In short, Chucky needed to be the harbinger of death as he was in the glory days of the original and not the slightly creepy, comic relief too short to cut the throats of his victims without the aid of a stepladder.
Curse Of Chucky arrives straight-to-DVD with this in mind, and it wastes no time in getting to the meat and bones of the matter. The film opens with the eponymous doll arriving in the home of wheelchair-bound Nica (Fiona Dourif) in a package with no return address written on it. As soon as Chucky (voiced once again by Brad Dourif) is released from the box, Nica's mother is killed under bizarre circumstances prompting the visit of her sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti) and her distant husband Ian (Brennan Elliot).
As the eldest sibling, Barb is a spiteful woman, belittling her husband, leaving the care of their daughter Alice to the nanny and patronising Nica on the grounds of her disability. This conflict only further exacerbates things when the body count starts rising and the only clue to the deaths is the presence of Alice's new found playmate, who only wants to be her “friend to the end”.
From the very beginning Curse Of Chucky is a very refreshing experience, crafting an expressive Gothic setting that stands it apart from its predecessors. The cast have a remarkably fun chemistry with each other, underpinning the horror with small plot developments reminiscent of a soap opera - including Barb revealed as a closet lesbian and the family's plan to relocate Nica to a home. The cast play it out relatively deadpan, Fiona Dourif and Danielle Bisutti being the strongest players although there are no weak performances. In fact, it's the most uniformly, strongest cast since the original Child's Play and is easily one of the film's assets.
Director Don Mancini's decision to keep the majority of the story in one location is inspired. There is a sense of isolation that genuinely feels tense, especially when Nica is left alone with Chucky (look out for an encounter in a broken down lift for extra chills). Her plight is what guides the audience through the story; like an 80's slasher, she is the lone, virginal heroine who is smart enough to realise the danger but unbelieved by everyone else until it's too late.
But the million dollar question is whether or not Chucky is once again the stuff of nightmares that made him infamous in Child's Play. The answer to that is mixed but, far from being a disaster, the killer doll still manages to elicit a jolt or two. Threatening, yes, but not exactly terrifying either. Chucky still has his one liners that, while not laugh-out-loud, take the edge off some of his more gruesome kills.
Brad Dourif, as always, delivers his lines with panache and it's clear in his voice how much “joie de vive” he brings to the role. Excusing the pun, this was a character that was manufactured especially for Dourif. With Brad Dourif's colourful voice acting, Chucky can legitimately join the ranks of the all-time great slasher villains but - like Jason or Freddy - will never quite live up to his original incarnation.
Sadly the horror is surprisingly abrupt, with the plot wearing out at the halfway mark. Once Nica is the inevitable lone female survivor, and the final confrontation with the killer in sight, this is when Curse Of Chucky phones in the horror of the opening.
Chucky's connection to the family is explained through lacklustre flashbacks, the exposition is laid on heavily and the plot grinds to a halt. The ret-conning done to try and fit Curse Of Chucky into the Child's Play canon is audacious, to say the least. Not to spoil any major plot points but let's just say hardcore fans of the series will have much to rage against on online forums.
And then there are the endings. And no, that's not a typo. There are at least three different endings loosely tied together by jolting cuts to black. Just when you think the credits will start rolling, suddenly the film just keeps going. But even when they do, there's more footage (that dreaded 21st century invention; the “after credit” sequence!) which, if you are a Child's Play follower, will tickle your nostalgia but annoy everyone else desperate to turn off the DVD player.
Needless to say, this weaker second half is what drags the solidly-built foundations of the first half back into the mire that is the usual calibre of instant DVD releases. And it is a great shame because, as far as straight-to-DVD films go, it is a rare gem amongst the pebbles; a genuinely enjoyable sequel that can stand on its own merits without tarnishing the reputation of its ancestor.
By far, Curse Of Chucky is the best of the modern Child's Play sequels, delivering old school horror that will satisfy the staunchest Chucky fan. Hardcore horror viewers, however, will want to look further afield as this is not exactly the thought-provoking thrill-ride that will leave you with sleepless nights to come.
It's a shame really. With a more focused script, greater emphasis on mystery and suspense and, perhaps, more ambiguity concerning the main antagonist, Curse Of Chucky could have been something of a trend-setter for future straight-to-DVD films. As it stands, this is one purely for the fans.
Curse Of Chucky will be released in the UK on DVD and Blu Ray October 21st.
Review: Curse of Chucky
By Liam Cairns - 11th October 2013
It has been almost ten years since the previous instalment of the Child's Play series, Seed Of Chucky. The franchise, up to that point, had become a satire rather than a slasher series, poking fun at the conventions of the genre but lacking the imaginative suspense of the original.
But as funny as the comedy/horror formula could be (Bride Of Chucky being a personal favourite), the films were too formulaic to the point of being self-indulgent. Seed Of Chucky was the biggest culprit of this and it was very clear that if the series was to continue, it was time to take it in a new direction.