The Child’s Play franchise – now colloquially and fondly known as the “Chucky” movies – started off as all others horrors did: an outlandish (sometimes downright deranged and/or obscene) idea for a horror film got the right people behind it to become a reality and it was released onto the unassuming public; some adored it, and in several instances, it received enough attention for a sequel to be possible and a lucky few went on to take on a monstrous life of its own (not unlike this franchise’s main star).
Nearly three decades and six films later, Cult of Chucky crops up to remind us why a series about a possessed child plaything continues to tickle our demented inner-child. Directed by the series originator, Don Mancini, the film is his third time directing his own creation after Curse of Chucky and Seed of Chucky. Curse of Chucky was a breath of fresh air into the film series, bringing back the thrilling suspense that the original Child’s Play gave viewers. It instantly gave new hope to those who looked upon the series with a profound sense of nostalgia and wanted something more defined than a bad facelift as is common among the wave of sub-par remakes and sequels that have gripped the film industry in recent years.
Cult picks up where Curse left off: Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) has been transferred to a medium security mental institution after making progress from several years of intense therapy, following the murder of her family. Elsewhere, Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) returns home from a disastrous date after being questioned about his past regarding several murders connected to him and a certain Good Guy doll.
In the mental institution, Nica is surrounded by a dissimilar crowd of patients who all may or may not be who they seem, giving you a guessing anchor for the whole show. The suspense is hairy like an Italian professional wrestler as they are all overseen by Dr. Foley (Michael Therriault) who has his own secret vices and once the killing starts and bodies begin piling up, all cheers go to everyone’s favourite homicidal homunculus (voiced by the irreverent Brad Dourif). To make things even more bat-shit mad, the pace kicks up once Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly) enters the frame and adds even more lunacy to the already unstable mix – Madness in a madhouse? How positively insane! The rest of the story takes its cue from there onward.
Cult was made for fans – not stated lightly – as a good chunk of the humour comprises of references to the previous installments, such as Andy’s brief recounting of the first three films during his date at the start of the film which will make any diehard fan giggle wryly; another is a dry exchange between Chucky and a patient with a dissociative disorder that is quotable gold, there is also a retake on a classic kill from Bride of Chucky. Cult plays itself out with a premise as trashy as the original but it is equal parts new material as it is a parody, cheekily stabbing at itself for the collective absurdity the films have showcased over the years in a very apparent meta-ironic tone. All of the returning characters (Vincent and Tilly, especially) add that appreciated hint of magical nostalgia but it must be said that Fiona Dourif stands out and shows talent.
On the other side of the coin, Cult is a film that takes you home, whispers sweet nothings in your ear then talks about doing nasty things, but at the end of the evening leaves you with the promise of “next time and the hope of curing your aching blue murderous balls; waiting for another film is a tease and a downright cruel one. Mancini is a capable writer and he cannot be faulted for his enthusiasm, but his directing style can be described as “hit or miss” and Cult falls into the limbo between the two. The ending feels more optimistic than ambitious, hoping to lure in hapless victims with a sly wink.
A true classic never goes out of style. It just gets crazier.