Monday, October 14, 2013

Night of Terror #13: 'Curse of Chucky'

Hello all. For tonight's Night of Terror I've enlisted the help of Jere Pilapil. Jere may have a boyish exterior but don't be fool: Inside is the psyche of a dangerous killer. He's reviewing Curse of Chucky, part of a franchise of horror movies I have never seen partially because the cover for Child's Play used to freak me out so much as a kid when I went to Blockbuster. Here's Jere:
Curse of Chucky is the sixth movie in the Child’s Play series, and the first to be DTV, so I guess the maker (Don Mancini, series creator and writer, second time director) thought that this is as good a time as any to go back to its roots. I watched this on the same night that I rewatched its immediate predecessor Seed of Chucky and experienced the largest tonal whiplash that any movie series has given me. Where Seed of Chucky was a madcap comedy romp where a couple people happen to die, Curse of Chucky is a straight-up horror movie, and it might be the most effective Chucky movie since the first Child’s Play.

In Curse of Chucky, Chucky abandons Hollywood to be mailed out to a woman and her daughter who live in an enormous, secluded, poorly-lit house. Some things happen (murder) and some other characters come to stay awhile in the house, and then some other things happen (more murder, doll-related intrigue, non-doll-related intrigue).

Most of the movie’s tension stems from how so few of the characters seem to get along. Nica (the daughter, played by Fiona Dourif, Brad “I Voice Chucky and was also in Deadwood” Dourif’s daughter) is trying to hold on to the house while her sister Barb (played by Danielle “No Relation to Brad Dourif” Bisutti) is trying to sell the house for her own personal gain. Also, there’s a priest, a babysitter, Barb’s husband, and Barb’s daughter involved in the whole thing. Everyone’s got their tensions and squabbles, and - most impressively - the human relationships do a great job distracting from how there’s surprisingly little Chucky in this Chucky movie.

His presence is all over the movie from the moment he gets unboxed, but this is a back-to-the-roots sequel in all the best ways, which for Child’s Play mostly means a lot of shots of feet scurrying and the doll being found in unlikely places. Even by regular doll standards, Chucky is creepy-looking, eyes slightly too small for his head, and just the still shots of the doll sitting there inanimate are as effective as the imaginative ways he winds up killing people. The low budget becomes a blessing, since there’s a visual poetry to situations like a parent asking a doll, “How’d you get there?” followed immediately by a shot of rat poison and then a shot of people eating soul.

Originally, the follow up plan for Seed of Chucky had been to do a remake of the original Child’s Play. I’m guessing a lot of components from that got transported here, since almost all of the movie seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the series. That’s a very effective choice, since you don’t get a sense of Chucky’s motives until the end. Up to that point, he’s just killing up a family without a clear purpose.

It’s when that purpose becomes outlined that the movie deflates a little, since it sets up a bunch of cameos and nods to the past that feel randomly inserted for the sake of establishing backstory that was totally unnecessary (one nice touch manages to seal up one plot hole while opening others). But, I would still say that this a worthwhile sequel to Child’s Play because it makes Chucky menacing again after he spent some time trying comedy. To use a very 2013 analogy, Justin Timberlake was OK at acting, but I’m glad he’s back to making music even if the music isn’t as great as the old stuff.

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