Cult of Chucky (2017)

Don Mancini

Fiona Dourif - Nica Pierce
Brad Dourif - Voice of Chucky
Alex Vincent - Andy Barclay
Jennifer Tilly - Tiffany Valentine
Michael Therriault - Dr. Foley
Adam Hurtig - Malcolm
Elisabeth Rosen - Madeleine
Grace Lynn Kung - Claire
Martina Stephenson Kerr - Angela
Zak Santiago - Nurse Carlos

Genre - Horror/Comedy/Supernatural/Slasher

Running Time - 91 Minutes

Following the events of 2013’s CURSE OF CHUCKY, Nica (Fiona Dourif) is sent to a psychiatric hospital due to Chucky pinning all of his murders on her - which she can’t disprove believably. Though hypnosis and shock therapy, Nica is convinced that she did murder her loved ones and that Chucky is a figment of her imagination. This works well until Dr. Foley (Michael Therriault) pulls out a Good Guy doll, triggering memories of the events in CURSE.

Nica starts believing that the Good Guy doll is really Chucky, bringing himself inside with Nica to torture her and end the job he started years prior. Soon enough, other patients end up getting killed in brutal ways, making many believe Nica is the one behind it. While considered the main suspect, Nica realizes that Chucky is indeed back - with a visit from Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly) confirming that they’re working together to make her life hell. However, Nica doesn’t realize that a grown up Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) has his own version of Chucky at his home, wondering how he’s pulling murders off in multiple places at once. Realizing the only way to find the answers is to commit himself with Nica, Andy hopes to stop Chucky’s new plan before it’s too late.

The CHILD’S PLAY franchise will turn thirty years old next year, and it has thrived and survived without remakes and reboots, building upon its legacy in a way most horror franchises have trouble with by its third installment. The first two films are absolute classics, balancing the scares and humor to the point that many of us threw out those talking dolls [such as Teddy Ruxpin and those various Sesame Street characters] to protect us from the trauma poor Andy Barclay dealt with. 1991’s CHILD’S PLAY 3 seemed like the end of the franchise at that point, struggling in the box office due to it being rushed, generic, and causing controversy in the United Kingdom because of placed blame for a series of murders that the film supposedly inspired. However, thanks to SCREAM’s success in 1996, Chucky was brought back along with a new partner, Tiffany, in 1998’s BRIDE OF CHUCKY. While not the biggest box office success, it garnered a lot of critical and fan praise for its self-aware humor and freshness to revive a tired franchise. Unfortunately, 2004’s SEED OF CHUCKY may have jumped the shark for many with its campy, silly humor and lack of scares - even though I enjoy that installment for the most part.

With rumors of a remake/reboot happening, many of us were expecting a new Chucky movie that would start the franchise all over with CGI Good Guy dolls and PG kills that only Hollywood studios would love. Fortunately for us, 2013’s direct-to-video CURSE OF CHUCKY surprised us with how good it turned out. It managed to reboot the franchise while still playing out as a sequel that respected its continuity by adding new characters to interact with memorable ones such as Tiffany and even Andy Barclay. CURSE also pulled back on the humor, capturing the creepiness of the original film and bringing back many fans who had left after BRIDE. It made us realize that even in a new century, Chucky could still be effective and that horror franchises don’t always need a reboot to still be successful.

So here we are in 2017, and the seventh installment of the CHILD’S PLAY franchise - CULT OF CHUCKY - has been unleashed to the world through home video, Netflix, and even on the cable network AMC later this month. With this kind of release, it made me wonder if CULT was that good for all these outlets to jump aboard on. The hype was real with this one, with many praising it, while others feeling very disappointed with CULT’s seemingly new direction for the franchise. I was a bit reluctant to watch this film for a few days due to friends feeling negative on the film. I really enjoyed CURSE and hoped CULT would continue the trend for a revitalized franchise that lasted longer than it probably has any right to be. But I took a chance on this sequel, and I have to say… I really liked CULT OF CHUCKY more than I was expecting. 

This won’t be a long review where I discuss in detail about the narrative and all that. Honestly, CULT OF CHUCKY is a film that’s probably better knowing less about to really enjoy the twists the film presents to the viewer. I will say that it’s a bit more humorous than CURSE, but respectfully so that it doesn’t insult you. And the plot points throughout are so batshit crazy, you’re left to wonder where in the hell this franchise is going in future sequels. Is Nica really crazy? Does Chucky exist? How is Chucky managing to be in multiple places at once to continue his murder spree? And what does he really want with Nica? The addition of Andy Barclay struggling with his own experience with Chucky [which still affects his dating life, believe it or not] adds a new layer that’s much needed, as it makes us remember how evil Chucky was to him as a child. He’s become sort of the Van Helsing or Dr. Loomis to the franchise now, wanting to find a way of stopping Charles Lee Ray from achieving his ultimate goal. Add in Tiffany Valentine, who is still Chucky’s willing and devoted accomplice, and Nica - who seems to be Chucky’s main focus these days - and you have a powder keg ready to explode in future installments. 

I thought the hospital setting was a great location for CULT OF CHUCKY. The film is so crazy in its new direction, that it made sense to add mentally ill characters who may, or may not, believe in Chucky’s existence and/or Nica’s guilt or innocence in terms of her reputation. I think the characters are fleshed out as well as they could be in a 90-minute movie. I thought Malcolm was an interesting character suffering from dissociative identity disorder, with one wondering if Chucky possessed him when he started acting like him. Madeleine, who lost her child, treating a Good Guy doll as her baby was creepy at times - especially when it was possible that Chucky was that doll. And Dr. Foley is probably one of the biggest creeps I’ve seen in a horror film in a while, using his medical expertise to take advantage of certain patients for his own pleasure. He also ends up being the skeptic of the film, manipulating Nica to believe that she was a murderer and that Chucky was just a figment of her imagination. Nica, herself, still managed to be a believable victim. Only this time, her mental state was in question, as she struggled over what was real and what wasn’t. You felt bad for her when no one believed her pleas about Chucky, while rooting for her to get out of this situation with her life intact. Her arc takes a crazy turn in the final act, making me giddy for the next installment. I thought the characters all had a point in the film’s narrative, no one really feeling wasted in terms of moving the story along.

If I did have issues with CULT OF CHUCKY, I think it’s mainly from the fact that the story wants to wow the audience with so many twists, turns, and questions about where things are headed, that it sometimes doesn’t really go into depth in explaining why certain things are suddenly happening that never happened in previous films. Let me just say that out of the blue, Chucky has learned new abilities that allow him to do things in CULT that he never was able to do in six films prior. There’s a cute bit of dialogue that is supposed to explain the reason without going too deep with it, but it honestly bugged me. I think Chucky getting more powerful is a great element to introduce after all this time. But I need more than a “Voodoo For Dummies” line that is supposed to make the audience laugh. Maybe they’re saving this for the next film, but since this ability is a central aspect of CULT, we should have learned more about it here.

I also felt that CULT OF CHUCKY suffered from MCU syndrome. Now you know I love my Marvel movies [well most of them anyway], but I’m not blind to see that a lot of them exist as bridges to a bigger film down the road. That’s what I took CULT as - a bridge to gap CURSE with the 8th installment to complete the story that’s being told. At times, the film felt as if it existed to justify a later film, rather than have a contained story for newer viewers to jump into without much confusion. It’s obvious CULT OF CHUCKY was made for its fan base and it works because of it. But the final act seemed to be the prologue of the next film rather than the ending of the film it was currently in. I guess that’s something we all have to get used to, because franchises and universes are what keep many of us coming for more. I just felt CURSE OF CHUCKY concluded its story more efficiently, even if I did think the ending of CULT was more fun and exciting for the franchise’s future.

The direction by Don Mancini is as confident and strong as ever for the franchise. Mancini, who also co-wrote CULT OF CHUCKY, knows exactly what film he wants to make and goes for broke without looking back. Keeping the film mainly in a single setting allows the budget to be used better towards certain aspects of the production. Because of this, CULT looks pretty damn good picture wise. It’s polished, bright, and sleek. The CGI doesn’t look as bad as it did in CURSE, with Chucky looking better than the previous film. The use of slow motion during certain death scenes is a thing of beauty. Speaking of the kill sequences, CULT OF CHUCKY is definitely the most blatantly violent in the franchise. Heads get chopped off. Wrists get slit. Heads get stomped in. I was impressed by the level of gore here. I definitely was not expecting the film to be this bloody. The film sort of loses its way towards the end, but there’s a charming energy about the film one can’t deny. Mancini has pretty much let the shit hit the fan with this franchise, which is the best thing that could happen to Chucky’s world. It’s a fun time that manages to be infectious. I don’t know what Mancini has up his sleeve for the next installment, but I’m along for the ride. It’s a surreal entry in the franchise that I’m surprised mostly worked in its favor.

The acting in CULT OF CHUCKY is solid. Once again, Fiona Dourif is wonderful as Nica. She’s both vulnerable and strong, struggling with creepy psychiatrists and psycho dolls - both always captivating on camera. I look forward to her arc in the next installment, which will allow her to really stretch her acting chops, I think. Her father, Brad Dourif, returns to voice Chucky. He’s mostly solid, although there were certain parts where his voice just seemed odd and didn’t match what I was watching. I don’t know if it’s age, or a better take wasn’t used. But Dourif has had better performances in this franchise. But when he’s on, Dourif is great as the film’s villain. Michael Therriault is great as the mysterious Dr. Foley, adding to the surreal and creepy vibe of the asylum setting. Adam Hurtig is good as Malcolm. I liked how he changed a bit each time with various personality switches. And it’s great to see both Alex Vincent and Jennifer Tilly back. Vincent’s scenes were really great, and I look forward to his arc in a later film. Tilly can play Tiffany in her sleep, as she comes across more crazy than ever. I still love that she’s technically playing herself as Jennifer Tilly, due to the events of SEED OF CHUCKY. Plus, there’s a surprise after the credits if you watched the Unrated Version. I can not wait to see where this angle leads.

I can probably see where some were disappointed in CULT OF CHUCKY. But it surprisingly won me over with how surreal and crazy it ended up being. The acting is solid, especially by Fiona Dourif. It’s great to see Alex Vincent officially back into the fold. The direction by Don Mancini is competent and confident, as he certainly has control over the film he’s probably been wanting to make for a while now. And while certain story elements could have been explained more, as well as wishing CULT was a more self-contained story rather than a set up to a bigger film down the line, I thought the narrative added some freshness to Chucky’s character arc and future success of the franchise. It’s amazing that after 29 years, CULT OF CHUCKY proves that the franchise is still hanging on strongly without a reboot and with a strong sense of continuity. The next CHILD’S PLAY is going to be something and I can’t wait to see what craziness comes next.

3 Howls Outta 4

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