Cult of Chucky brings an evil doll back from the dead. Again. Now seven films and three decades later, Chucky the Killer Doll has found ways to stay present for audiences of horror. Fans have been eagerly awaiting the upcoming seventh installment in the Child’s Play series. What other mischief could Chucky possibly get into?
Writer/Director Don Mancini, who has been present in the entirety of the Child’s Play series, has been able to bring Chucky into the modern cinema without being rebooted or a remake unlike other popular slashers. Keeping to the continuity of the series, Cult of Chucky finds new ways to evolve the franchise but also staying true to genre blending of slasher horror and dark comedy.
The films sees the return of Brad Dourif (Halloween, Child’s Play) as the voice of Chucky along with notable cast Fiona Dourif (True Blood, Curse of Chucky) returning as Nica from the previous film, Alex Vincent (Child’s Play) as a more hardened Andy Barclay, and Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky, Family Guy) as Chucky’s on/off again girlfriend, Tiffany Valentine. Filled with a talented supporting cast, Cult of Chucky brings a lot new to the table, staggers a bit on motive for the plot, but is able to show that Chucky can still stay fresh seven films into the franchise.
A few years after the events of Curse of Chucky, surviving final girl Nica has been institutionalized due to her accusations of a killer doll murdering her family. After years of therapy in a high security asylum, Nica now believes that she was the one who killed everyone and that Chucky was something her mind made up to deal with the trauma. With hopes that therapy has helped her come to terms with what she did, she is moved to a minimum security facility. Not long into her move, Nica is presented with a familiar looking doll in group therapy. Soon everyone starts behaving stranger than their usual committed selves, and death starts to become the diagnosis for everyone.
At the same time, Andy Barclay has taken Chucky prisoner since the end credits of Curse. His goal is to find out how to help vindicate Nica of the murders and find out what Chucky has planned. But bodies are again starting piling up..
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After a short meeting with the suspicious Tiffany Valentine and the reveal that Nica’s niece has died, Nica attempts suicide. The doll that Valentine had brought with her turns out to be an animatedly evil Chucky, ready to finish what he started in the last film. Upon finding her bleeding to death, he patches her up so that she will not get away so easily from him. Certain now that she isn’t a killer, Nica sets out to prove to staff and patients alike that Chucky is real and they are all in danger. More is amiss though, Chucky seems to be in more places at once and more bodies are popping up despite Nica’s efforts. Chucky is up to something, something new, and Andy decides to head to the institution to help save Nica and others before Tiffany and Chucky take over the building.
For fans of the series, Cult of Chucky has continued on with what each film has done and that is do something fresh with each iteration. Whether it is the setting that Chucky stalks his victims in or the approach to the film in general. While the first three films focused more so on a horror aspect, with Bride and Seed going more into dark comedy territory, this film finds a way to blend the two in good harmony much like Curse.
Cult of Chucky does seem to suffer at times, not sure of what it wants to be more of. It straddles between dark comedy or slasher-filled horror. There are nods to other projects and pop culture in the film. Mancini, who had worked on the Hannibal series, makes a direct comment to the show’s cancellation. Although a blend of the two genres, Cult of Chucky seems to lean more into the dark comedy in the latter third of the film, undermining the creepiness..
Much like Curse, Cult of Chucky is able to put Chucky back into a more sinister perspective. His tactic of picking off the cast one by one builds to a final confrontation with Nica and Andy. Some of the best moments of his interactions are with the patients themselves, playing with their ailments and adapting to them. One patient in particular suffers from the delusion her child is still alive (after smothering it) and Chucky toys with this to manipulate her into helping him. The first patient killed also has an interesting interaction with Chucky. She happens to think that despite her troubled mind, that the doll is still not real but interacts with him none the less. This puts Chucky in a strange position as he doesn’t know how to deal with it.
The setting of the mental asylum is good ground for the films to take advantage on long hallways and dynamic lighting, from brightly lit to a more somber tone. Mancini takes full advantage of this modern medical environment, playing with angles and more stylistic shots. This both helps and hurts the film as some shots help build the isolation and coldness of the setting, and others seeming more out of place and unnecessary. Long shots or holds on imagery that is either slowed or dynamically played out slow down the pacing of the film.
Overall, Cult of Chucky cements itself as a continuation of the Child’s Play series, and a decent one at that. The film does not aim to reboot or remake the killer doll but rather evolve him into new scenarios and new approaches to the character of Chucky. Being one of the long running slasher franchises, it’s a relief to see him carry on through the decades consistently.
Although the film does evil well, there is not really a motive for why Chucky makes some of the choices he makes. There is an obvious set up for an eighth film (including the post credits scene) and possibly a conclusion to this story arc. This however leaves fans wanting more substance to the conclusion of the film. The deaths are fun, the gore is the bloodiest yet, and we are certain to see more of this ‘good guy’ in the future.
Cult of Chucky is the seventh installment in the Child’s Play series. It stars Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, and Alex Vincent. The film was widely released for viewers to stream on Netflix or purchase through Video On Demand services and on Blu Ray/DVD October 3. For Toronto area fiends, the film is also screening at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival later this October.