3 October 2017 | MaximumMadness
"Cult of Chucky"- A slick sequel that rewards longtime fans and takes many fascinating risks... though it's unorthodox story and noticeably low budget may turn off some.
For near thirty years now, good-ole' Chucky the killer doll has been terrorizing audiences the world over with his killer antics and twisted gallows humor. He's an indisputable horror icon, so it was never any surprise that even after a prolonged absence starting in 2004, he would eventually re-emerge. And that he did with 2013's surprisingly accomplished franchise-revival "Curse of Chucky"- a fiendish chapter that won back many of the fans whom had drifted from the series. "Curse" reinvigorated the character and the story, and reminded fans of just why they fell in love with that delightfully demented doll in the first place.
And while it took four long years of waiting, our anticipation for a follow-up to "Curse" has finally been answered with director Don Mancini's "Cult of Chucky", the seventh film in the "Child's Play" story. And while "Cult" did receive a warm reception from both general and horror film critics, with plenty of positive buzz built from a successful festival stint... the public unfortunately hasn't been so kind, with it having polarized viewers into either "love it" or "hate it" camps, with no in-between.
And that really is a shame, because as a fan of this series for many years, I though "Cult of Chucky" was a slick, stylish and incredibly enjoyable installment that only furthered my appetite for future follow-ups. While it definitely does lack the inherent freshness that permeated from "Curse of Chucky", "Cult" is a very organic extension of that film's mood and tone, and builds off of it very well... all while also managing to organically re-introduce some of the more fantastical and comedic elements of the series. It's a good mixture that balances the best of both worlds, while furthering the series narrative in strangely unique and risky ways. Sure, it does fall back on clichés a bit too often and it does have some issues with tone and pace, but honestly... I really had a blast with it!
Four years later. Chucky's original mark Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) is still suffering the ramifications of his past, while his most recent target Nica (Fiona Dourif) has spend the past few years cooped up in an insane-asylum, blamed for the death of her family. After convincing herself that she was responsible and that Chucky was merely a figment of her imagination, Nica is transferred to a medium-security facility in an attempt to be rehabilitated. However, things take a dark turn when the head therapist introduces an interesting new therapeutic "device" to assist in Nica's aid... a Good-Guy doll. Shortly after, another startling turn happens when a certain bride of a certain killer doll (Jennifer Tilly) drops off a yet another Good-Guy doll to Nica. Which doll is just a doll? And which could possibly hold the soul of the serial killer Charles Lee Ray? And how can Chucky even be there when Andy seemingly has his still- living disembodied head? These questions will lead to a series of startling revelations that will leave Nica and Andy questioning their sanity as a game of torture and death plays out around them...
"Cult of Chucky" is at its best when it dives full-blown into the insane and deranged madness we've come to expect from these films. And thankfully, these moments do come quickly and consistently after the end of the first act. Writer/director Mancini relishes in piling on questions, mysterious and plenty of twists and turns that will leave the viewer constantly on edge and unable to quite work out what's happening. And it provides a lot of great entertainment value. The fact is, for a low-budget, direct-to-video follow up that is the seventh installment in a decades-old slasher film franchise... this is pretty darned decent, and it's clear a lot of love and care has been placed into the film by all involved. I also was quite taken with Mancini's keen visual eye for flow, composition and design. This is a gorgeous looking film.
This only made all the better by the consistently good performances. Particularly of note is Fiona Dourif, who continues to play Nica to perfection and has made her possibly the most likable lead of the series. She truly is a remarkable actress, and I hope to see her get more recognition in the future. It's also great fun to hear our friend-till-the-end Brad Dourif once again as the voice of Chucky. He continues to own the role and you can tell from his voice that he's having a blast. And of course, the delightful scenery-chewing Jennifer Tilly is back once again and with some more screen-time to boot. Tilly has added a lot to the franchise, so she's always a big plus for me.
Unfortunately, I can't help but admit the flaws here, and they do bring the movie down a few pegs. The budget is noticeably low, and the movie does at times have a sort-of cheap feeling to it that can take you out of the film. They're trying to do so much with so little, and it doesn't always work. The first act is a huge drag following a rather brilliant opening, and it feels very patchy and thrown together in comparison to the better- structured "Curse." And yeah... the movie does rely a bit too much on the old tropes and clichés, particularly early on. It makes the first half- hour or so a chore to sit through. Thankfully, by the midway point, it course-corrects, and the rest of the film is pure horror bliss.
"Cult of Chucky" might not quite be the breath of fresh air that its immediate predecessor was... but it's a very slick and entertaining follow-up that should please most longtime series fans and leave you wanting more. I'm gonna give it a pretty good 7 out of 10 as a fan of the series, and I would definitely recommend giving it a shot with an open mind. It's not perfect... but it's incredibly enjoyable.