Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Curse of Chucky" Review: Chucky Ditches The Humor And Goes Back To The Basics For His Latest Killing Spree


Over the course of the past 25 years, Chucky has solidified himself as a true horror icon. Despite his height issues, Chucky is able to stand proud next to fellow iconic slashers such as Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, Pinhead and even his fellow knee high friend, the Leprechaun. But over the years, like most horror franchises, his films slowly turned from horror into self aware comedies and much of the little guy's bite from the original film was lost and forgotten as legions of fans began laughing instead of cringing. 

Now, with so much time having passed since the last film (Seed of Chucky came out 9 years ago!), both the filmmakers and Universal have seen fit to bring Chucky back and reintroduce him to the public in a new film, Curse of Chucky. Functioning as both a reboot and a sequel to the other films (a requel), his latest film returns serial killer child's doll back to his most primal, his most basic with surprisingly strong results. Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats:  
Format:  Ultraviolet       
Film Rating: R     
Film Runtime: 1 hr 38 min   
Studio: Universal Pictures

Biases:  
Loves: Child's Play, Chucky
Likes: Menacing Chucky instead of wisecracking Chucky
Neutral: A distinct lack of inventive demises for the film's many victims
Hates: That this didn't get a proper theatrical release
Like father like daughter: Yes, Fiona Dourif is none other than Brad Dourif's daughter


Nica (Fiona Dourif) has been in wheelchair all her life and looked after of by her mother (Chantal Quesnelle). After a fateful accident that results in her mothers death, Nica's older sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti), her husband Ian (Brennan Elliott), their daughter Alice (Summer H. Howell) and the nanny Jill (Maitland McConnell) along with a local priest (A Martinez) visit her the night before the funeral. Soon after they show up, strange things start occurring around the house that may or may not be the result of a package that was delivered to Nica's mother containing a Good Guy doll the same day her mother died.

Chucky, the character, has a unique appeal compared to many of those other iconic slashers out there. Combining a serial killer with an innocent looking doll is one of the greatest horror creations to come out of the 80's. That original film really knew how to play on our fears of inanimate human-like objects that seemed harmless but also seemed sinister in some unexplainable way. Part of what made that first film work though was the slow lead up to Chucky's reveal and the almost child-like way Chucky played with his victims. It was evil and it was a bloody good time.


The subsequent sequels however felt the need to go down the cliche-ridden path of all the other slasher icons and provide Chucky with a ton of one-liners as he chopped his way from sequel to sequel. By the time we reached Seed of Chucky, the franchise had turned into a full blown horror/comedy, with a huge emphasis on the comedy part. Much of what made Chucky such a fantastic character was lost in a sea of puns mixed with countless victims we could care less about.

Thankfully, for this new film, director Don Mancini went back to the drawing board to rediscover what it was that made Chucky work, what it was that made horror fans fall in love with the little guy all those years ago. While some would say it was his witty remarks as he offed each of his victims or even the impossibly perfect casting of Brad Dourif as the voice of Chucky, but the truth of the matter is that it was the mystery, suspense and anticipation of each attack by Chucky. How he would sit there in the open waiting for the right moment to reveal himself to his victim just before killing them.


So, with a lower budget and extremely lowered expectations, Curse of Chucky starts things off as though we are unaware of who Chucky is, much like the characters in the film itself. When he shows up in a box, we don't know why he is there and we don't know why he is acting different than he has in the past sequels (he even looks different which has a surprising explanation later). But what this does is essentially reset the clock and takes us back to those feelings of dread associated with the first film, which is as refreshing as it is nostalgic.

During a scene at a dinner party for instance where all the principle actors are gathered, we know from an earlier scene that Chucky had tampered with one of their meals but we don't know which one. As the scene plays out we get multiple hints as to who could possibly be the one effected but it is never outright told to us leading to a very uneasy feeling. This sort of suspense has been absent from the franchise for a very long time and its return helps re-imagine Chucky as a real and dangerous threat again.


Instead of him prancing around killing people left and right (which does eventually happen), the earlier parts of the film are mercifully absent of the usual gory deaths and sly one-liners. Knowing, but rarely seeing, that Chucky is pulling the strings from the shadows and seeing how he just sits around watching the ensuing confusion and chaos occur he has caused hearkens back to those same exact feelings that the original film so easily and expertly evoked from us.

Later however when his identity is revealed to the remaining few left alive it does revert back to the Chucky formula from the sequels but there is still an overbearing sense of dread that has replaced the whimsical tone of those other films. That's not to say the film is without a dark sense of humor though. One of the best and most clever gags of the film that works on both a slightly comedic level and as a tension builder is when Chucky is used as a Nanny-cam which is used rather effectively, but not nearly enough as it could have been.

Surprisingly though, one of the strongest aspects of the film lies in its story and how it ties itself back into the previous films. It's done in a way that is smart without feeling convoluted and makes good use of flashbacks to tell the story of Charles Lee Ray before he became Chucky. It's not really an origin story (since we saw how he became Chucky in the original) but it adds some new elements that help make this film's story more relevant than just some hapless people who are victimized by Chucky.


If the film has any weak points it would have to be the deaths themselves, which while appropriately gory, lack imagination. Eye balls get poked out, people get electrocuted and their heads cut off, but for any seasoned horror fan it is all pretty much run-of-the-mill stuff. Chucky's comments make the kills a little more fun but even he can't escape the fact that in the end, the actual kills in Curse of Chucky are just boring, which is the only step back this film takes in regards to the franchise as a whole.

But as a reboot of the franchise, the film most definitely succeeds. A decent story complete with interesting characters and a much needed return to the more creepy side of Chucky far outweigh the problems with its lack of imagination in the deaths category. Most important of all though is that this new film works perfectly as a gateway back into the world of Chucky for horror fans who found the more comedic turn of the sequels as a real turn off and as an entry point for any potential new fans.



FINAL THOUGHTS:

Chucky is a staple of the horror genre and his long absence was hard to endure for his many fans. Thankfully the wait was worth it and Universal has delivered a film that works as both an entry point for potential new fans and a return to what made Chucky so scary in the first place. For his longtime legion of fans, if you have been waiting for Chucky's return to form, then Curse of Chucky is exactly what you have been waiting for.

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