CURSE OF CHUCKY - HOME RELEASE (BLU-RAY)
Release Date: Monday 21 October 2013
Director: Don Mancini
Starring: Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Brad Dourif, Brennan Elliott, Maitland McConnell, A Martinez
Home Release Reviewed: UK Blu-Ray Release (1 Disc)
Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
It’s somewhat difficult to believe it has been almost a decade since we last saw a new Chucky instalment, so eponymous and iconic a horror icon has the diminutive terror become. However, on the grounds of the abysmal and woefully misjudged Seed of Chucky, it’s general box office underperformance, not to mention the severe backlash it received from fans of the franchise, it seems the time off has done the murderous good guy some good.
Writer-Director Don Mancini has been involved in the series right from its original outing Child’s Play in 1988 (which remains the strongest film in the series). A considerable element of blame for the misfire of the generally campy, comedy route the series derailed into has to be placed on his shoulders, for he penned the admittedly entertaining but still goofy Bride of Chucky and served as both writer-director on Seed. Fortunately, Mancini has been listening to fans who desperately wanted a return to the horror roots that made Chucky such a favourite, and for Curse of Chucky he has returned in his role as writer-director but delivered a far more sinister and darker return to form for the series.
Curse tells the story of young paraplegic Nica (Fiona Dourif, daughter of Chucky’s voice actor Brad), coming to terms with the recent suicide of her mother after receiving a mysterious package containing the titular good guy doll. In the wake of her mothers death, Nica’s extended family, including her bitchy and opportunistic older sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti) arrive to grieve and plot what to do with the somewhat gothic and foreboding family home left behind. The film is almost entirely set in Nica’s home, and it is a suitably eerie and effective locale that lends the film a slightly more vintage horror vibe. Coupled with some delicious horror-lite cinematography and touches including a classic iron elevator and a notable tendency for a complete absence of lights throughout, Mancini and the team create a very effective sense of place that lends itself well to re-establishing Curse as an eerie horror, albeit still a fairly silly one, first and foremost.
Also returning is the earlier films’ element of mystery and suspense, as the first 40 minutes or so of the film show Chucky mostly in his passive, docile doll form. Plenty of eerie close-ups and a terrific slight redesign of the doll himself make moments such as this genuinely reminiscent of early Chucky, and it’s something of a shame to see this undermined early on by cutaways or close-ups of him carrying out some of his attacks. Whilst we all know as an audience that it is Chucky undoubtedly responsible for the deaths that ensue, there is a genuine sense of unease and tension from when and if he will spring to life, and just a generally creepy vibe from the doll in its passive state, though Mancini should be commended for at least highlighting this and delivering more restraint than he did in his screenplays for the previous two instalments which saw Chucky visibly active and vocal from pretty much the get go.
Some of the campier elements from Bride and Seed bleed into Curse - some of the killings are too egregious and borderline comical to inspire any sense of threat and horror; most evident in the fact that the most effective killings are when Chucky goes back to basics - a particular highlight being an attack which simply involves the doll and his knife. Likewise, when Chucky finally springs to life, no holds barred, some of the visual gags and horror touches again wind up being somewhat comical in their over the top execution, from bouncing eyeballs to wheelchair slapstick and even an injection of good old fashioned ‘recorded footage’. Likewise, whilst the design and performance of the Chucky doll and it’s puppetry are mostly solid (though some of the different versions of the puppet can at times look considerably different from one another), the occasional use of poor CGI (Chucky should *never* be CG) is likewise another momentary distractor for the wrong reasons.
The cast of characters are a fairly atypical bunch, though there are a couple of neat twists and turns in the dynamics and relationships, and generally the cast do a solid job with what they are given. Fundamentally, they feel like a family unit, and whilst Brennan Elliott and Maitland McConnell get fairly stereotypical and thankless roles as husband and sexy nanny who he may or may not be sleeping with, Danielle Bisutti is wonderfully catty and self-serving as Barb and her relationship with Nica is neatly played. Fiona Dourif is also supremely empathetic as Nica, giving a great performance which anchors the film and turns out to be one of the series best protagonists, and certainly one of its most likeable. Crucially, despite some cookie cutter characters, the cast are believable as a family unit and it makes the inevitable torture and mayhem more in-keeping with traditional horror than the post-modern collection of Z-listers and randoms Seed culled through in particular.
It is clear that a lot of thought and effort went into making Curse a fan-pleaser as well as generally a somewhat hokey but enjoyable update to the series that consciously leans towards frightening as opposed to funny, creepy as opposed to comedy. And whilst it isn’t particularly scary, it is decidedly more eerie and in tone with the original Child’s Play movies than recent offerings, which is definitely a good thing. Fans of the franchise will also appreciate the numerous offerings of fan service which link through practically all of the movies so far, and help make this feel like a more meaningful and rounded Chucky outing than anything we’ve seen in the past fifteen years or so. In regards to it’s overall standing, it is probably joint with the third film, with Bride and Seed trailing behind, though there are many who continue to sing Bride’s praises. Ultimately though, if you are a fan of the character you should find in Curse a satisfying, enjoyable slice of murderous doll mayhem and an assured and confident return to form that somehow manages to hybridise the two very different styles which have preceded it.
The film’s Blu-Ray release offers a fairly healthy selection of extras. The three documentaries which vary from just under 9 minutes to one just shy of half an hour do a standard but enjoyable job of documenting the making of the movie as well as looking at the broader Child’s Play saga and legacy of Chucky as a whole. What is most evident from these is the genuine enthusiasm the cast and crew involved had for the project and franchise, and both Dourif’s are great fun. Rounding out the package are a selection of generally forgettable deleted scenes which mostly pad out the movies already busy ending or backstory, though one in particular involving Nica’s father would have been welcome in cementing an idea that is only implied in the film, a (very) short gag reel that mostly revolves around a member of the cast who I will avoid naming at risk of spoiling the film itself and a set of storyboard comparisons that will appeal to film and Chucky enthusiasts.
MOVIE RATING: * * * (3 out of 5 Stars)
BONUS FEATURES: * * * (3 out of 5 Stars)
CURSE OF CHUCKY is released on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital Formats nationwide in the UK on Monday 21 October 2013.
This review copy of Curse of Chucky was provided courtesy of Fetch Publicity. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their contribution and support.