Director: Don Mancini
Cast: Brad Dourif, Fiona Dourif, A Martinez, Danielle Bisutti, Brennan Elliot
Medium: Blu-ray / BD-50
Running Time: Rated: 95 minutes / Unrated: 97 minutes
Audio: English DTS Master Audio 5.1, Spanish and French DTS Digital Surround 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
I?m not sure what it is about lifelike dolls that make them so damn creepy. Is it the facial expressions? Or is it the lifeless glass eyes that flutter open at the most inopportune moment? Whatever it is, it?s a phobia that has stuck with me well into my adult years. And I?d venture I can thank the original Child?s Play film for that.
I remember seeing the preview for Child?s Play air on TV as I sat down to eat breakfast one morning. We had a TV positioned somewhere in the dining room adjacent to the kitchen, it was a Saturday if I remember right, so of course I?m up at the table devouring some sort of sugar-laden bowl of cereal pumped and primed for the slate of cartoons ready to air. Why someone thought it was a good idea to run a Child?s Play trailer during a Saturday morning cartoon lineup is beyond me, but I clearly remember having a bit of trouble sleeping that night.
I don?t remember actually seeing Child?s Play until much later, which I imagine was a smart move for my continued sanity. I made the mistake of seeing Cat?s Eye and Communion at a young enough age, so I?m not sure my adolescent brain could have taken much more when it came to diminutive scary beings. But even as a teenager the original Child?s Play managed to creep me out.
Flash-forward to now, and I?m a little less impressed by killer dolls, even if a roomful of porcelain figures would certainly put my anxiety into overdrive if ever encountered. The effectiveness of Chucky has been greatly diminished by a series of sequels, and the horror a bit removed for the campier Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky entries from the late 90?s and mid 2000?s. But when I saw the trailer for this entry, Curse of Chucky, I couldn?t help but flashback to that original Child?s Play trailer from my youth, which certainly seems to be the desired effect with this new installment.
Despite being a direct to video release, Curse of Chucky is remarkably good. It echoes the original horror focused feel of the first three films, and hues closely to concepts from the first. The titular Good Guy Doll gets another makeover here, ditching the mangled, scar covered, beat-up look from the last two films, opting for a more traditional, innocent appearance that?s similar to his original debut. While not dead on in appearance to the original Chucky, it nails that creepy kid doll aesthetic nicely.
While Brad Dourif returns to provide both the voice of Chucky and the live role of serial killer Charles Lee Ray in flashbacks, the majority of the cast is all new for the series. Fiona Dourif supplies the role of film protagonist with the character Nica, a young handicapped woman that resides in an older mansion with her overbearing mother Sarah, played by Chantal Quesnelle. The only real exposure I?ve had to Fiona Dourif has been from her stint on season 4 of True Blood, but her performance here is really solid. I love seeing strong female leads in horror films, and she certainly stands out as one of the better examples.
However, it?s hard to deny that Chucky is still the star here. One of the things that really stood out for me with Curse of Chucky is how great the puppet and animatronic work is, even compared to the more recent Seed of Chucky. There?s some slight CGI aiding certain effects, which unfortunately doesn?t always blend well with the practical effects. But Chucky as a whole and his facial expressions in particular, are extremely creepy throughout the film. The tonal shift from comedy back to horror is certainly accomplished with this installment, and despite a handful of trademark one-liners delivered maniacally by Brad Dourif, you?ll find this is a pretty tense experience throughout.
I also really enjoyed the fact that Chucky remains more of a background figure for the first half or so of the film. Again, this is keeping in line with the original film, which actually played upon a Bad Seed style scenario that implied Andy Barclay could have been responsible for the initial babysitter murder. Things don?t get carried quite as far here, but you never really see Chucky unleashed and in the open until well after his first official kill, and I think holding back that reveal makes for a more suspenseful film, even if you ultimately know what?s coming based on the rest of the franchise.
The Blu-ray version comes with a handful of extras, most of which are worth checking out. The deleted scenes and gag reel don?t amount to a whole lot, there?s little on the cutting room floor that would have aided the film in any meaningful way. But the other features in this release are definitely neat in that they focus a lot on the visual effects side of the film.
The Living Doll: Bringing Chucky to Life feature focuses on the puppetry and animatronic work, and really shows off just how far puppetry tech has come. It?s remarkable to me how flat out creepy the different puppet models are even outside of the film, and really speaks for the quality of the different artists involved, and the technical expertise that goes into making something like Curse of Chucky work.
The Playing With Dolls: The Making of Curse of Chucky feature is equally interesting. While some time is spent interviewing the cast and director, a bit more time is focused on the other practical effects and make-up work, highlighting some of the more gruesome death scenes in the film. I always love seeing background info on make-up and practical effects in horror films, and this feature doesn?t disappoint in that regard. Both features are relatively short, but are certainly worth the watch.
Other special features include a handful of storyboard comparisons, a quick look back at the history of Child?s Play with Voodoo Doll: The Chucky Legacy, and a commentary track featuring Director Don Mancini, Puppeteer Tony Gardner, and Fiona Dourif. The Blu-ray version also has the DVD version packed in, along with a digital copy for Ultraviolet.
This is certainly a great return to form for the series, and it?s nice to see it bounce back from the over-the-top Seed of Chucky without missing a beat. It actually puts to shame a number of theatrically released horror films over the past couple of years, and hopefully it?s not something horror fans will overlook. If you have an affinity for the series I think you?ll be pleasantly surprised by how closely this echoes the original Child?s Play in tone and quality, and you can check it out for yourself when the Blu-ray releases on October 8th.