CULT OF CHUCKY (2017)

Cult of Chucky.jpg

Studio:       Universal Pictures
Director:    Don Mancini
Writer:       Don Mancini
Producer:  Ogden Gavanski, David Kirschner
Stars:     Fiona Dourif, Michael Therriault, Adam Hurtig, Alex Vincent, Elisabeth Rosen, Grace Lynn Kung, Marina Stephenson Kerr, Zak Santiago, Ali Tataryn, Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif

Review Score:

75.jpg

Summary:

Following four years in an asylum, Nica Pierce questions her sanity when multiple Chucky dolls seemingly start a new killing spree.


Synopsis:     

Review:

It took four years in a maximum-security asylum following her conviction for murder, but Dr. Foley successfully convinced Nica Pierce that the diminutive doll she claims killed her family was a figment of her imagination.  Nica¡¯s ongoing therapy now continues at Harrogate, a remote facility filled with an assortment of schizophrenics, delusional baby killers, and a man who alternately believes he is either Michael Phelps or Mark Zuckerberg.

Nica¡¯s ongoing therapy also includes intimate sessions with a Good Guys doll named Chucky.  Dr. Foley picked one up at Hot Topic, hoping to heal Nica by forcing her to confront her fears head on.  Nica doesn¡¯t want to face one Chucky doll, let alone two.  Yet that¡¯s exactly what happens when Tiffany Valentine shows up to drop off a doll that belonged to Nica¡¯s niece Alice.

When strange suicides start decapitating criminally insane patients, Nica immediately assumes the deaths are no accident.  She¡¯s suddenly sure one or both Chucks are somehow up to old tricks.  What¡¯s weirder though is that if Chucky is indeed haunting Harrogate, how is Andy Barclay still in possession of a severed, sentient Chucky head with a shotgun hole in its face?

Picture the ¡°Child¡¯s Play¡± series on a graph of competing sine waves where one line measures each installment¡¯s traditional frights while the other constitutes comedic value.  The horror line initially dominated the humor line, although the gap between peaks grew until ¡°Seed of Chucky¡± really widened the margin with its emphasis on campiness over creepiness.  ¡°Curse of Chucky¡± (review here) then brought the humor back down, submerging it under the horror wave once again, to match an overall mood more synched to the first film¡¯s thriller tone.

¡°Cult of Chucky¡± stays closely in step with ¡°Curse of Chucky¡± as a generally straight horror movie.  The comedic curve does bump back up a bit however, as writer/director/franchise father Don Mancini is too wise of a filmmaker to take Chucky too seriously.  After all, we are talking about a serial killer who transferred his soul into a children¡¯s toy using voodoo, who has also been supernaturally resurrected in one improbable manner after another.  There would be something wrong if a Chucky movie didn¡¯t have some sense of humor about itself.

¡°Cult of Chucky¡± rides a fluctuating wave of its own as it oscillates atmospheres within the movie.  The first half hour stays tight on a slow-to-start psychological mystery, hitting typical notes of ¡°what¡¯s going on?¡± and ¡°is this all in her head?¡± suggestions that don¡¯t really fulfill their promise.  A particular mid-movie moment involving an open grave doubles down on inferring a sinister conspiracy at the asylum too.  It, and a few other ultimately unfair misdirects, don¡¯t make much retrospective sense after the plotline¡¯s truth is in the open.

But once Chucky starts being Chucky, which isn¡¯t until halfway through, ¡°Cult of Chucky¡± starts getting crazier with the carnage, finding a more spirited personality in the process.  This ¡°anything goes¡± attitude energizing the back half is what has kept the series strong, relevant, and able to creatively reinvent itself no matter its missteps.

As venerable fright film franchises go, only ¡°A Nightmare on Elm Street¡± has been as fearlessly imaginative regarding its sequels.  ¡°Cult of Chucky,¡± like every ¡°Child¡¯s Play¡± movie before it, willingly does whatever it takes to feel fresh, please fans, and keep its own continuity in check while still taking risks to further the fiction.  It doesn¡¯t always work, and doesn¡¯t always work within this sequel specifically, but the commitment to quality over cash grab is clearer here than perhaps any other horror series.

Meta humor breaks a few fourth walls in groan-worthy ways.  We don¡¯t necessarily need a Jennifer Tilly reference, or a ¡°Hannibal¡± crack to leave us wondering when in the world Chucky had time to watch two seasons of a television series.  On the whole however, ¡°Cult of Chucky¡± comes out as a spooky, splattery scary movie with only enough self-aware satire to acknowledge how silly it is.  If you¡¯ve remained a happy passenger on the ¡°Child¡¯s Play¡± train through the highs and lows of the previous six films, your boarding pass is still good for an entertaining ride on ¡°Cult of Chucky¡± too.

Alternate capsule review from a conversation with my girlfriend:

Me: ¡°I saw ¡®Cult of Chucky¡¯ today.¡±
Her: ¡°And?¡±
Me: ¡°It was alright.  Kind of silly.¡±
Her: ¡°Well, that¡¯s Chucky.¡±

NOTE: There is a post-credits scene.

Review Score:  75