Curse of Chucky (2013)
By: Fin H. on January 23, 2014 | Comments
Universal Sony (Australia) | Region B | 1.78:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 97 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Curse of Chucky Cover Art
Director: Don Mancini
Starring: Fiona Dourif, Danielle Bisutti, Chantal Quesnelle, Maitland McConnell, Summer Howell, Brad Dourif
Screenplay: Don Mancini
Country: USA
A person's appreciation of the Child's Play franchise depends enormously on whether or not the individual in question spent any of their childhood peeking out from between their fingers at the onscreen misdeeds of Don Mancini's miniature miscreant. The least aptly named of the Good Guys made a strong impression on many a developing mind (particularly when he was menacing a young boy of a relatable age) and this helped secure the rotten little ranga a fairly devoted following. As the year 2000 approached these little darlings discovered booze and fags and each other's genitals and morphed into pizza-faced adolescents who were hip and self-aware and realised that the concept of a killer doll was, like, totally stupid. A new tack was required and, thanks to Kevin Williamson, the late 90's horror scene was just steeped in irony. Thusly was Bride of Chucky given away at the altar of "meta" by Ronny Yu, and new life was breathed into his little plastic corpse when we found out that he dug White Zombie, slyly parodied his own legacy and engaged in sex scenes that don't bear too much thinking about. Having briefly managed to float on a successful balance of horror and comedy, the good ship Chucky then filled up the starboard hold with too much wackiness and capsized into the Sea of Completely Fucking Stupid with Seed of Chucky.

So now it falls upon Curse of Chucky to restore the "scary" to the franchise, by which we mean that the bulk of the action takes place in a cavernous old house at night, and that the diminutive Mr. Lee Ray carries out the majority of his misbehaviour off-camera (rather than noisily gallivanting around in full view like a sort of homicidal Sam Kinison). As is often the case with Child's Play movies, our story begins with Chucky being delivered to some unsuspecting people who, through an odd foible of character, don't take one look at him and immediately return him to sender before spending the rest of their lives trying to remove his taint from their bodies with hydrochloric acid and wire scrubbers. The people, in this instance, are wheelchair-bound young woman Nica (Fiona Dourif, who manages to accomplish the unnerving feat of simultaneously bearing a striking resemblance to her dad, Brad "Chucky" Dourif, and being kinda hot) and her flaky mum. Speaking of folks with peculiar faces, the more astute amongst you may have noticed that Chucky's familiar moulded visage seems to have been somewhat altered this time around. He looks a bit…different. Fear not: the reason for this becomes apparent later on in the film (this film sure does like to explain things – particularly in the latter half, where it reels about like a drunk aunt at a wedding reception, hysterically babbling "home truths").

For the first half, though, we operate on the well-worn "assembly of roughly sketched, largely unappealing characters congregate in big, spooky building to be bumped off" template. Amongst the players soon to "exeunt stage right pursued by a doll" are:-

Father Frank (A Martinez) – reticent priest with a chinny beard whose function is mainly to sit there looking like a wise old ape.

Barb (Danielle Bisutti - Insidious: Chapter 2) - Nica's prissy, materialistic sister, who somehow looks more artificial and plastic than our leading man (and who may be having an affair with Jill the hot nanny, because woo, lesbians, amirite guys?!)

Jill (Maitland McConnell) – implausibly attractive childcare professional and potential lipstick lesbian (soon to be disrobing to a vaguely titillating and yet wholly unsatisfying extent in a scene near you!)

Ian (Brennan Elliott) – Barb's husband and our resident dickhead misapprehender of situations

Some kid (Some kid) – Because somebody's gotta innocently and earnestly relay what "Chucky said" to the adults

So it is that these poor souls are left in a big, spooky house with Chucky, who locks the door, casts a warding spell to keep out the meddling powers of plausibility and reason, and sets to thinning their ranks. The "back to basics" approach means that he's employing pretty conventional, tried-and-tested methods, too. There's a poisoning, which is milked for as much suspense as possible (including a couple of groan-worthy, false alarm "Ooh! Aaargh! Cough! Splutter! I'd just like to say a few words…" moments), but otherwise it's all pretty pedestrian stuff. Chucky's one-liners continue to be as bafflingly banal as ever (seriously, what is the go with that - he makes Freddy's material look like molten gold droplets of Wildian wit?!).

By the time the cast has been whittled down to a more intimate number (and the dubious notion that human eyeballs bounce has been presented) devotees of the franchise may be wondering aloud "How in the name of Satan's arse does any of this fit into the story thus far?!" For the sake of these inquisitive souls, Chucky then launches into full on Basil Exposition mode, and the remainder of the film is taken up by a series of flashbacks which ask us to believe that a well-to-do middle class family would embrace to its bosom a reptilian sociopath, who looks like Billy Drago on meth, as a family friend. Everything you thought you knew about the lovably roguish, carefree bachelor Chucky from previous films is also jettisoned, to make way for a ret-conned clingy dweeb with abandonment issues and an obsession with acquiring a "family." Events from the other films are shoehorned in to make Curse of Chucky fit into canon (which it sort of does, like a dead body stuffed into a filing cabinet) and by the time the final piece slots into place you half expect Don Mancini to leap into frame and go "Ta-da!!!"
The Disc
Shot on digital (a first for the franchise) and presented in 1.78:1, the film does look indisputably great. Blacks are suitably black, for the multitude of scenes taking place in the shadows, and colours are crisp and accurate. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is suitably dynamic and the pitter-patter of tiny feet shifts around the surround sound to good effect.

Universal have done the Blu-ray/DVD/ultraviolet combo pack thing and it boasts a fair selection of extras, including a decent commentary by likeable star Fiona Dourif, franchise creator Don Mancini and puppeteer Tony Gardner. We also have some storyboard comparisons, gag reel, a clutch of deleted scenes of little to zero consequence and the following featurettes:-

Playing With Dolls: The Making of Curse of Chucky - Serviceable behind the scenes doco in which all concerned gush excitedly about how awesome everyone else was to work with and various death scene makeup techniques from the movie are skimmed over.

Living Doll: Bringing Chucky to Life - Much more interesting look at the technical work that goes into…well, bringing Chucky to life. Note for future franchise endeavours: if you want to make Chucky really freaky-looking, don't bother putting his skin on.

Voodoo Doll: The Chucky Legacy - A scant retrospective examining the franchise so far, mainly comprising a bunch of clips from the previous films cobbled together with a few observations from cast members (including the goddess in corporeal form that is Jennifer Tilly).
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
It might be a touch ambitious to claim that the approach of confining the action to a James Whale-patented Old Dark House and using a lot of "He was there a minute ago!" shots makes Chucky genuinely scary again, but a lot of fans will appreciate the toning down of the farcical elements and playing it straight. Curse benefits from strong turns from Fiona Dourif and her dependable old man, although it is still saddled with some clunky, functional dialogue. Those who will really reap the benefits, however, are the long-term fans, as the film scrabbles at the finale to wrap up everything in a pretty pink bow (although, as Flanders might say, they're "strainin' to do some explainin'").
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