*. I mentioned in my notes ons Seed of Chucky that writer-director Don Mancini had taken the franchise about as far as possible in the direction of horror comedy, to the point where that movie bordered on slapstick. Perhaps aware of that, and certainly aware of audiences wanting scary Chucky back, he decided to go with what he called a “tonal reboot” of the series.
*. And for the most part I think he was successful. He seems to have wanted to take things to the opposite extreme of the previous film, choosing to introduce Curse of Chucky as a standalone haunted house movie, with a totally new group of characters, lots of slow pans and dollies, a few jump scares, a threatened young woman in a wheelchair, a scary antique elevator, and of course a lot of thunder and lightning playing in the background to go with the power outages and dead phones.
*. It’s a classic look, in part necessitated by the low budget and tight schedule, but I thought it worked really well. Despite all the conventional elements I found this to be the most compelling and watchable Chucky movie since the original Child’s Play. Give Mancini credit for keeping things going, even into a fourth decade.
*. Alas, the wheels came off at the very end. The back story that explains Chucky’s connection to the family here comes too late and is too rushed and too complicated to follow. Then, before I could finish muttering to myself how stupid it was, the various codas jerk us back into the Chucky universe I thought we’d left behind. Nothing against Jennifer Tilly, but I was really hoping we’d seen the last of Tiffany. Unfortunately, she’s back in the final five minutes of this film as we switch tonal registers once again.
*. All of this would help set up the next film in the series, Cult of Chucky. Which I guess was the purpose. Putting the end to one side, however, I think this is a really good little movie. There’s actually some decent gore (never a highlight of the series) and a few good lines for Chucky. His first reveal to the audience, in the little girl’s bed tent, is a great one. Though it’s a conventional set-up, it’s presented with the extra creativity and intelligence that have always placed this series a notch above the usual slasher-horror fare. Another good example here is the chili dinner scene. I don’t think this plays as well as it might, and I think rat poison works rather faster than is suggested, but it’s a nice ice-breaker.
*. In a movie like this you don’t have to do much to change things up. It’s the little things that make a difference. Like Nica not having any feeling in her legs playing into the plot. Or the surprise of the cheating nanny. It’s things like these that make a difference.
*. I’ve only mentioned it in passing in my previous notes, but the actors in the Chucky movies usually play above average for the genre. Fiona Dourif continues this here, turning in a fine performance as Nica. Which is fitting, seeing as how she’s the real seed of Chucky (a joke she makes on the commentary).
*. The series has always played a little fast and loose with continuity. I was particularly puzzled here by Chucky having his head chopped off only to reveal that it’s just a plastic head he can put back on again. Or when he’s stabbed he doesn’t bleed but just leaks stuffing. That’s not how it’s supposed to work, to the point where I was surprised no explanation was offered by Mancini on the commentary. (If you’re interested, he does offer a token explanation in the Cult of Chucky commentary. He just thought the head coming off without blood looked better. Fans were upset though, and he acknowledges that it was probably a mistake.)
*. Another confusing lack of consistency comes at the end with Chucky playing the game of “hide the soul” with the little girl Alice. There are a number of things wrong with this. (1) Chucky has masculinity issues, which were raised in the previous film when he resisted his son changing gender and was thrilled at the thought of inhabiting a black man’s body (a black man with big feet!). Would he really want to inhabit the body of a little girl? (2) At the end of Seed of Chucky he states quite emphatically that he no longer wants to transfer out of his doll’s body, but is happy being Chucky. (3) I thought the rule was that he could only transfer his soul into the body of the person he first revealed himself to. This should have been Nica’s mother, not Alice.
*. I bring all this up not in a spirit of nit-picking, but only because it’s a bit curious in a franchise where all of the films had the same screenwriter. So I guess if Mancini wasn’t interested in consistency we shouldn’t be either. For what it’s worth, the Alice business is quickly addressed in a comical (and unconvincing) way in Cult of Chucky. Also in that movie we see Chucky’s arm being torn off and spouting gore, only to be shown a scene later as a clean piece of plastic. So consistency probably isn’t a factor we need concern ourselves with.
*. Overall then: a good movie, and quite a bit above what you’d expect at this point. It’s aware of its limitations and the better for it. If it takes a step backward at the end, well, I guess that’s part of the curse of Chucky. And at least the series endgame was in sight.