Let me be honest: I’ve never been a fan of the CHILD’S PLAY films. I don’t like wisecracking movie maniacs (the biggest reason for my dislike of most of the ELM STREET flicks), and if Chucky came at me with a knife, I would use my powerful leg to boot him through a wall, blasting off his limbs and head as his torso soared several hundred yards before it careened in a broken pile of plastic to the ground with a thud. But some of my friends had a good time with CURSE OF CHUCKY, so I decided to give it a try on Netflix. Though there’s absolutely nothing scary here at all, I enjoyed the flick for what it was. It’s a fun ride.
The film begins when wheelchair bound Nica and her mother receive a package with no return address. They open the box to find Chucky, looking brand, spanking new. Off screen, Chucky quickly slaughters the mother. The film then uses funeral arrangements to reveal Nica’s sister, Barb, a sometimes cruel, self-obsessed snob; her husband Ian, who’s been reduced to working at a Starbucks; and their daughter Alice, a wide-eyed kid in need of a new toy. Also in tow, the priest of the family’s parish, and the young nanny Jill. With an ample number of potential victims, Chucky can go to work.
There is nothing here that revolutionizes the modern slasher. But writer/director Don Mancini has fun within the clichés of the slasher subgenre, and that makes all the difference. Chucky is an unrepentant little bastard, and I got a sense of glee watching his little doll arm pouring rat poison into a bowl of veggie chili. As he goes knife crazy, it’s a thrill to see him go thermonuclear, with a scowl on that formerly inoffensive little face. He’s clearly the star of the show, as he should be.
And he’s got a worthy adversary this time. Alex Vincent’s Andy was always too silly for my tastes, and everyone associated with him (mom, new family, military school buddies) never did the trick. But Nica is interesting. Fiona Dourif (Chucky voice Brad Dourif’s daughter) does a solid job running through not only the gamut of emotions of the central character in a horror flick; but also as someone bound to a wheelchair, and the inherent feelings attached to her handicap. Kudos to Mancini for using the wheelchair for more than just to add tension; because the house is more than one floor, and there are electricity issues, the choice adds extra challenges to the mix, both physical and emotional. Dourif’s performance is capable enough to sell them.
The best element of the flick is the connection to the first film. Though the series has hosted a number of directors, Mancini has written every entry. He makes ties to the first film and explicitly to BRIDE OF CHUCKY as well, adding levels of depth to the flick. Brad Dourif still rocks it as Chucky, and blink-and-you-missed-it archival footage of Chris Sarandon as Mike the cop is welcome. You’ll eventually find out why the box showed up at this house, and it’s a cool payoff. The way some new flashbacks connect to the first film toward the end will make you smile if you enjoy the franchise. Hell, I don’t enjoy the franchise, and it made me smile.
The acting of Summer Howell was one thing in the film that didn’t leave me smiling. For a child actress, she’s pretty poor. And for Mancini to stuff her mouth with the cliché “Did Gramma go to Heaven?” line turned my stomach. She also reminded me of Alex Vincent as Andy, and that didn’t help. Effective child actors are hard to find, but Mancini could’ve done better than that.
If you’re looking for a scary horror flick that redefines the 1980s slasher, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a joy ride with a wicked killer doll and a formidable heroine as his adversary, you’ll get exactly that. CURSE OF CHUCKY gave me exactly what it should have, and though it didn’t convert me on the series, it was a fun way to kill 97 minutes. Even though I know there’s no way that little bastard could ever kill me. Doll punt!