of his prey. There’s no one other than Chucky cracking the jokes in the films… Apart from Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), Chucky’s significant other and the two come as a very appealing double act.
I’ll refrain from talking about the series as a whole any further because I plan to do a ‘Reviewing a Cult Franchise’ series for these films just like I did for Halloween. So let’s get into ‘Cult of Chucky’. I am very much aware that this film has been released only recently and I will be talking about some very significant plot points so if you haven’t seen this film and don’t want to know what happens then this is your ‘spoiler warning’.
A brief overview of the plot goes as follows.
‘Cult of Chucky’ is set four years after the last film which is convenient as ‘Curse of Chucky was released in 2013. Nica (Fiona Dourif) has been locked away in a high security mental asylum after the authorities didn’t believe her story that a supernaturally possessed doll was responsible for murdering her entire family, the fools. Her so called ‘therapy’ which mostly consists of a few thousand volts and a few sessions with a bloke who couldn’t be more creepy if he tried has led her to believe what they want her to believe, that Nica was the one who murdered her family. When she finally accepts that not at all truth, she is sent to a medium security facility and is allowed to mingle with the other patients who do not take a liking to her at all. Dr Foley (Michael Therriault) tries to convince Nica that Chucky was a figment if her imagination that she impressed her guilt upon as she could not subconsciously handle her crimes. To reinforce his treatment, Dr Foley brings along a Good Guy doll. You can fill in the blanks from here.
Or can you?
Because this plot has a super twist and it’s something that a lot of Chucky fans have been wanting to see for a long time, myself included. There is not just one Chucky in this film, but MULTIPLE Chuckys. That’s right. If one Chucky wasn’t bad enough, now there’s dozens of the little buggers running around and they all have the same objective, to mess with Nica.
Nica is visited by Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly), who somehow became the legal guardian to Nica’s niece, Alice (Summer H. Howell). Nica is told that Alice died, leaving her devastated. Tiffany gives Nica a Good Guy doll that was supposedly a present from Alice to help her in her recovery. Of course, the doll is really Chucky and that night, he comes for Nica only to find that she has already slit one of her wrists. Chucky responds by stitching up her wound and writing ‘NOT SO FAST’ in her blood. It became very clear from there that Chucky doesn’t want to kill Nica, rather he needs her alive. Instead, Chucky kills another patient, Angela (Marina Stephenson Kerr) whilst making it look like suicide.
I really enjoyed Fiona Dourif’s performance in this film as I did in the previous film. She really does put forward that Nica is a broken, beaten down human being at the start but yet as she comes to the realisation that Chucky was and is real, she gains more strength and is all the more determined to prove her innocence.
Specifically ‘Bride of Chucky’ and ‘Seed of Chucky’, these films gained more of a comedic element and became somewhat of a farce. ‘Curse of Chucky’ went back to it’s roots and dealt with some dark subject matter. This film is no different. In fact, I’d say that it only gets darker.
It would be really easy at this point in the franchise for this film to fall into a very easy trap of having all the other characters apart from Nica (and a very special returning character) as just meaningless cannon fodder running around for Chucky to kill but it’s not the case. Some real effort has been put into fleshing out the backstories of the other patients. The one that stands out in my mind was the character of Madeleine (Elisabeth Rosen) who is in the facility because she smothered her infant child. Upon seeing the Good Guy doll, she claims it as her own and treats it like her child until one disturbing scene in which she smothers the Good Guy with a pillow. The staff bury the doll on the grounds but what they and Madeleine don’t know is that the doll is actually one of the Chucky dolls and comes back to Madeleine. Officially overcome by madness, she allows Chucky to kill her.
Nica’s closest ally in the facility is Malcolm (Adam Hurtig) or ‘Multiple Malcolm’ as he is affectionately called by the other patients as he has ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’.
Now would be a good time to mention the ‘soul transferring’ thing. In the final act, all the Chuckys regroup around Nica and tell her that a few years ago, Chucky found a spell on ‘Voodoofordummies.com’ and it allowed him to transfer his soul into anything ‘with two legs and a hand for stabbing’, meaning that he can not only possess dolls but also into other people.
It’s heavily implied that Chucky has transferred his soul into Malcolm but it’s revealed that Malcolm merely adopted the personality of Charles Lee Ray, even going so far as to murder a nurse to prove it. He then breaks down and admits that he took on all of his personalities to become ‘someone who matters’ which is an incredibly tragic thing to hear someone say. Soon after, he’s killed by one of the Chucky dolls.
I mentioned earlier that Dr Foley was incredibly creepy but it turns out that ‘creepy’ is only the tip of the iceberg. During a sequence in which Dr Foley places Nica under hypnosis in order to convince her that she murdered her fellow patients, it’s revealed that Dr Foley had been sexually abusing her during these sessions. Suffice it to say that he gets his comeuppance.
All the Chuckys in the facility look like they have been placed into new bodies, so what happened to the original? You know, the one that was stitched together by Tiffany in ‘Bride of Chucky’? Well in the first act, we find out and also what has happened to a very familiar face.
This film marks the return of Andy Barclay, played by Alex Vincent. Whilst he had a small cameo in the end credits sequence of the last film, this is Alex Vincent’s first full length appearance in a Chucky film since ‘Child’s Play 2 (1990)’.
Since the last film in which Tiffany sent Chucky to Andy’s house and Andy blew his head open with a gun, Andy has been keeping the severed head of the original Chucky and has been regularly torturing it as some kind of punishment. Andy has realised that Nica is telling the truth and has been trying to convince Dr Foley of Nica’s innocence but he’s not buying it. Andy also knows that Chucky can transfer his soul into other dolls and sets up a plan to help Nica. A booby trapped doll is sent to the facility and Andy commits himself by punching a guard. The doll that Andy sent has gun inside of it and Andy uses it to kill the doll that comes for him. But he’s in for another surprise. Chucky has transferred his soul into Nica.
The films ends rather abruptly, clearly to set up the next film. Nica/Chucky leaves the facility as it goes into lock-down with Andy trapped in his cell. Tiffany is waiting outside with an alive ‘Tiffany’ doll in the backseat. Together, Nica/Chucky and Tiffany drive away and that’s where the film ends.
Then there’s the post credits sequence that shows Christine Elise return as Andy’s foster sister, Kyle as she goes to Andy’s home having been sent by him to continue torturing Chucky’s severed head.
Overall, the film is beautifully shot. Don Mancini, on top of being a great writer, has a way of blending stunning visuals with everyone’s worst nightmare. A shining example is when Claire (Grace Lynn Kung), who doesn’t believe that Chucky is alive until she tries to dump a Chucky doll down a garbage shoot and he bites her. She becomes hysterical and is both restrained and sedated with a drug that will keep her aware but render her immobile. Unable to move, she can only watch as Chucky releases a can of compressed air that bursts the skylight above. The footage turns to slow-motion as the glass cascades down towards Claire and the audience can see her fear.
Having said that, I do have one grumble. Question. Has this facility got no security cameras? There’s more than one shot of a nurse or a guard sat at a panel, watching some monitors. What are they watching? If I was in charge of this facility, I would be really pissed off if a patient had died whilst they were on suicide watch and the staff were watching ‘Funny Cats’ on YouTube. Just because it’s ‘medium security’ doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any surveillance. If Nica wanted to prove that Chucky is alive and that he killed Angela, all she had to do was insist that Dr Foley watch the security footage.
I watched this film with my family whilst we were on holiday which was funny for me. My dad hates dolls and my mum doesn’t like gore so it was hilarious for me to watch their reactions when Chucky was doing his thing. My mum even covered my eyes when something gory happened. Just so you all know, I’m 23 years old.
Overall, I would say that the Chucky franchise is only getting better with time. Don Mancini’s passion and love for the franchise shines through the screen and he actually focused on the quality of the film and keeping up with the continuity rather than just pumping out another sequel year after year to get more money. It’s that fact that has kept me coming back and I hope there will be another film to return to because there is still so much more that can be done with this franchise and these interesting characters. After nearly 30 years, this franchise is still fresh and entertaining and this should be applauded.